On Saturday 4th February, The Hub hosted the inaugural event of The Project, a new initiative founded by six young Basotho women: Tsebo Phakisi, Mats’eliso Mots’oane, Mpho Maema, ‘Masehlabaka ‘Mokose and Madingane Maliehe. The Project aims to provide a safe space for honest and open intergenerational conversations about feminism, sexuality and the complexities of being a woman in Lesotho today.
Two of The Hub’s volunteers – Ts’episo Mahooe and Mats’eliso Moruthane – participated in the event. Here are their reflections on what they learnt from the day.
“Being a feminist means fighting for equality. Many people compromise their happiness because of society. This happens to women more than it does to men. For example, if a woman arrives home late it’s said to be bad behaviour, but if a man does the same thing it’s acceptable. We are taught these expectations from a young age: we are told that certain work is only for men, and some is only for women. We are fighting for equality, so these expectations need to change. For example, in the olden days men were said to be the providers of the family. That strategy doesn’t work anymore because women too are working now.”
“I also learned that being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) person is not a choice, like I thought it was before. People lack this knowledge. People believe that members of the LGBTI community are sinners, but one question stands out: Why would God have created them that way if he didn’t want them to live that way?”
“The conversation made me aware that I personally am a victim of compromising my happiness because of the fear of culture or worse, of what my community will say. I really like red lipstick, but girls who wear this are said to be whores, so my grandmother never used to allow me to wear it. Thanks to the people who made the conversation a success, I am now able to put on red lipstick and my granny is fine with that, because I talked to her and made her understand that 2017 is different to when she was young. This makes me happy.”
“Feminism is the belief that both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Feminism doesn’t try to take rights away from men, but rather it tries to improve the status of women. Women find themselves in a difficult position today because of the grounds that were set by culture. Women cannot wear pants, women with tattoos are disrespectful, a woman who does not wear mourning attire is a witch, and so on. Society needs to be taught that times have changed: women are not housewives, women are scientists, women are politicians, women can do all the jobs that men can do.”
“There are many issues that surround feminism. There are challenges surrounding marriage. For example, a divorced wife is seen as a disgrace to the community, and a woman who does not prepare food for her husband is seen as lacking respect. Feminism affects women in the work place, because we live in a society that actively discourages female intelligence by painting it as a non-feminine trait. I think that the discussion surrounding feminism should also include males so that they do not feel marginalised and left out.”