Lesotho’s apparel chains and their positive impact on the economy

The apparel and textile industry continues to boom in Lesotho. It has been a major source of economic growth for the country. The African Growth and Opportunities Act and the South African Customs Union have been essential in connecting Lesotho to world (including other African) markets.

It is important the this industry continues to be supported and experience greater growth opportunities.  This industry has created many jobs for people in Lesotho, and has led to more stable economy, as well as offered job/skills training and healthcare to its workers. The growth of this industry has led to improved quality of life in Lesotho (Kao).

Not only does this industry continue to give Lesotho economic power, but it also gives the country branding power and identity with their fashion. Fashion designers are attempting to move more garment factories into Lesotho (they’re mostly in South Africa now). This will create even more jobs for people in Lesotho, and require people in Lesotho not to have to travel (as far) for work. Additionally, so much of textiles produced are rooted in Sotho culture. These garments create a great sense of pride on their own with the worldwide exchange of their designs. It will bring Sothos even more pride, to have their clothing made with a “Made in Lesotho” label (Brown).

It is important that world doesn’t see Lesotho just as one of the continents poorest countries. It’s important that stereotypes are shattered about Lesotho, and Sotho culture. The apparel, textile, and fashion industry is doing just that. Lesotho is proud to be home to creative fashion designers who have their garments on display during fashion shows in Paris, and in printed quilts in Anthropologie (see image below of Basotho blankets at a fashion show).

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Lesotho is becoming a real contender in this market, and has carved out a space to compete in this market. This is bringing economic growth and sustainability to the country, and especially to women. It will be an even more positive trend if fashion designers get their wish and expand factories into Lesotho – tapping into a not fully saturated market, and further expanding business in Lesotho.

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Citations:

Kao, Moshe. November 26, 2016. Lesotho’s apparel value chains: Opportunity for sustainable development? Retrieved from: http://lestimes.com/lesothos-apparel-value-chains/

Brown, Ryan Lenora. September 13, 2016. Lesotho fashion designers hope to make a blanket statement. Retrieved from: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2016/0913/Lesotho-fashion-designers-hope-to-make-a-blanket-statement

March 2015. The Basotho blanket, a style signature in lesotho. The Other. Retrieved from: http://www.the-other.info/2015/south-africas-tribal-basotho-blanket-for-herdsmen-and-royals-alike

Photos: (top) Lesotho Times http://www.lestimes.com

(bottom) The Other http://www.the-other.info

Annual Festival Promotes Literacy in Lesotho

For the fifth year in a row, Lesotho’s literacy festival will continue. This year’s theme is set to focus on “Finding Your Voice.” This event is very important in that it aims to improve literacy and celebrate creative writing in Lesotho. Most importantly, the event provides access to an outlet for training. The festival, called Ba re e ne re, is specifically tailored for the Basatho people. Its goal is to not only present literature and creative writings read by prominent authors, it also aims to hold workshops and go out into the community  (the Maseru Preparatory School) to reach youth in Maseru.

Education and literacy initiatives like these are paramount to the advancement of youth in Lesotho. Not only do events like this offer opportunities to improve literacy, but they also encourage creativeness and expression.  Although according to UNESCO, literacy rates are higher in Lesotho than other Sub-Saharan countries, with a total of 95% of women and 83% of men being literate, there are still challenges faced in Lesotho with retention in school and quality of secondary education. Events like the Ba re e ne re help to strengthen literacy and keep rates moving in the right direction.

Lastly, this event is important in cultural exchange. While it is very focused on the Basatho people, educators, artists, and expats from ranging backgrounds are invited to attend. While Lesotho may be used to exchanging cultures, being a landlocked country within South Africa, this event gives the opportunity for Sotho culture to shine.

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Citations:

Phakela, Mohalenyane. December 2, 2016. All set for literary festival. Retrieved from: http://lestimes.com/all-set-for-literary-festival/

Rosen, Zachary. December 6, 2016. Ba re Litfest 2016 Programme.

UNESCO. 2012. UNESCO Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education – One Year On. Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/eri/cp/factsheets_ed/LS_EDFactSheet.pdf

Photos:

Lesotho Times lestimes.com

Ba re litfest 2016 Programme. https://barenere.com

A school for shepherds in Lesotho

The featured photo was captured from the video, “A school for child shepherds,” which highlights the touching story of a young man who is educating other shepherds (Mohl, 2016).

This video highlights a young man, who has chosen to start a school for shepherd boys in Lesotho. Shepherds often lack a formal education. Their grueling all-day work as shepherds make it impossible for them to attend school during the day.

Julius Magero, also a farmer and shepherd, decided to give back to his community and teach young shepherds english and a formal education in evening hours, after their work with the animals has finished.

Education is invaluable, but especially in countries like Lesotho that are so heavily suffering from poverty. An education could lead to far greater opportunities and economic stability. Shepherds often have no choice but to pursue this work, and forego education, and potentially less-grueling and higher paying jobs in the city.

Over 500 young men have been served by Julius’ teachings – something he does not get paid for but does out of the compassion in his heart. The video highlights one young man who eventually leaves his job as a shepherd to pursue opportunities in the city, after he has learned English.

Education is such a valuable thing in Lesotho, that they young men are willing to come from miles and miles away (sometimes a few-hours long trip) to learn in the evening hours, after they have already put in a hard days effort shepherding. This is an incredibly impactful program, and if scaled to other communities could have a great impact on advancing socioeconomic statuses for the shepherd communities.

To read more about shepherds in Lesotho, visit this article from 2013. And to learn more about efforts in Lesotho to educate shepherds, watch this current video from UNICEF.

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Blog post citations:

Mohl, Stefan. June 13, 2016. A school for child shepherds in Africa’s Lesotho. http://www.dw.com. Retrieved from: http://www.dw.com/en/a-school-for-child-shepherds-in-lesotho/a-19326614

Porter, Keisha & Soffel, Jenny. September 26, 2013. Prince to the rescue of child shepherds in ‘Sky Kingdom.’ Cable News Network (CNN). Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/26/world/africa/prince-rescue-child-shepherds-lesotho/

UNICEF. September 15, 2016. UNICEF Schools for the Shepherds. Youtube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OENZxMSMBk0

LGBT Pride Events Continue in Lesotho

This photo, taken by Meri Hyoky and featured in “Celebrating LGBT Pride in a homophobic nation,” (Stewart, 2016) shows people happily marching in the 4th annual LGBT Pride event in Lesotho. They hope to continue to create awareness and advance rights for the LGBT community.

In May, Lesotho held it’s fourth annual pride event and public march in Maseru, Lesotho. While this movement is small, and Lesotho remains majority conservative with policies that do not support LGBT rights, it’s still a very important event. Hundreds of people who previously felt like they couldn’t express themselves, now have an outlet and a community to share their views and feelings with others.

While many LGBT still struggle against messages of hate, stigma, ostracism, and even violence, there are so many positive and uplifting tones in this article. Some of the personal stories showcased in this article mention that family members not only came around to their loved one’s coming out, but also came through for them in offering support. I think what I find most uplifting about this article is the bravery of these (mostly) youth to come forward, and express themselves proudly. These individuals are bravely carving out a space for people to come-out and live openly.

Like any grassroots movement, they often start small and grow to progress views, and have the potential to impact policy. Previously, intimacy with a person of the same-sex was a punishable crime, but in 2012, those policies changed (http://kaleidoscopetrust.com/usr/library/documents/main/commonwealth-toolkit-for-progress-on-lgbt-rights.pdf). Movements like this march, could continue to impact policy. They create awareness, and hopefully bring about acceptance, which could lead to less discrimination against the LGBT community.

Members of the LGBT community celebrate their voices at the pride  event held in May. These photos were also featured in the article reviewed. 

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Article citation:

Stewart, Colin. May 31st, 2016. Lesotho: Celebrating LGBT pride in a homophobic nation. http://76crimes.com. Retrieved from: https://76crimes.com/2016/05/31/lesotho-celebrating-lgbt-pride-in-a-homophobic-nation/

Girls in Lesotho to benefit from Queen’s sanitary initiative

The featured photo above is a snapshot of the video posted by SABC news (2016), highlighting the important initiative of Queen Masenate’s initiative, Hlokomela Banana to support girls in Lesotho.

Lesotho’s Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso is on a mission to provide girls and young women with sanitary napkins. Girls often miss school when they are on their menstrual cycles. In order to ensure that girls are able to go to school, and thus have equal opportunity as their male peers, she donated free sanitary napkins to 10,000 girls.

It’s hard to imagine not being able to have access to pads or tampons. They are relatively affordable, and even offered for free where I work. It’s even harder to imagine missing an entire week of school every month, because of that lack of access. But that is a reality for many girls around the world. Girls are already massively disadvantaged in comparison to their male counterparts – they are more likely to drop out of school, and they are more likely to not go to school at all, while their brothers receive the fees needed to attend. We saw this family dynamic illustrated in “An Ex-mas feast” in the book Say You’re One of Them. Girls are disadvantaged just for being girls. There are so many factors that come into play that affect their education opportunities, job prospects, health, and social and political power. It is rather incredible to see the Queen – a women who has obtained social and political power in the country – giving back to poor communities in Lesotho. A very simple solution, such as providing sanitary napkins, can go a long way, and have great impact on the futures of young girls across Lesotho.

To watch the whole video featuring this program, click here. To follow progress on this initiative, follow @Hlokomela Banana on Twitter!

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Blog post citations:

Ngatane, Nthakoana. November 5, 2016. Thousands of Lesotho girls to benefit from sanitary initiative. SABC News. Retrieved from: http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/a139d6004edbdcb38c65cf550f32729f/Thousands-of-Lesotho-girls-to-benefit-from-sanitary-initiative-20161105

SABC Digital News. November 5, 2016. Many Lesotho girls to benefits from Queen Masenate Sanitary Initiative. SABC News. Youtube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdpA8uBXw7E

Mobile health care clinics serving garment workers in Lesotho

In the photo above, featured in “For busy garment workers, health care comes on wheels,” a garment worker receives appropriate care inside of a mobile clinic that visits her textile factory (Maraisane, 2016).

For garment workers in Lesotho, it can be a challenge to get the time needed for appropriate and preventive healthcare. Most garment factories do not support paid sick-leave, and so women are forced to make a decision: forego a day or two pay to get needed care, or forego prevention and ignore health issues in order to get paid.

To address this issue, a mobile clinic supported by the Maputsoe Seventh Day Adventist is now availalbe to garment workers throughout the week. Women can get the care they need, without leaving the premise of their facilities.

Prevention is crucial to promoting health. It is especially important that women receive reproductive and maternal health care, as they are at highest risk of getting HIV. Over 25% of women in Lesotho, and percentage of garment workers as high as 43% are affected by HIV.

Solutions like this mobile clinic are very important in countries like Lesotho. Workers face challenges with their lack of benefits, and women especially bare a burden of disease. The mobile clinic offers women the screening, prevention, and antenatal care they so badly need. I am pleased to see a workable solution, like a mobile clinic get set up. I believe this is a scalable approach that could potentially save many womens lives.

Garment workers aren’t the only populations benefiting from mobile clinics in Lesotho. To learn about some more inspiring stories, find out what mobile nurses are doing to provide care to HIV/AIDS patients and what Riders for Health are doing to access hard to reach populations. Images from both articles are featured below:

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Blog post citations:

Maraisane, Violet. October 18, 2016. For busy garment workers, health care comes on wheels. United Nations Population Fund. http://www.unfpa.com. Retrieved from: http://www.unfpa.org/news/busy-garment-workers-lesotho-health-care-comes-wheels

DW. August 27, 2016. Mobile clinic brings healthcare in Lesotho. http://www.dw.com. Retrieved from http://www.dw.com/en/mobile-clinic-brings-healthcare-in-lesotho/av-19507611

Poon, Linda. May 20, 2016. How Motorcyclists navigate Lesotho’s mountains to deliver health care. City Lab. Retrieved from: http://www.citylab.com/tech/2016/05/how-motorcyclists-navigate-lesothos-mountains-to-deliver-health-care-south-africa/483506/

Cervical Cancer Screening Saving Lives in Lesotho

In the photo featured above, children in Lesotho pose with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics Aids Foundation sign. The Foundation is currently starting a new initiative to provide cervical cancer screening and treatment to women seeking regular treatment for HIV (www.pedaids.com, 2016).

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In the photo above, Dr. Akintade, the director of reproductive health for EGPAF, explains the life-saving screening that will be implemented during health visits (Mason, 2016). 

Cervical cancer and HIV are two major health issues in Lesotho. Nearly a quarter of the adult population in Lesotho is living with HIV. Many cases of cervical cancer are caused by a common sexually transmitted disease, HPV. Women who are HIV positive are much more likely to get cervical cancer since their immune function is diminished. Cervical cancer can be detected early on, and if detected, has the potential to save lives.

This article discusses many barriers that women in Lesotho face – there is a shortage of physicians (i.e. due to “brain drain”), many do not have the finances to pay for medical care, especially for an advanced procedure such as a hysterectomy (often the treatment in more advanced stages of cervical cancer), and traveling to clinics can be very difficult due to the terrain and the time it takes to get to the clinic.

Realizing what a major health issue cervical cancer is for women, EGPAF implemented a workable plan addressing many of these barriers. Women who come for their HIV care (especially those who are in a program to prevent transmission to their children) are now being screened and treated for early stages of cervical cancer.

Coming from a public health background, this article was extremely exciting for me to read. In my time in Ghana, I worked in a hospital dedicated to maternal/child health. Transportation is not necessarily something that’s easy to do. It can be very difficult for women to come for regular visits, like we would here in the US. Creating a one-stop shop where women can get screened in addition to their HIV care, is crucial. One other thing that this article mentions is the use of healthcare aids to perform the screening. This is also a very positive strategy, as physicians are few and far between. They must handle the more complicated work (i.e. surgeries), but healthcare aids can handle the screening. This makes me feel positively that this program could be scaled to other clinics across Lesotho. A total of 190 (out of over 2000) were identified and treated – 190 lives saved from a very workable solution.

To learn more about EGPAF program, read this.

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Blog post citations:

Mason, Heather. February 8, 2016. EGPAF fights the double  burden of HIV and Cervical Cancer in Lesotho. Retrieved from: http://www.pedaids.org/stories/entry/egpaf-fights-the-double-burden-of-hiv-and-cervical-cancer-in-lesotho

Angel, Alex. March 4, 2015. Cervical cancer is no longer a death sentence for women in Lesotho. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.pedaids.org/blog/entry/cervical-cancer-senkatana-centre-lesotho-usaid