When I was in high school, I liked two subjects, English Language and Literature English. We read this one book as a course requirement, a complication of short stories. Of the short stories, one stands out to me, “Life in the Machine.”
The author predicted that by the year 2030, everything will be operated by machines. There was an example of women no longer needing to use their hands to knead dough for bread, since there would be a machine that would do that. This seemed so far-fetched that one day we will be “Living in the Machine.”
I am reminded of that short story based on a video that has been circulated on social media this past week. A reminder that regardless of where one is in the world, news will travel to them as per predicted by “Life in the Machine,” all those years ago. The video is about an altercation between a male security guard and a female (referenced as a patron) of one of the establishments in town.
This article is neither about that man nor the disgruntled young female in the video. It is about one of the most misunderstood challenges in our society: gender-based violence.
For this article I did something unconventional to me, I consulted a dictionary. Let it be a topic for upcoming features why I have a bit of an issue with soliciting definitions from the English dictionary. Anyway, the dictionary definition is that GBV refers to any act of violence that is directed at an individual based on their gender or perceived gender.
This can include physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse. It can take place in a variety of settings, including the home, the workplace, and public spaces. Now, in the context of the said video, there is physical abuse from the male to the female, and emotional (specifically verbal abuse) towards the male.
Both are forms of abuse and should be cautioned against. I often hear this in my line of work, “Ke mo roakile hore ke mo siee moo ke mo lebetseng eaba ena osa mphahamisetsa letsoho.” It would seem that when threatened, a woman’s survival instinct lies in their words, whereas for the men it lies in their masculine strength to overpower and attack.
Gender-based violence is not black and white. It requires us to approach it carefully. There is no denying the data and research that exists, that GBV is more prevalent in women than in men. Some of the most heinous crimes against humanity are those perpetuated by males against females.
My perspective maybe somewhat biased because I get to work with women faced with GBV and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
In like manner, I work with men faced with GBV and IPV. Both are wrong, period! Which brings us to IPV and its dictionary definition. Intimate Partner Violence refers to any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm to one or both partners. IPV can take various forms, including physical violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse, and control over financial resources.
A clear understanding of GBV and IPV can inform preventative measures.
To mitigate GBV in settings where it manifests, it is important to take a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying causes of violence. These include social and cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality and support violence against women and other marginalised groups.
That is to say, to mitigate why girls and women are being taken out of school in Afghanistan, let us factor in the cultural norms. To stand against senseless killings of women in Iran, what is it that we need to understand about Iranian culture as this might be where solutions lie?
If we want to combat killings of women that identify as gay in South Africa, what is important for us to know about gender identity in this specific context?
Some ways to combat GBV include education and awareness-raising, legal and policy interventions, support services for survivors as well as working with perpetrators.
The same goes for IPV; prevention efforts, screening and assessment to provide appropriate interventions and referrals as needed, support services like emergency shelter, counselling, and legal assistance. If in contexts like Lesotho we continue to equate gender-based violence with women-based violence, we exclude men, “re hamela letanteng.”
During my studies abroad, I learned of the Duluth model. The developers found that when different members of the community coordinated their efforts to protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable, these efforts were more successful.
I have found it helpful to adopt a working mindset that in empowering women against GBV and IPV, it is equally beneficial to teach men the part that they play in it. Therefore, they can be part of the solution.
This is a comprehensive and coordinated approach that is needed to combat GBV and IPV in Lesotho. I saw this on LinkedIn the other day, “Focus on women is essential, primary, mandatory even.
But these young women and girls live in societies that they share with men and young boys. An inclusive model can be helpful. Sidelining the boy child [and men] is perpetuating the very problems we want to ameliorate.”
My takeaway from the video in question is that it displayed how gender-based violence is experienced by men and women alike.
Until next time!
The author works as a Psychotherapist. She holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. She has certifications in Global Health Delivery, Policy Development & Advocacy in Global Health, Leadership & Management in Health, as well as Fundamentals in Implementation Science. Her views are independent and not representative of her professional roles. She is ambitious about equitable health delivery, health policy and decolonised mental health approaches.
Voting for chief mourners
Muckraker was surprised to hear that last Friday had been declared a holiday.
“Why?” she asked. “We are having local government elections,” they said.
That answer left Muckraker laughing for the entire weekend.
In between those laughs Muckraker had the time to check what a councillor does.
It turns out that their role has been so emasculated that they are now just chief mourners at funerals. They attend village funerals to make speeches.
Sometimes they attend meetings with senior government officials who generally ignore what they say. There are days when they measure some pieces of land for allocation. When not attending funerals, being used as rubber stamps by government officials and counting metres, they are dealing with domestic disputes.
Matters like who fought who at a local bar last week, who is refusing to return the wheelbarrow they borrowed from a neighbour or whose donkey strayed into whose maize field.
They are more counsellors than councillors.
It’s not that councillors don’t matter but that the government has insisted on keeping all the power, authority and responsibility to itself.
Councillors have no say in how much is allocated to their areas or how resources are used.
The marginalisation of the local government is deliberate. Those running the national government think they know what is best for the people.
There is however a more sinister motive for demoting local government into organisers of pitsos.
It’s about resources. Not to distribute but to eat.
Senior politicians and government officials know that handing over real power to the councillors means they will also have to surrender the feeding trough.
The rule in this country is that you should never steal because the central government hates competition.
Give more power to local councils
AT the time of writing last night, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) was leading in results that had been announced for last weekend’s local government elections.
What stands out though was the massive voter apathy that saw Basotho largely shunning the elections.
Under normal circumstances, local government elections should trigger massive local interest as the issues directly affect people at the grassroots level.
Sadly, that has not been the case.
What we have seen is general apathy toward the polls with Basotho ignoring the elections altogether. It would appear that most Basotho have very little appreciation of how the local government system works in practice.
That probably explains why there has been very little enthusiasm towards these elections.
Perhaps the biggest cause of the apathy is that most people don’t really understand the critical role of local governments.
The other reason could be the government’s reluctance to devolve more authority and responsibilities to the local government. The talk of devolution has been there for years but with little tangible results.
Without much gravitas councillors have been reduced to mere talking heads with little or no say in the distribution of resources to the people.
This makes people see local government elections as a ‘by the way’ instead of being the cornerstone of both democracy in general and service delivery.
Local government elections have thus been reduced into an expensive money wasting junket meant to satisfy a constitutional obligation rather than electing local leaders to drive the development of communities.
We would suggest harmonising the elections to cut the cost of voter education. Yet that would not address the apathy.
The solution to the people’s aloofness to the local elections is to give more responsibilities to the local councils. The people have to be convinced that local governments matter. And that can only be achieved by dispersing power, authority and resources to the councils.
That push should come from the government and the opposition.
The current results of the elections appear to show that the RFP was running neck and neck to the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party.
The other smaller parties appear to have made very little impact in the polls.
What we are likely to see in the long run is a clear contest between the RFP and the DC for supremacy. It would appear that despite some trouble in the RFP cockpit over Matekane’s leadership style, the people on the ground still love their leader and the party.
For Matekane, the honeymoon is still not over. He remains the darling of the rural masses who still see him as a “political Messiah” sent to deliver them from economic penury. They still believe in his vision and political programmes.
While the DC appears to have retained its grassroots supporters, there is still so much work for the party if it is to mount a serious challenge to the RFP’s hegemony in the next elections.
It will need to project itself as a credible alternative voice in parliament if it is to make an impact. That will require that it maintains its stability by speaking with one voice.
Until the government empowers local councils to ensure they have real power to improve the lives of the people at the micro-level, the people will continue to see local government elections as a waste of money.
RFP takes slight lead in local government elections
THE Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) was enjoying a slight lead in local government elections conducted last week.
By last night, the RFP had bagged 295 councils with the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) taking 285.
At the time of going to print last night, there were still 72 electoral divisions to be counted by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Lesotho has 367 councils or electoral divisions in total.
The results of the elections will likely see parties in the ruling coalition backing each other with those in the opposition doing the same to their bloc.
Opposition parties like the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Basotho Action Party (BAP) have also got a sizable chunk of councils, which could provide some sort of a cushion to the DC.
In the same vein, the RFP backers like the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) have also scooped quite a number of councils.
Other parties like the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) have bagged very few seats to make any impact in support of the DC, which they back in parliament.
Speaking a day after the elections, DC leader Mathibeli Mokhotho, said his party had performed exceptionally well during the election.
“We have won due to stability and engagement,” he said, adding that political education and a united strong leadership at all levels of the party structures had seen the party perform fairly well.
“I also thank the entire DC membership and the Basotho nation at large for entrusting us with the local governance and government,” he says.
“We will shoulder this responsibility well,” he says.
For him, the results show a growing trust of Basotho in his party and governance.
However, even in districts where the DC garnered quite many councils and won the districts the RFP still has councils it controls.
For example, in Quthing the DC won the Urban Council, Tšitsong, and Qomo-Qomong, while in Tele the two parties have equal councillors and the remaining two councils are for the RFP.
In Qacha’s Nek, the DC’s stronghold, it has won all four councils.
Dr Tlohang Letsie, a political analyst, said the local government elections appear almost meaningless to many people.
Even the people who had voted in October elections did not vote in last Friday’s elections, he argued.
“Even the people who were passionate to vote in the past have not voted now,” he says.
Dr Letsie said this was caused by the fact that the local government elections are not of significance as compared to the general elections.
Dr Letsie says the RFP did exceptionally well in urban areas in the general election last year where people do not have anything to do with councillors.
“Most of them do not even know their councillors because they do not deal with councillors,” he says.
“Many do not even know the names of their councillors.”
Such people are not motivated in any way to go and vote during local government polls.
He said in this election in particular, the failure of the RFP to deliver on its election manifesto could have created apathy.
“The RFP was voted by the people who had a lot of expectations,” Dr Letsie said.
“It got a sympathy vote because people were seeing it as an alternative to established parties,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, the expectations were too high.
In politics, Dr Letsie said, once a party seems to fail to deliver on what it has promised, and fails to reach the expectations, people usually become despondent.
“The RFP has not (implemented) much of the expected changes and some people have become despondent,” he said.
He said the councillors are not viewed as significant to the lives of many people hence they do not consider voting for them a great issue.
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