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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Gender: Ototo's Thoughts

This is the third post on a mini-series about gender in Lesotho. While it can be read as a stand alone post, it is best read following Gender: An Intro and Gender: My Role and Work.

My fellow PCV and great friend Mackenzie's counterpart Ototo is amazing. Together these two incredible women have been forces for gender during their two year partnership. In addition to the regular life skills they do with youth in schools throughout their community, they have coordinated four youth camps focused on gender and leadership. Two of these were Camp YOLO or Youth Optimizing Leadership Opportunities. Male and female high school students worked with together to become strong leaders for positive change in their schools including creating a student council to help organize their efforts. 

Recently, Ototo wrote a piece for our Gender Equality Lesotho committee's annual newsletter. With her permission, I am thrilled to share it as part of this Gender series.

The Importance Of Gender Equality In Lesotho
By Ototo Taleng

According to my understanding, gender empowerment means both sexes, men and women, girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and work. Simply put, both men and women work together and meet each other half way.

Gender equality is important and highly needed in my country, Lesotho. However, I have noticed that we, Basotho, can improve in gender equality while further implementing the ideal of equality. I say this because without gender equality there is no foundation for healthy relationships. People fail to trust each other, which can lead to gender-based-violence. In addition, gender-based-violence can affect the economy of the country. For example, as a female director with a nonprofit organization in Lesotho, I have found that many people will not support my choices for the organization, simply because I am not a man. The inequality among genders leads women to make poor choices, such accepting violence from their husbands or boyfriends.

Mackenzie and Ototo lead activities at camp.
Gender equality is also needed in Lesotho because women are not given the chance to prove that they can bring social change. I believe women are not only looking to create equality in childcare and among the house duties, but economically and socially too.

To bring awareness to female empowerment and gender equality, I help direct the GLOW camps and BRO camps. I believe these camps play an important role in fulfilling the issue of gender empowerment. For example, during the camps we discuss the advantages of equality rights through lessons and demonstrations. After the camp, the campers are given an opportunity to be Peer Mentors in other camps like Camp YOLO (Youth Optimizing Leadership Opportunities).

It is during Camp YOLO that Peer Mentors are able to teach and implement what they learned during their GLOW or BRO camps. This creates leadership opportunities and demonstrates gender equality. Peer Mentors and camp participants are all working together to improve gender equality. They also know they can overcome challenges, which is important for self esteem and leadership in all gender.

Ototo and Mackenzie's work has included a training program
and support group for fathers raising motherless
children, this included a  heavy focus on
building positive father-daughter relationships.
I believe gender equality can be achieved through youth camps. It is very interesting to see students helping each other and become good role models to others. It is nice to see campers acting “outside of the box” as they avoid hurtful and harmful gender norms and expectations. I believe Lesotho can be a country that supports gender equality and I believe the camps are a good starting point for teaching the importance of becoming a leadership in equality.

Be sure to read the next in the mini-series on Gender: Gender: LGL Summit and Madagascar.

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