#TheTotalShutdown Lesotho

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“Lesotho has one of the highest rape statistics in the world ­– but what are our leaders doing about this problem? What should happen? What more will it take?”

Reporting by Leila Hall (Photos © Meri Hyöky

Maseru, Lesotho – midday, Wednesday 1st August 2018. The police have stopped traffic on one of the city’s main roads. Drivers peer out of car windows, frowning. Passers-by look on with curiosity as a group of protesters walk down the road, placards and fists held high, bringing this major thoroughfare to a standstill.

#TheTotalShutdown march in Lesotho took place simultaneously with similar marches in eSwatini, Botswana, Namibia and all nine provinces of South Africa – as hundreds of women across Southern Africa joined forces to protest gender-based violence and to demand concrete action from political leaders.

At the end of the silent march in Maseru, women gathered to speak out about their reasons for marching – with many sharing poignant testimonies of their personal experiences of gender-based violence.

“We have had enough!” shouted Lineo Tsikoane – human rights lawyer, National Programmes Officer for the Coalition of African Lesbians and one of the organisers of the march – as she addressed the crowd. “We were silent by choice as we marched, but from today we will not be silenced! From today, if an uncle in our family is raping a child we will not keep silent! We will shame him; we will bring discomfort to his space! From today my queer sister is still my sister and it’s OK!”

“We are trying to sensitise women in our communities,” Tsikoane explains. “We are trying to show them that there’s support, that what’s happening in their lives is wrong – that it shouldn’t be normalised, it shouldn’t be accepted. Lesotho has one of the highest rape statistics in the world ­– but what are our leaders doing about this problem? What should happen? What more will it take? We are trying to spark government action here.”

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