By: Mpho Shelile 

Every year, activists, advocates, and organizations work collectively to combat gender-based violence (GBV), they channel their efforts for 16 days throughout November and December to rally the whole world behind the movement. This year, World Vision International Lesotho stated that this year’s theme “Unite! Invest to protect violence against women and girls” calls for collective action and investment in a violence free future education.

Henceforth in an effort to facilitate debates on gender issues, they have taken back to back action in hosting GBV awareness events in all different districts of Lesotho, to educate and raise awareness about GBV and how to report it. As well as give reports on the cases of GBV they have solved. Last week World Vision Lesotho held a continuation tour in advocacy of the 16 Days of Activism for “No Violence against Women and Children” Campaign at Matlameng Leribe, where the community marched to say ‘NO’ to GBV.

In his opening remarks the chief of Matlameng Mr. Khethisa Moshoeshoe stressed how GBV has eroded the socializing of his community and created fear and mistrust among his community members. My community has become divided, and it is sad to see my community members hesitant to report or confront perpetrators. This has contributed to an overall sense of insecurity in the community.  Women and girls now live in fear of what violence they might come across and this has limited their mobility and freedom. It has also affected their ability to participate in community activities. I really hope that with the kind of education we are about to receive, we put it into good use and help put an end to all the bad that is happening here at Matlameng.”

“I have had cases where a man comes home after work and hits his wife because her cooking is bad. His wife threatens to report him to the police but he does not care because he knows that even if she does report him, she will withdraw the case in a few days. Most women in my village are often dependent on their husbands and are afraid of what the community will think of them should they leave. However, the truth is that domestic violence is a crime whether it occurs in the home or in public, and the police are trained to take this kind of violence very seriously. Women should not be afraid go to the police if they are being abused,” he concluded.

On behalf of world vision, Mr. Solomon Mothobosane stated that GBV is affecting one in three women worldwide, “violence against women and girls is the most pervasive human rights violation. Gender stereotypes, perceived gender roles and social norms that drive violence are formed early. So we need comprehensive prevention efforts that engage young people early on the best ways to confront this violence. Let us continue to educate, including non-formal education, for I believe that it is a powerful tool for the prevention of violence, especially when combined with other strategies, such as community mobilization and awareness-raising which can contribute to putting an end to GBV.”

“Every year, the Campaign focuses on a specific theme and this year’s is UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”.The campaign calls on citizens to show how much they care about ending violence against women and girls by sharing the actions they are taking to create a world free from violence towards women. This year’s campaign also calls on governments worldwide to share how they are investing in gender-based violence prevention.

“Ending gender-based violence starts with taking action to question, call out, and speak up against harmful behavior,” he said. “Bringing awareness to this form of violence at a young age helps youth realize the role they can play in ending it. We are all harmed when people in our communities and society experience violence – and all of us share a responsibility to make sure women and girls have the respect, protection, and freedom that is within their rights.” 

From social development Mr. Morema Phitšane stressed that as the fight against GBV continues with violence against women and girls continues, it is important for everyone to know how to support someone if they choose to confide in you about an experience of gender or sexual violence. “Society needs to move from a culture of blaming, to a culture of believing. We need to start believing a survivor when they validate their experience and reminds them that whatever feelings they may have are justified under any circumstance.”

He raised a question on how much the world care about ending violence against women and girls. What we do know, is that the human cost of violence against women and girls is vast. The solution lies in robust responses, including investment in prevention.

“However, alarmingly data on how much nations are committing to counteract violence against women and girls remains glaringly sparse. Supporting and investing in women’s rights organizations is key to ending violence against women and girls,” he said.

“Men must hold themselves and each other accountable and be part of the solution. From speaking up about the rights of women and girls, to promoting women leadership in every aspect of our society, to standing against violence whenever it occurs, men have a vital role to play in eliminating gender-based violence,” he exclaimed.

“To change this reality, we must actively seek out and listen to the voices and needs of women, especially those cast furthest to the margins,” said Mr. Morema

“Today and throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, I encourage all Basotho to join the ‘My Actions Matter Campaign’ (MAMC) and find a way to combat violence against women,” he said. “We are interdependent and interconnected, and we are stronger when everyone’s rights are protected. Working together as communities, businesses, governments, and individuals, I know we can build a world free from violence for women and girls everywhere. All people deserve to live in peace and safety and without fear of violence. Join the movement to bring an end to gender-based violence and ultimately achieve gender equality by taking action now,” he concluded.