Successful Policy Development and Implementation through Sustained Community and Stakeholder Engagement: A Case for Lesotho’s Child Protection and Welfare Act

Successful Policy Development and Implementation through Sustained Community and Stakeholder Engagement: A Case for Lesotho’s Child Protection and Welfare Act

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho}Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, Lesotho
The first Lesotho National Conference on Vulnerable Children, December 8-11, 2014, was organized by the Government of Lesotho, with support from US Agency for International Development (USAID)/The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through Management Sciences for Health’s Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project, and in collaboration with UNICEF, UNAIDS, and other development partners. Originally published on the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Regional Exchange (SHARE), this post is based on a conference session about "taking policies to communities": 1) linking policy to communities, 2) creating awareness on policies relating to vulnerable children, and 3) sharing lessons learned for future programming. During the session, Ms. Mamosiuoa Masenyetse from the Ministry of Local Government spoke about policy dissemination and awareness creation in the community: challenges, opportunities and lessons learned about the policy and legal framework application and implementation at community level. Ms. Lindiwe Sephomolo, President of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), discussed approaches of disseminating policy and legal frameworks in Lesotho. MSH has featured several posts about the conference on our blog.

HIV & AIDS and children: infected and affected

The negative impact of HIV and AIDS on children is a worldwide battle. Children orphaned by AIDS are not the only ones affected by the epidemic: it also affects the caregivers and extended families who care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). These children often have limited opportunities for education and resources. They may be forced to leave school and may be exposed to abuse, child labor, or child trafficking. They have a higher risk of experiencing feelings of rejection, depression, and anger. Studies such as the The effects of HIV infection and AIDS on children in Africa indicate that child survivors of HIV often engage in risky behavior, making them vulnerable to contracting HIV.

Orphaned children—as compared to children living with families—who reside in shelters or alternative homes may experience a decline in the quantity and quality of food, education, love, nurturing, and an increase in stigma and discrimination. Impoverished children living in households with one or more ill parents are also frequently affected, as an increasing amount of family income is spent on health care, which often leads to the depletion of savings and other resources reserved for education, food, and other basic needs.

With these challenges in mind, Lesotho has made significant progress in the protection, care, and support of orphans and vulnerable children. The Situation Analysis of Orphans and other Vulnerable Children in Lesotho (2011) estimates that vulnerable children in Lesotho are between 10 and 13 percent of the total child population (up to age 17) of more than one million.[1] In response, a number of legislative instruments have been put in place to protect the rights of children.

The people are the government and the people make democracy… The children of today are children of rights.

~ Dr. Itumeleng Kimane

Implementing the Child Protection and Welfare Act

The Government of Lesotho enacted the Child Protection and Welfare Act (CPWA) in March 2011. The Act seeks to protect the social and economic wellbeing of all children. It represents national efforts to address the provisions of both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.[2] Lesotho’s Sexual Offences Act addresses the need to combat sexual violence and targets protection especially toward children under the age of 18 years. The Government of Lesotho has further facilitated the development of the National Strategic Plan on Vulnerable Children (NSPVC), which serves as a tool to operationalize the CPWA. It also informs and guides the national multi-sectoral and decentralized response to vulnerable children.

The Government of Lesotho calls on all stakeholders to participate in the implementation of the NSPVC based on their mandates and comparative advantage.

According to the conference speakers, the success in the implementation of the CPWA was due to the approaches utilized, such as:

  • Translating policies into local languages
  • Simplification of policies
  • Providing resources for training
  • Decentralization to local government and involving other stakeholders

Good practices learned in engaging communities on child policies include:

  • Involving community workers
  • Building on existing practices and successful programs
  • Involving traditional leaders in policy development
  • Sensitization, sensitization, sensitization
  • Forging partnerships with government and civil society organizations
  • Learning by doing
  • Community-driven initiatives and full participation
  • Data capturing and informed decision-making
  • Supporting the government’s initiatives

Future success with the CPWA requires:   

  • Empowering children to know their rights as well as responsibilities
  • Engaging meaningfully with children: they have solutions to their own challenges
  • Engaging traditional leaders/chiefs, as they are endowed with specific child-related roles and responsibilities, including: administration of estates and reporting, child justice, and taking children to places of safety

Ms. Lindiwe Sephomolo from the Federation for Women Lawyers stated:

Get out of the comfort zone, meet with all stakeholders at different levels, hold Pitsos [community gatherings].

We need to be ready to hear the truth. We are trying through this policy to touch base with communities so that they can own the process.

People should know the legislation before trying to enforce it.

More about the conference on SHARE

  1. Government of Lesotho: Ministry of Social Development, 2012. National Strategic Plan on Vulnerable Children: April 2012 - March 2017.
  2. Government of Lesotho. Children Protection and Welfare Act, 2011