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Dignity kits for girls



QUTHING-WHEN Thembekile* (name changed), 14, started menstruating, her aunt taught her how to use an old cloth as sanitary wear.
She also taught Thembekile about the right undergarment to use to avoid embarrassing leakages. Broke and unable to help Thembekile with proper sanitary wear, this was the best that the aunt could do.

Thembekile and many other girls in Quthing district are being forced to rely on old pieces of cloth during their monthly periods because their families are too poor to afford sanitary pads.
Their plight has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic as most parents, who are usually employed in South African vegetable and fruit farms at Ceres in the Western Cape, are back in Lesotho and not earning any income or remain in South Africa without jobs.

During the start of the lockdown in March, a lot of men and women from Quthing district flocked back to Lesotho.
Almost six months later, they are still holed up at home without any form of income.
To ease the plight of underprivileged girls, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has partnered with the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) to support girls like Thembekile.

Through funds from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), the UNFPA engaged the LRCS as an implementing partner to distribute dignity kits to vulnerable girls and women affected by drought and Covid-19.
Thembekile’s aunt who received the dignity kit on her behalf at Qomo-Qomong was ecstatic after receiving the package.

“We have nothing. Nothing,” the aunt said. “When we wake up, we don’t know where to go and what to do,” she said.
“My greatest challenge is that I don’t only look after Thembekile, whose parents have been working at Ceres in apple and onion farms, but I have my own children who have not done well in matric examinations and are idling at home.”

She added: “Now Covid-19 has made things worse.”
She wishes there could be dams around the village to harness water and lessen the effects of drought.
Besides the dignity kit, she was also grateful for the advice offered by an official from the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) during the hand-over of the kits.

“It is difficult for some of us to talk to our children about issues related to sex, child marriage and other children’s rights. So we are happy that the girls were advised on these issues today,” she said.
A policewoman from the CGPU, Constable Lirontšo Shale, highlighted to girls and women present at the occasion issues around human rights, Gender Based Violence (GBV), especially during the lockdown, the different types of GBV and how they affect females.

Constable Shale encouraged the girls to report gender-based violence and explained that early sexual debut leads to unwanted pregnancies, transmissible diseases and illegal abortions.
“Anyone below the age of 16 is not supposed to engage in sex. It is an offence to do so,” she said.
She also warned them against entering into child marriage.
“No matter the kind of problems you have, marriage is not the solution. The solution is getting an education,” she said.

According to the principal at Qomo-Qomong Primary School, some young girls often miss school when they are having their monthly periods to avoid embarrassment.
She was also happy the dignity kit contained, among others, two undergarments.

“Due to embarrassment, sometimes the girls are unable to participate in sports activities or they end up borrowing underwear from each other,” the principal said, adding: “This we know because when there is a conflict, these things come out and end up being known by many at the school, causing more embarrassment.”

A Red Cross volunteer, ’Marelebohile Ntsukunyane, who has been distributing the dignity kits in Quthing, said many young girls in the district live on their own as their parents are in Ceres in South Africa.
“There are therefore a lot of sexual assaults directed at these girls,” Ntsukunyane said.

Many of the girls have become destitute, she said.
“When we were at Sixondo, we had to share the contents of the dignity kits. We could not just leave some of the girls that were there without giving them anything considering how needy they looked.”
The dignity kits are being distributed in five districts of Quthing, Mokhotlong, Maseru, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek, covering about 500 adolescent girls and young women.

The programme was launched at the Royal Palace in Maseru, where 10 girls who were selected as representatives of a bigger group of 2 500 received the dignity kits.
They were handed over by the UNFPA Representative to Lesotho, Dr Marc Derveeuw to Princess Senate Mohato Seeiso who officially received them on behalf of the girls.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr Derveeuw reaffirmed that the UNFPA would continue focusing on the situation of women and girls in Lesotho.
He emphasised the need for menstrual health to be part of the development agenda, adding that the dignity kits contained items for women and girls to preserve their dignity, especially in times of crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic when such items do not get priority at household level.
Princess Senate called for all stakeholders to intensify the fight against gender-based violence.

“On behalf of my peers, young women and girls that bear the brunt of victimisation (and) gender-based violence, we wish to sincerely implore all concerned to continue fighting for us,” the Princess said.
“We need and deserve a safe country in which we can live in peace,” she said.

The UNFPA received Covid-19 funds in January to respond to social protection issues arising in communities that have been hard hit by the pandemic as well as the El Nino induced drought that was declared by the government in November last year.

The UNFPA is working with World Vision on prevention of child marriages and provision of psycho-social support to drought affected communities.
It is also working with the Gender Links on Protection and Gender Based Violence mainstreaming as well as engaging men and boys in the fight against GBV.

As part of the project, the Lesotho Red Cross Society is focusing on continuity of Essential Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights during emergencies.
For 2020, the UNFPA has planned to reach an estimated 48 million women, girls and young people, including 4 million pregnant women in 57 countries.

Violet Maraisane

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[BREAKING NEWS] Lebona sets curfew



MASERU– In an effort to curb the rampant increase of homicides in Lesotho, the Minister of Police Lebona Lephema has announced a 10:00pm-4:00am curfew, effective Tuesday May 16, 2023. Failure to comply with the curfew attracts a 2 years imprisonment or a fine.

Staff Reporter

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Two nurses deleted for misconduct



MASERU – A Kolonyama midwife, ’Mamalibeng Ralenkoane, who allegedly neglected a woman during labour has been deleted from the nurses’ register for the next six months.

The woman went on to deliver her baby by herself without professional assistance.

In another case the secretary-general of the Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC), ’Mamonica Makhoswonke Mokhesi, has also been deleted for violating a patient’s privacy.

The LNC’s disciplinary chairman, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, said Ralenkoane had committed an act of serious misconduct and deserved severe punishment.

Advocate Sepiriti ruled that Ralenkoane “should not be seen anywhere attending (to) patients”.

Ralenkoane was working as a midwife at the Little Flower Health Centre in Kolonyama, Leribe, when ’Mateboho Letlala was admitted there for labour in August 2020.

Letlala told the panel that Ralenkoane took her to the examination room and later left her despite that there were signs that she could give birth anytime.

“At 19:00 pm Ralenkoane examined the patient but left her unattended and the patient had to deliver on her own,” Advocate Sepiriti said in his verdict.

“Clearly the blame has to be put at the door of Ralenkoane,” he said.

Adv. Sepiriti ruled that she should be deleted with immediate effect for 12 months, half of which was suspended.

“During these six months period, Ralenkoane is prohibited in any way from attending patients and this judgment should be delivered at her place of work,” he said.

Letlala in her testimony said by the time Ralenkoane arrived, she was already having severe labour pains and was told to go to the labour ward for assessment.

She said when she stepped down the labour bed Ralenkoane said to her: “Ua seke ua tatela ho hema empa molomo oa popelo o buleile ka 3cm’ (meaning she seemed to be in a hurry yet the cervix had opened by 3cm only).

“I was so surprised because I could feel I was very close to delivering because this was my second child and I could say I have experience,” she said.

She said she told the nurse that she needed to use the toilet but was instructed to use a pan instead.

“As she left me on the bed pan I could not stand from the pan as the pains were severe. I called for help but to no avail,” she said.

She said the moment she got energy to stand from the bed pan she saw blood, she called her but there was no response.

“Ralenkoane promised to come after two hours but there were no instructions on what to do in case I needed help prior to two hours,” she said.

“I wheeled myself to the bed and sat on it, still calling to no avail.”

She said while still alone, her membranes raptured and the time of birth came and the baby was delivered.

“The child did not fall as I was able to hold him,” she said.

She phoned her aunt who told her to find s scissor to cut the umbilical cord.

She said she bled a lot and ran out of energy, then Ralenkoane arrived at around midnight.

“When she came in she asked where the baby was and I pointed to where I had put him where he clamped the cord,” she said.

She said it was then that she got assistance.

The investigator for Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), one Nteso, told Advocate Sepiriti that his findings were that “the mother’s life was in danger as she was found having bled heavily and tired and the baby’s life was also in danger from prolonged exposure which could lead to hypothermia and brain damage”.

“Ralenkoane was not there for the mother until she delivered in the absence of the midwife, this is a case of negligence,” he said.

However, in mitigation Ralenkoane said this was her first time to appear before the panel and has been a nurse for more than nine years.

She said she has two children to support and she has already been punished by the clinic as she was dismissed and that she has policies and loans.

She pleaded with the panel to have mercy on her.

In another case Mokhesi who was the Secretary General of LNC was also deleted from the register for two years after she was found guilty of sharing a patient’s picture on social media without their consent.

She was accused of defamation of character and violating the patient’s privacy by posting pictures of the injuries he had incurred.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Nurses back at work



MASERU -NURSES who have been on strike since Monday are set to resume work this morning after the government started paying their salaries.

The nurses went on a go-slow last week but escalated to a full-fledged strike on Monday after the government delayed their salaries. Some nurses claimed they had not been paid since March.

Morephe Santi, the secretary general of the Lesotho Nurses’ Association (LNA), said they have started telling members to go back to work after the government said the salaries will start reflecting in their accounts last night.

The strike has inflicted huge reputational damage on Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s government which came to power on promises of efficiency.

Minister of Public Service Richard Ramoeletsi blamed the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and the Human Resource Management System (HRMS) for the delay in April salaries.

Ramoeletsi told parliament last week that the two financial management systems were unable to reconcile, leading to delays in salaries.

But that explanation was little consolation for patients who bore the brunt of the strike.

At least 20 expectant mothers at Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek were told to go home because nurses could not help them.

Some of the women were later admitted at Tebellong Hospital, a facility under the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL).

“We were staying at the hospital’s roundavel awaiting our time to go to labour but on Thursday afternoon (last week we were called by the nurses and they told us to go to other hospitals or go back home,” said Maretlotliloe Mpeli, who is heavily pregnant.

She said the nurses told them that they could not work on empty stomachs.

’Matlotla Poling, 19, from Ha-Rankakala said she had to call her parents because she did not have any money to either go back home or to Tebellong Hospital.

The Machabeng Hospital management declined to comment, referring thepost to the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mosebekoa, said Machabeng Hospital “did not expel the expecting mothers but merely sent them back home”.

“Due to the ongoing strike by doctors countrywide …they decided to take those women to the places where they would get help,” Mosebekoa said.

There was similar anguish at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

“The strike has affected all the departments including the kitchen, maternity, and emergencies, but the managers are on duty,” said ’Makananelo Sepipi, the hospital’s spokesperson.

Sepipi said managers were forced to hold the forte “because some sections cannot be left unattended utterly due to their importance”.

“The operations are happening in the emergency section, even though they do not operate in a normal way.”

She said patients whose operations were scheduled for this week were sent back home.

Santi, the LNA’s secretary general, blamed the government for the chaos caused by the strike.

Santi said as much as the government likes to call them an essential service they do not prioritise their ministry.

“They do not appreciate us, it is like they do not see the importance of our job,” Santi said.

“The government turns a blind eye to the fact that our working environment alone can put us at risk of contracting diseases.”

“Now we are not able to buy food and other necessities.”

Nkheli Liphoto & Thooe Ramolibeli

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