By: Reentseng Phephetho, Communications and Digital Officer, Lesotho
In the heart of Rothe Area Program, a remarkable event unfolded recently as World Vision International Lesotho (WVIL), joined the community in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child. The day was not just a celebration; it was a powerful declaration of the commitment to empower and uplift girls, bringing together partners from all sectors to address the challenges faced by young girls and advocate for change.
The event was graced by the esteemed presence of Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso, the Minister of Education and Training and Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports, Arts, Culture & Social Development. Their presence underscored the significance of the occasion and their unwavering commitment to the cause of girls' empowerment.
Throughout the event, a sense of unity and shared purpose filled the air. Discussions and presentations delved into the critical issues faced by girls, with a focus on early marriage and barriers to accessing basic knowledge. The collective goal was to break down these obstacles, providing girls with the opportunities they deserve to thrive and reach their full potential.
“When we restrict the rights of girls and roll back progress on gender equality, we witness harmful consequences such as high dropout rates among girls in schools and teenage pregnancies. It is deeply concerning to note that, as of May 2022, the UNFPA reported that 36% of girls aged 10–14 presented to one hospital with incomplete abortions, indicating that our girls are still facing alarming rates of teenage pregnancies. This, in turn, leads to child marriages, robbing these young girls of their futures.” Uttered Mr. James Chifelwu, WVIL National Director.
In his remarks, he went on to emphasize the commitment of WVIL towards promoting equality for both boys and girls and that we the organization and undertaken various initiatives to protect and uphold the rights of girls. In this spirit, for FY2023, WVIL has successfully reached 2,100 girls, focusing on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) life skills. 4,327 girls have been reached in violence prevention programs.
Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Seeiso Mohato has expressed concerns over the alarming rise in child violence statistics, which have been intensified by the impacts of both COVID-19 and climate change. These distressing trends encompass various forms of harm, such as sexual assault, child labour, early child marriage, and ritual killings.
“Little girls with dreams become women with vision. It is imperative that we exert all our efforts to ensure that girls have consistent access to sanitary pads when they require them. Failing to do so could negatively impact their self-esteem and act as a hindrance to their pursuit of life's aspirations”, emphasized Her Majesty Queen Masenate Seeiso Mohato.
Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso has expressed concerns over the alarming rise in child violence statistics, which have been intensified by the impacts of both COVID-19 and climate change. These distressing trends encompass various forms of harm, such as sexual assault, child labour, early child marriage, and ritual killings.
“Little girls with dreams become women with vision. It is imperative that we exert all our efforts to ensure that girls have consistent access to sanitary pads when they require them. Failing to do so could negatively impact their self-esteem and act as a hindrance to their pursuit of life's aspirations”, emphasized the Queen.
“Each girl who is forced to marry is a victim and as victims, our lives are miserable. We cry day in and day day out. Every girl has a right to good, physical, mental and spiritual health. We are young and our bodies are to immature to carry another human being. May those who hear us help us, may our grievances be heard and touch the souls of those in power”, recited Ouma Mohlominyane in her poem.
In a heart-warming gesture, World Vision International Lesotho, under the gracious patronage of Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso, donated hygiene packages to 200 students from Thupa Likaka High School and Primary, as well as Tholo High School and Primary. These essential packages not only promote good hygiene but also symbolize the ongoing commitment to support the educational journey of these girls.
In Lesotho, we have legislation that safeguards the rights of both boys and girls. Our primary appeal to our communities is that in the event of any form of abuse against a girl child, it is essential to promptly report such cases to the local chief, the police, or the Ministry of Education and Training. Furthermore, at the Ministry's headquarters in Maseru, we have established a dedicated office that will primarily address reported cases of mistreatment of students, as articulated Prof. Ntoi Rapapa, the Minister of Education and Training.
Pitso Lesaoana, Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports, Arts, Culture & Social Development, conveyed a message of great significance to the citizens, highlighting the government's ongoing efforts to safeguard the rights and well-being of children, particularly concerning the issue of child marriage. He emphasized that there is a proposed law, The African Charter on the Rights & Welfare of a Child which aims to treat child marriage as an illegal act, carrying substantial penalties.
In his address to the nation, Hon. Lesaoana expressed the shared awareness that girls often fall victim to early marriages and face various forms of abuse. To address this concern, he assured the public that the government is working diligently to ensure the safety and protection of these vulnerable children. The proposed legislation is a clear indication of their commitment to eradicating child marriage and ensuring the well-being of all children in the country.
The International Day of the Girl Child event in Rothe was a testament to the power of collaboration, advocacy, and unwavering support. It signified that a brighter, more equitable future for girls is not just a dream but a shared mission.
The Rothe Area Program became a symbol of hope, unity, and empowerment. As we reflect on this remarkable day, let us remember that the path to gender equality and girls' empowerment is one we all share, and by standing together, we can create a world where every girl can dream, aspire, and achieve her full potential. This event was a significant step toward making that dream a reality.