Celebrating International Women’s Day in Lesotho
By Ms Nthabeleng Rasupu - Software Officer Mohele’sHoek
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project (WASH) has changed the mindset of women and men regarding hygiene issues.
This was said by women who attended the International Women’s Day public gathering on March 8th this year.
Since the Red Cross built toilets for us, we are able to dispose of pads hygienically, women and girls have been encouraged to bath at least three times a day, while the whole household does not defecate in the open anymore and for that we are forever grateful to the Red Cross”, said Mme Manthabiseng Kokome, a newly married young woman (not her real name).
Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) used the International Women’s Day as a catalyst to bring women together to celebrate the advances they have made in taking leadership positions in their communities.
Women claim that now men go and fetch water from the water point unlike in the past when they refused to go the spring/well to collect water for the household.
“culturally men are never seen with a water budget on his head, its a woman’s job”, Manthabiseng added.
Women from Lithabaneng and ha Khitsane villages – of all ages and education levels – gathered at the public gatherings to discuss key themes, including how to continue to improve WASH behaviours in their villages and how WASH has helped women realise their rights and recognise gender equality. They also examined cultural and religious taboos that can be barriers for effective menstrual hygiene management.
The women described their satisfaction with the new latrines provided through the project and with the hygiene education they receive from their Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) group and WASH committee. The Lithabaneng women explained how they have shared this advice with women in other villages, with a belief that hygiene should be their daily life.
“I am very happy as we now know about hygiene. Diarrhea was very common to adults and children but now it has been reduced a lot,” said Matanki Matli (68 years old), chairperson of WASH committee.
This was echoed by the women from Ha Khitsane who said that they are able to prevent many diseases due to living a new, hygienic lifestyle. They pledged to teach men and their children good hygiene practices and they mentioned that men are doing household activities that were previously considered women’s work, like fetching water and washing dishes.
Women from both villages talked of the benefits of the menstrual hygiene education they had received, as they had previously been unaware of the danger associated with unhygienic sanitary towels and disposing of them incorrectly.
Both groups also spoke about the shame they had felt at defecating outdoors before latrines were installed.
“I never thought in my whole life I would ever use a latrine. I always see them in towns and thought they were only for rich people… We used to defecate down the stream and in the time of critical moment like having diarrhea we use to defecate behind our houses and cover with soil and in the morning when flies are all over that that place, the owner will be covered with shame… Now we are dignified women because of the WASH project,” said Matanki Matli.
The Lesotho Red Cross (LRCS) WASH project is funded by CS-WASH and working in Mohale’sHoek district and covers 13 villages
This project has integrated the following: building latrines and water systems for communities and schools; and training and awareness building of community groups to promote and sustain improved hygiene and sanitation practices. A key element has been supporting women in all target communities to stand up and raise issues that are important to them. Women are now strongly represented on WASH Committees and PHAST groups and leading changes in improving the environments they live in.