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Thought Leader with Advocate Mothepa Ndumo

Sept. 24, 2020 6 min read

Seabata Makoae is a gender activist, working for CRROA as a Crime Prevention Programme Manager and a Country Coordinator for MenEngage Network in Lesotho. He has written several articles on Gender Based Violence challenging negative masculinities.

He has worked for the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), as an OVC Consultant for Management Sciences for Health (MSH). Mr Makoae (SM) currently serves as Chairperson of Leseli SACCOS and is Deputy Chairperson of the Methodist High School Board. He is a Social Worker by profession and is currently studying management accounting. In this wide ranging interview with Advocate Mothepa Ndumo (MN), Mr Makoae discusses issues of gender based violence and its impact on the economy of Lesotho.

MN: Very often, the dialogues we have and the thought leadership pieces that are penned on GBV focus their main attention on the causes and the psychosocial impact on the victims, but hardly is there ever a discussion on the impact of GBV on the economy. What is the link between GBV and the economy?

SM: While for many years and in the recent past, acts of violence against women and girls were treated as private matters in which only the couple and their close family members would be involved in efforts to resolve such matters, the latest information and general understanding have revealed that the notion of the privacy of GBV is a thing of the past and needs to be challenged.

Many now appreciate and stand in solidarity to promote the notion that matters of this nature should never be treated as private, because that promotes a fertile ground on which women are subjected to abuse without the possibility of help. When a woman is emotionally, economically, physically and/ or sexually violated, it is not only herself who suffers, but the whole family suffers too, indeed the whole community.

If for example a woman is a teacher or a nurse, that means she will miss a number of days while attending to her injuries, thus she cannot be in a position to contribute to the economy as part of her income goes towards transport, medication and unpaid leave. This means she will not be able to be as productive as she would normally be. Her resources will be directed to her physiological and psychological recovery and not productivity.

The loss is occasioned not only to herself and her family, but to the state as well, as she will be paid for services she has not rendered due to the physical and psychological pain that she now needs to heal from. Assuming 200 teachers and 140 nurses reported sick as a result of GBV for five days in a given year that will spell a loss of production days totalling 1700, which is almost four years and six months of lost economic activity time.

Lesotho is ranked very high in terms of the prevalence of femicide per capita the world over. We already have a worrying number of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) and that means the government must over burden the taxpayer in order to meet their needs. This tax burden is now exacerbated by the prevalence of women who die at the hands of men who claim to love them.

Surely this is a situation that requires radical action and a shift in mentality and the sense of entitlement and ownership of women by men. In my humble view, there are many cultural elements and the mentalities that are married to those cultural elements that need to be out-rooted if we are to address GBV decisively and intentionally.

MN: What policy direction and responses would you therefore propose based on the above?

SM: Policies are good but adhering to such policies and their provisions is a major challenge. We can have good policies but if the institutions are not strengthened and are not accountable, that would mean that those policies are as good as absent.

There is a need to strengthen institutional responses, so that we move from statementism to solid action informed by statistics and information in our decision making.

Currently, attending to GBV cases and dealing with GBV statistics at and from police stations is not easy. There is no readily available data to assist in research around this matter. My take is that in order for any key player to be able to see the magnitude of the problem, we need solid data to back up our claims.

Lesotho needs a whole system approach to GBV, nobody needs to be left behind. We need to declare GBV as a crisis of pandemic proportions. Everybody needs to see this as their problem and as an urgent matter. The government must declare GBV as a crisis.There are a lot of norms that need to be challenged that help in perpetuating GBV at many levels and contribute to the normalisation of GBV and many other acts that violate women and girls. 
 


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Correctional facilities are full of men, young and old, who ought to be out and making a living for their families and being economically productive members of society, but they are not. This must worry every sensible citizen regardless of their gender. There is still a lot of silence around GBV. There are still people who would rather protect the images of certain institutions instead of exposing the violence that happens. It is sad that the church in Lesotho is falling behind in its response to the issue of GBV, which happens even in churches.

While a fair number of actors have taken a position to speak against GBV from positions of authority, it appears that one of the key factors for consideration in this space is the type of messaging that we promote.

It is especially important to avoid blaming the victim as that would continue to bolster the perpetrators while putting women under more pressure to limit their freedoms in order to not be violated by men.

There is a need for a greater and wider dialogue around issues of GBV and for men to step out of the Man Box. The “Man Box Mentality” is a toxic mentality characterised by misinformed messages that young boys receive in order to “Act like Men.”

The messages received are interpreted as the benchmarks of the do’s and don’ts of manhood and that anything that takes men out of those boxes makes them feel less manly or that their manhood is being challenged. As a matter of fact, men and boys must be able to express their emotions, they should be able to cry and this should be seen as normal and not as a weakness.

These many messages that put men in a box, can in fact be changed and the learned behaviours can also be unlearned. It is fatal to both women and men that most men are unable to express their emotions lest they be labelled as weak.

It is wrong that men risk feeling or being seen as “less than” men when they show vulnerability and pain and admitting to needing help. Society can benefit more if men were more human and resorted to less violent ways and sought help when faced with pressures that would lead them to commit acts of violence against women and girls.

MN: What has the impact of COVID-19 been on Gender Based Violence?

SM: The advent of COVID-19 has exposed many cracks and vulnerabilities in our societies especially during the hard lockdown, and this virus continues to do so. The country recorded a shocking number of femicide cases, rape cases and a record number of Intimate Partner Violence cases during the hard lockdown in particular.

The relevant institutions did not seem well equipped to respond and attend to all these cases. Among many other factors that may have contributed to the rise in GBV cases during the hard lockdown could be that a lot of people, especially men, had lost their only sources of livelihoods and the stress levels compounded by social pressures may have contributed to such wanton behaviours as we all know that the ability to provide is intimately linked to manhood in the culture of Basotho.

This therefore calls for a conversation around the concept of manhood and the role of men as providers. There is a need to continually re-define provision and its linkages to manhood particularly as our society adjusts to the economic shocks which seem to be part and parcel of the economic outlook for decades to come.

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