By: Rabasotho Moeletsi (LNFOD)
On the 21st 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 Metsimaholo Community 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 within the 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 their respective roles that they need to play to ensure that PWDs were not denied their rights in the communities.
Mr. Sekonyela Mapetja 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. Mokome Mafethe, 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-maholo to demand accountability of their allocated funds to their districts council.
The development activities were expected to be taking place in eight districts, except in Mohale shoek and Thaba-Tseka. The two district council were still in capacity building phase.
LNFOD Projects Coordinator, Mr. Rabasotho Moeletsi, 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 disclosed that 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 they risked 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. Pascalina Letsau, who is gender activist and Editor of the LNFOD’s monthly E-newsletter, spoke against people who tend to take issues of disabilities lightly. She also spoke about domestic 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. ‘Mateboho Monoko commended the work that is done by LNFOD. She testified that since LNFOD started working 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.