Unions, factory seal deal to end GBV



MASERU – Trade Unions have joined forces with a local textile firm, Hippo Knitting Factory, to eradicate Gender Based Violence (GBV) and harassment at that firm. The two parties together with the Ministry of Labour and Employment on Wednesday this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at reforming the work environment at the factory.

Rise Africa, a local consultancy outfit, will be responsible for the oversight implementation of the agreement. The noble initiative was triggered by a plethora of media reports on GBV and harassment at the textile firm located in Ha Hoohlo, Maseru. The parties have, among others, agreed to work together and have a corrective plan to deal with workers’ rights and unfair discrimination of employees.

They have also agreed to have a sustainable plan aimed at addressing all concerns constructively and ensuring that GBV as well as unfair discrimination incidents do not occur any more. The pact will, among others, also ensure that workers’ rights are always respected and protected. During the signing of the deal which was held in Maseru, the Managing Director of Hippo Knitting, To Chan, said he had not been aware of the widespread GBV and harassment cases at his factory until they were reported in the local media.

He said he was legally obliged to rectify the mistakes taking place at the factory to ensure that every worker feels at home. “The work environment has to be user-friendly at all times so that productivity soars to improve the economy. “If these problems are not solved urgently, that would not only impact negatively on the factory but on Lesotho as a whole,” Chan said. He added: “Investors would start looking at Lesotho as a lawless country that is not good for business. I have great confidence in the success of the programme owing to the external monitoring by Rise Africa.”

Media reports had earlier shown that supervisors and human resources personnel at the firm sometimes sexually molest their colleagues in return for work-related favours. In the endorsed MoU, the factory has pledged to advocate for the safety of all its workers, condemning any acts of violence against them. For his part, the Secretary General of the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), Samuel Mokhele, said joining hands will help eradicate all the problems encountered.

“The programme is going to change the lives of the workers who are frustrated by the inhumane treatment they suffer at the hands of their colleagues,” he said, adding that similar indecent acts have been reported in other factories across the country.

Owing to the agreement, Mokhele is certain that Lesotho is going regain investors’ confidence. While some of the abuse cases are already being investigated by the police, he however believes that it would be relatively easier to deal with others internally. Advocate ’Mareabetsoe Mohlatsane, an organiser from the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), expressed her profound gratitude to Rise Africa for boldly taking up the matter.

The programme, she said, was successful at other local factories including Nien Hsing factory. Lulu Naidoo from Rise Africa said the programme seeks to break social norms like patriarchy, gender stereotypes and challenging power dynamics to achieve gender equality. Under the pact, the parties agreed to participate in bi-monthly meetings set to discuss the implementation of the MoU.

The responsibility of overseeing the bimonthly meetings will fall squarely on Africa Rise. Following this MoU, there should be bold leadership and strengthened accountability across government ministries and the rest of the society, to respond strategically to GBV with clear messaging as well as adequate technical and financial resources.


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