Project touches on disability – a very key issue

By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MOHALE’S HOEK –  In an effort to combat human trafficking and advance the rights of people with disabilities (PWD), a new project has been unveiled and it is expected to revolutionize the fight against protection and championing the rights of the otherwise marginalized people.

To be implemented by the World Vision, the European Union (EU) sponsored project seeks to strengthen social protection systems in monitoring, preventing and responding to human trafficking and promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

The World Vision Project Coordinator, Tankiso Motipi said they aim at capacitating the community structures.

Motipi said they are going to train 200 children clubs from World Vision, 300 congregation hope action teams and 10 auxiliary social workers from the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports, Culture, Arts and Social Development.

“We will be starting at the community level, and upon strengthening the community level, then we move to the district level; that is where we are going to capacitate the existing multi-sectoral committees,” she said adding that they are going to revive the committees that were not functional with the district leadership.

This move, she said will ensure there is linkage between community structures and the district level so that they move to ensure that trafficking in persons (TIP) is monitored and evaluation of the PWD to “avoid the situation whereby community structures operating in silos and we have district level operating in silos” saying they will ensure there are proper synergies between these two structures.

“We will be able to achieve [the] out comes through the collaborations,” said the Project Coordinator. She said they will ensure that they are not duplicating efforts.

It would be recalled that Lesotho had been bedeviled by the TIP challenges to a point where the country was on the brink of losing America’s associated opportunities as the former had placed Lesotho in tier 2 watch list. There has however been progress, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs to improve the situation and upgrade the country to tier 1.

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“This project is expected to reach at least 100 000 beneficiaries mainly persons with disabilities within the seven targeted districts,” Hon. Lesaoana.

Currently, Lesotho is at tier 2. Although it “does not fully meet the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so”.

Motipi said the community structures will be capacitated with skills around protecting people against TIP and also advance the rights of PWDs.

To help them identify cases of TIP, she said they have joined forces with the Beautiful Dreams Society, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that advocates TIP and shelters the victims of TIP.

The project she said will identify 300 TIP victims who will be provided with the psychosocial support and some will receive support for income generating activities.

“Cases of TIPs will be identified and such victims will now be linked with service providers in different areas to ensure that eventually they become survivors and are able to share the story and emerge victorious,” she said. This she said will also happen with the PWDs as they will also be collaborating with the Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD), an umbrella organization advocating for the inclusiveness of the of PWDs.

World Vision Lesotho’s National Director James Chifwelu said they are committed to deal with issues that affect the vulnerable members of the society especially children.

“The beauty of this project is that it touches on very key issues such as disability, TIP,” he said.

They are complementing efforts already made around these issues to “ensure that no one is left behind”.

The National Director said they work with all faith across common issues. “Human trafficking has no faith dimension, it doesn’t matter whether you are Christian, Muslim or believe in nothing, we are saying human trafficking is wrong,” he said.

Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports, Culture, Arts and Social Development Hon Pitso Lesaoana quoted the African proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together” saying fighting and winning the battle against trafficking in persons is “everybody’s responsibility”.

“I sincerely express my excitement and already pledge full support to ensure that this project becomes success,” said the Minister.

He said the Ministry is in in the process of mounting ‘The National Child Protection Policy’ and said the children will have a say during the formulation of this document.

This project is expected to reach at least 100 000 beneficiaries mainly persons with disabilities within the seven targeted districts.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Police and Local Government Hon Lebona Lephema said the government has made strides in addressing the human rights violations including the TIP.

“From 2021-2026, the government has become more organized and effective in multi-sectoral response to TIP,” said the Minister.

To ensure increased prosecution of perpetrators of human trafficking, he said the police had joined hands with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to deal with this issue which has been one of the great concern.

Also speaking at the launch of the project, the EU Lesotho’s Head of Delegation Paola Amadei commended the World Vision Austria and World Vision Lesotho for successful bids that were selected.

“Only one year ago, we celebrated the launch of the project [awarded to World Vision] titled ‘Citizens Voices Addressing Violence against Children (CVAVAC). The project seeks to empower communities,” said Amadei.

The EU Ambassador reiterated the EU’s commitment to Lesotho’s civic society actors and for promotion and protection of human right as per its Multiannual Indicative Programme (2021-2027) which has the specific objective to “Strengthen the participation of women, men, girls and boys in all their diversity in policy and decision-making”.

She continued: “Achieving tangible results, in order to bring about justice and protection for the vulnerable will require cooperation and joint effort of all actors involved, be it local communities, law enforcement, the media, the justice sector, and indeed, the project staff.”