Sharpening women MPs’ leadership skills

Sharpening women MPs’ leadership skills

MASERU – LESOTHO will continue to struggle with high mortality rates among women if urgent action is not taken, according to the chairperson of a SADC parliamentary caucus.
Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Lesotho’s Women Parliamentary Caucus, ’Mats’epo Ramakoae, said the country is still grappling with the complexities of a high mortality rate.

She was among speakers at a two-day workshop organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to improve the capacity of Lesotho’s female parliamentarians.
The workshop started on Monday and ended Tuesday.
Unsafe abortions and child marriages, two issues deeply affecting the country, were high on the agenda at the workshop as figures show that they are on the rise.
Ramakoae told participants that the country is also battling high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among young people, while sexual and gender based violence remains a challenge.

The workshop was aimed at strengthening the leadership skills of female MPs, enhance their public speaking capacity and effective utilisation of the media in their advocacy work.
UNFPA representative, Nuzhat Ehsan, said women parliamentarians had been effective in raising pertinent issues since the launch of the caucus in May 2018.
‘‘Your voice is now being heard and your presence is noticeable, though not enough, but you have been there,’’ she said.

Ehsan said the UNFPA will partner the Women’s Caucus to address challenges facing Lesotho, particularly in relation to women and girls.
‘‘These challenges include, but are not limited to the high rate of maternal deaths and gender based violence,’’ she said.
She described the workshop as a very critical step in ‘‘ensuring that women parliamentarians gain the confidence they need to articulate issues, address the public and communicate through media with eloquence’’.

‘‘The crucial role played by women parliamentarians in advancing social development in our country and bringing different, critical perspectives to politics cannot be overemphasised,’’ she said.
‘‘However, it is often fearful to speak in public and through the media. And when women are not visible in the media, they miss out on the powerful role that media can play in advancing their agenda,’’ she said.

Ehsan said she hoped the workshop will help boost the confidence of female MPs to speak on behalf of other women on important issues such as child marriages and rising unemployment.
‘‘This would be key to attaining the set development goals such as the National Strategic Development Plan and the 2030 Agenda for 17 Sustainable Development (SDGs) but in particular goals number three and five on health and gender respectively,’’ she said.

She said although women remain significantly underrepresented in the 10th Parliament, where figures of women MPs stand at 23 percent, ‘‘it is important to look beyond the numbers for now and focus on what could actually be accomplished and how meaningful impact could be made.’’

Ehsan encouraged women to speak out on the importance of reproductive health and on how to reduce the preventable deaths of mothers and babies.
Ehsan said women should also advocate and invest in prevention of maternal deaths and gender based violence.
“As women, we should ask ourselves; what kind of a country are we living in when many women die (while giving life)?” she asked.

She also advocated for improved access to reproductive health services and promulgation of laws that protect women, citing that women need access to family planning so that they could space and time their births. Ehsan maintained that women need antenatal care during pregnancy and also access to expert services at delivery and emergency obstetric care.
“As legislators you are critical in the attainment of this,” she said.

She said the UNFPA is committed to the achievement of the women caucus goals as set out in the communique of May 2018.
‘‘We are delighted to have you as key partners and we would continue to do our part to support your efforts to improve the lives of the Basotho people,’’ she said.

’Mapule Motsopa

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