Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)

LESOTHO: Public Participation & Capacity Building for Development

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21 May, 2016

The Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN), in collaboration with the Lesotho National Federation of Organizations of the Disabled (LNFOD),held a forum on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in MetsimaholoCommunity Council.
Under this initiative,  the  LCN  is  using public awareness  and participation through    a    project    called    Public Participation & NSAs  [Non-State Actors]  Capacity    Building    for Development  through  the  support  of  the European Union(EU)  to  enable communities to be better informed so as to demand services and their rights from the duty bearers.

For LNFOD, this was a case of ‘killing two birds with one stone’, as the SAFOD’s national affiliate had already established branches  withinthe  council and used the event to  resuscitate the local Disabled  People’s  Organizations (DPOs) branches while at the same time deliver a training  on  human  rights  aimed  at  empowering  the persons  with  disabilities  at  local  level  to effectively  claim  their rights.

The training explored  the  legal  and  policy instruments which would work as important tools for PWDs  when  advocating  for  their  rights. It also served   as a sensitisation platform for PWDs and community leaders who gained more knowledge on the rights of persons with disabilities. The participants were educated theirrespective roles that they need to playto ensure thatPWDs werenot denied their rights    in    the communities.

Mr. SekonyelaMapetja from LCN said the rationale for the event was to deepen decentralization in all aspects of life within   the   communities   with   a   view   to   increasing participation  of  members  of  the  public  in  service delivery  by  being  actively  involved  in  decision-making  processes  regarding  service  delivery.

“Within   the   LCN   there   is   a   component   of disability,  so  it  would  not  be  wise  not  to  involve affiliated  organizations of LNFOD  when  discussing disability issues since they are experts in that sector,” he said.

The representative of EU, Mrs.MokomeMafethe, said the EU had been a good development partner to Lesotho and continued to support the country to meet its challenges.

She further explained that EU was supporting Lesotho in the three main areas in an effort to support the implementation of National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP), and the support sought to expand water   and sanitation distribution services; contribute to developing a sustainable energy sector; and support good governance.

“These developments are meant to  improve  the  lives  of  the  people  of  Lesotho  and therefore  it  is  important  for  the  people  to  know about  these  developments  so  that  they  could  be part  of the process  and  play  a  role  in  holding  those given responsibility accountable. The EU has   contributed   funds   to develop community councils through local development grant (LDG),” she said while urging people of Metsi-maholotodemand accountability of theirallocated fundsto their districts council.

The development activities were expected to be taking place in eight districts, except in Mohaleshoek and Thaba-Tseka.  The  two  district  council  were  still  in capacity  building  phase.

LNFODProjects Coordinator, Mr. RabasothoMoeletsi,reiterated the   importance   of participation   of   persons   with   disabilities   in   the development committees. He   said   violations   of   rights   for   persons   with disabilities  should  not  be  taken  lightly  and  should  be  reported to  the  relevant. He   disclosedthat LNFOD had signed   a memorandum   of   understanding   with   National University of Lesotho (NUL) whereby the NUL Law Department  represents  persons  with  disabilities  in the  courts  of  law  without  them  paying  legal  fees. He therefore encouraged people to report cases whenever the PWDs were denied justice.

He added: “Denying persons with disabilities employment and opportunities to participate in the  development  of their communities  is  bad because  they are equally  paying  tax  in  this  country  and  should  be treated equally like every citizen.”
Mr. Moeletsi also  emphasised  on  the  importance  of  the  branch DPOs  committees  to  work  hard  in  order  to  take opportunities  brought  by  the  decentralization  of services to the community.

He  then challenged  the   audience   to make  sure  that  when they reach  their  homes  they make  sure  that  they  encourage  parents  of  out  of school  children  with  disabilities to  take  them  to school, as this was a violation of children’s right to education.

He introduced the tool which was designed to gather information  on  individuals  who  are  out  of  school, while warning parents  who fail to send their children with disabilities to school that theyrisked  being  taken  to the courts of law under the Education Act of 2010. The tool  was  also  given  to  the chairperson  of  the  branch  to  register  the names  of  the  out  of  school  disabled  members  so that they could find schools for them with the help of the council.

Ms.   PascalinaLetsau,   who   is   gender activist andEditor of the LNFOD’s monthly E-newsletter, spoke against people who tend to take issues of disabilities lightly.  She also spoke aboutdomestic violence against girls and women with disabilities   and   picked   one   story   that   she was following up in the district. She advised that people with disabilities should  be  involved  in  every  committee  within  the council  in  the  mainstream  development  agenda  of the community councils.

One of the participants, Mrs. ‘MatebohoMonoko commended the work that is done by LNFOD. She testified that since LNFOD startedworking in the   village some years back there had been some  positive   changes  in   her   family as her disabled child who had lost hope went to vocational training and was now working independently in one of the factories in Maseru.

57  male  persons  with  disabilities  and  26  female persons    with    disabilities    (recorded    on    the attendance  list)  were  reached  with  the  training message. Furthermore, members of the public of around 800 people were reached through the training at this public gathering.

By: RabasothoMoeletsi (LNFOD)