Liapeng Raliengoane

LESOTHO, Leribe – Gathered at Makhobalo High School, Ha Khabo in the Tšehlanyane area, the community members agreed on the need for advancement of gender equality in their community and the country at large. They also made pledges to address gender inequality.  

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5) which is Gender equality calls for ending all discrimination against women and girls, as it is not only a basic human right but a crucial step for a sustainable future.

According to the United Nations Population Fund Lesotho (UNFPA), the district of Leribe was identified as the most suitable for the commemoration as it is reported to have the highest cases of sexual assaults (51 cases) in the country as stated by the Police data, January to April 2023.

On the other hand, Lesotho is reported to be ranking 3rd in the highest rape instances per capita and 6th highest murder rates ahead of countries at war.  According to a Gender-Based Violence study by Gender Links (2015), 86% of Basotho women have experienced gender-based violence in their lifetime.

While giving out the background data, Child and Gender Protection (CGPU) Officer Commanding Thebetha Maraka indicated that in the Pela-Tšoeu area according to the Police reports: there were 38 reported sexual offences, 160 – gender based violence, 4 – indecent assault, 12 – elope related offences and 15 children left to fend for themselves.  

During a dialogue discussion, the participants listed the challenges facing young women and girls in accessing sexual and reproductive health services as the following: lack of knowledge and support from parents for young girls to access contraception, lack of freedom to express sexuality, judgement from older health workers, lack of confidentiality at the health centres as the youth queue together with elders and unfriendly service providers.

UNFPA statistics show that women and girls make up 49.7% of the global population. Yet their desires for their lives, families and careers are aften ignored in discussions on demographics and their rights violated in population policies.

UNFPA National Programme Analyst Adolescents and Youth ‘Maseretse Ratia said the commemoration of World Population Day this year ran under the theme “Unleashing the power of gender equality: Uplifting the voices of women and girls to unlock our world’s infinite possibilities.”

That this theme highlights the need to advance gender equality to realize the dreams of all of the 8 billion population members. That the key messages are: the need to advance gender equality to create a more just, resilient and sustainable world of infinite possibilities. That gender inequality is harmful and violates the rights and choices of women and girls.

One of the young girls who attended a training on gender equality preceding the commemoration, Lerato Matlenane (18) from Tšieng Ha Khabo said she learned the importance of women’s voices being taken into consideration because when they are, the rate of offenses against women will decrease.

“I have learned that we should report abuse taking place in our villages anonymously. And to also take heed of child marriages which are high in our area and report them,” she added.

In Lesotho, World Population Day was commemorated jointly with the launch of UNFPA’s annual flagship report – the state of the World Population Report. 

This year’s report is titled, “8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities: The Case for Rights and Choices” and was launched in April this year, it asserts that when women and girls are empowered by societies to exert autonomy over their lives and bodies, they and their families thrive.

World Population Day was first observed in 1989 and was inspired by the public interest when the world’s population reached 5 Billion on the day July 11, 1987. This day aims to aware the public of various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.