In the orientation workshop that Development for Peace Education (DPE) held for the 8 conscientisation teams on the 11th – 12th November 2021 at Ha Nkhetheleng, Mekaling in the Mohale’s Hoek district, citizens called upon government of Lesotho to grow ears and engage more.
The citizens hold a generally positive stance on the government COVIID-19 response policy yet concerned that the government is slow to listen, hear and act on the concerns raised by the people in the villages. The orientation workshop is part of the broader DPE intervention called Rekindling Community Potency in the Fight Against COVID-19. Here the teams were equipped with skills to sensitise their communities about issues related to COVID-19 from the government policy perspective and solicit their voices on that which works and that which does not.
The workshop came following DPE’s realisation that COVID-19 related decisions, mitigation measures, frameworks and policies are made with little if any interaction with the people. As a result, many people who resist vaccination do so because they have fallen prey to the misinformation peddled heavily in the social and other forms of media. “People say that vaccine changes people’s DNA, cause impotence, infertility and have deadly side effects” said China Monyatsi, the artist. The claim that vaccination is perpetuation of antichrist and bears the mark of the beast, 666 or satanism may not be underrated. Pastor Tsebang Khoeli of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Maseru and Dr ‘Mamotena Sekhobe from Mohale’shoek addressed participants.
The DPE intervention is aimed at helping people speak out share their views about government responses and say what could be improved. The organisation believes there is a need for public dialogues on COVID-19 prevention, care, action and vaccines. The dialogues provide platform where people will voice their views, opinions, fears and challenges as well as the impact of COVID-19 on people’s cultural, social lifestyles and livelihood.
Following the training, the teams will facilitate dialogues in the villages and the Community Libraries. At the Community Libraries, Members of Social Cluster Portfolio Committee of Parliament would be expected to interact with the people. The COVID-19 community dialogues are participatory platforms where people discuss issues that affect them in the presence of legislators and policy formulators. DPE strongly hold that public dialogue and participation must be central in making decisions, formulating policies and drawing legislations for the people. The purpose of these platforms is to give diverse grassroots communities a chance to advice policies and legislature that governs them.
This initiative is powered by the British High Commission in Maseru, The DLN and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.