Mantšonyane herders aspire for health rights



THABA-TSEKA – Herd boys around the Mantšonyane area in rural Lesotho yearn for a male clinic where they can feel free to access health services. This emerged in deliberations during a Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) sponsored outreach on provision of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for herders from the area. The 250 herd boys were gathered at Mantšonyane, Thaba-Tseka, last week. The main plea from the group to those in authority is for the establishment of a male health facility in the area, also staffed by male health providers.

The outreach was organised for about 250 herd boys, by Help Lesotho in partnership with the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Some of the herd boys suggested that they have a male clinic where they are given services by male health providers. Speaking to Public Eye, 23-year-old Khothatso Lekhoaba, one of the participating herd boys who is also currently in a training programme on health rights, said since he was incorporated into the programme he has learned a lot on health-related issues such as psychosocial support, matters surrounding gender-based violence, sexual education and some life skills.

“I am now acquainted with our rights as herd boys, and we are now able to do a number of things with an informed mind…we also now know which health services we can access at any given time,” Lekhoaba said. Speaking during the outreach for Help Lesotho, country director ’Mamoletsane Khati said her organisation’s vision is for the youth of the country to receive support and an agency to create a healthy and self-sustaining future. She said they have found it necessary to incorporate herd boys in their efforts on sensitisation.

“That is the sole reason that has brought us here, we currently have an ongoing six months training for herd boys to equip them with knowledge on SRHR issues as well as leadership skills,” Khati continued. For the Thaba-Tseka District Council Secretariat, Thabo Letlatsa said he was overwhelmed by the participation of herders in the outreach because they are always far from the usual daily routine that ordinary citizens live. This makes it hard for them to keep up with news happenings and what health services are on offer.

“They do not visit health centres because they use traditional medicine and herbs when they are sick therefore such outreach programmes must happen regularly to educate and inform them. Ease in accessibility of services for them is also worth commending because they do not have time to visit health centres that are far due to their duties of looking after livestock,” Letlatsa said. The outreach was meant to promote SRHR services delivery to adolescent boys and youth, under the theme ‘Services provision for all, leaving no one behind.’

The outreach was held for the benefit of the herd boys who are often neglected while addressing the urgency and importance of population issues like SRHR and comprehensive sexuality education. It was also meant to promote a resilient future for all, including the herd boys as well as harnessing opportunities and ensuring that their rights are not violated to promote their health and well-being. Some of the services provided in the outreach were HIV testing, sexual transmitted infections screening and distribution of condoms.

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