Africa-Press – Lesotho. The Members of Parliament (MPs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) had last week undergone a two day training on cross cutting issues. The capacity
building exercise was to equip them on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), HIV/AIDs and governance. In his opening remarks, the Clerk of the National Assembly Advocate Lebohang Maema
King’s Counsel (KC) said the training will capacitate the attendants with tools of trade to handle the sensitive issues citing the sexual rights of marginalized groups.
“The ultimate and overarching goal is to help enforce recognition of Sexual and
Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) as Human Rights in Lesotho and the SADC [Southern Africa Development Community]; that all people, everywhere can appreciate and enjoy safely, without fear of discrimination and violence,” said
Advocate Maema KC. The Clerk also remarked that “the right to sexual and reproductive healthcare, access to clinical, medical and family planning information and services as espoused in
International Human Rights Instruments including the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standards of healthcare, the right to decide on the
number and spacing of one’s children, the right to privacy, the right to information and the right to equality and non-discrimination. ” Presenting on the COVID-19 and the roles which MPs can play to disseminate timely
information to the masses was the National COVID-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) Health Education Officer Tlane Panyane. She said that communication and community
engagement are key, adding that the nation needs to be engaged in a “satisfactory” manner. “We want to reach a point where the communities are engaged through their existing structures,”
she said. She further pointed out that the communication gap on the part of the MPs in not communicating Coronavirus risks timely, reflecting on the authorized border
crossing that the members of the public were not forewarned of the incoming of the part of the community members from South Africa. Panyane also mentioned that the first source of information “often”, becomes the
preferred source. She urged them to express empathy in disposing the health education messages and through awareness campaigns. She advised that people
need to be given “meaningful things to do to calm anxiety and promote a sense of control. ” The Health Education Officer urged the MPs to link their services
with the health services at their constituencies. She concluded by warning them against, releasing information late and “not countering rumours and myths in
real-time. ” The Chairperson of Network for African Parliamentary Committees of Health (NEAPCOH) and the Social Cluster, Hon. Fako Moshoeshoe said they are nearing the end of
the year yet there is an information divide between NACOSEC and the parliament. Fako also encouraged the presence of senior management within the Ministry of Health
(MoH) to address the concerns raised in the training. He said he was shocked by
the revelations that Lesotho ranks number two of the highest spenders on health issues, while grappling with a lot of challenges. He also urged his colleagues
to exploit virtual communication platforms. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Chairperson Hon. Thabang Kholumo said the ministries must engage parliament extensively so that the MPs can be abreast with the
latest information. He said they need to be enlightened of the COVID-19 information for ease of transmitting knowledge to the constituencies. Kholumo said the government and the parliament are running parallel, citing lack of
engagements between the two. Mapoloko Leteka of the Care for Basotho, an organization that protects the rights of sex workers said they have reached about 3127 sex workers.
She said the sex workers also need to be included in the government’s strategic planning. Talking of sex workers, she said there are two types of sex workers: the roamers being those
who stand on roads and streets while seaters offer their services in one particular place. She said their target audience defaulted on account of suspension of mobile clinics and
outbreach activities were also challenged. Leteka said the sex workers face harassment from the Police, adding that at times Police beat them. Care for
Basotho was established in 2014 and launched in 2015 after phasing out of Care International. A representative from People’s Matrix organisation, which is an organization for
Lesbians Gays Bisexual Transgender Intersex Queer (LGBTIQ), Tampose Mothopeng said their members face resistance from families and communities on account of
their sexual orientation. Mothopeng said some of their members were expelled from their families. He further added that they engaged Psychologists for their
members who had mental challenges. Mothopeng said their members want to be married and urged the lawmakers to enact the laws which will permit their marriage.
The Assistant Deputy Clerk Mosito Lelimo told the MPs that the parliament’s committees provide an opportunity “to do an in-depth analysis of issues presented before parliament”.
He further highlighted the role of committees that ensure that “policies, programmes, plans, treaties, protocols and conventions endorsed by the government are
implemented as planned through monitoring and evaluation of the achievement of goals set by legislation and the government’s own programmes”. Lelimo also
urged the Chairpersons and Committee Clerks to identify and form working relations with the CSOs that advocate for similar interests to the aspirations
of such committees. Some of the CSOs that participated at the training were the World Vision, Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (LCN), ‘Mantsopa Institute and Child and
Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) officers. The Southern African Development Community’ Parliament Forum (SADC-PF) is undertaking the Swedish funded Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDs
Governance Project running from 2019 to 2022. The Parliament is expected to oversee this initiative through enactment of enabling legal frameworks, allocation of budgets and performing oversight function within the SADC region.