LESOTHO: Surviving Gender Based Violence

Emma Morolong joined the Rural Women\’s Assembly in 2019 after Sister Mpati introduced her to RWA and explained to her how RWA supports and empowers women who are survivors of  Gender Based Violence (GBV). Emma is a proud mother of five, but unfortunately three of her children have passed away. Emma was born and raised in the district of Botha Buthe in Lesotho.

One evening in 1984, seven men stormed in Emma\’s home and forcefully carried her out of her home for a forced marriage. Emma was so scared at that time and she didn\’t know who amongst the seven men was going to be her husband. Her mother was helplessly crying and shouting for help, hoping that the people in the village will help her out. However, it looked like the village people were tipped off that Emma was going to be kidnapped into marriage because no one came out to their rescue. She was only 16 years old when she was forced into the marriage. 

Emma loved school very much but she decided to let go and accept her fate. Emma learned to accept her husband but her problems started when her mother in law, whom they were living with, started to abuse her. Her mother-in-law would hide food from Emma and she would go to bed without eating even though she was pregnant. Her mother-in-law would wake her up at 04h00 and instruct her to do different chores, chores that were very tough for a pregnant woman who wasn’t eating well.  At that time, Emma\’s husband was unemployed, so it was difficult for him to protect his wife. Emma\’s parents realised that she was losing a lot of weight and they came to take her back home. But Emma couldn\’t bear to carry the shame of going back home from a failed marriage so she refused and her mother-in-law continued to abuse her. Emma would sadly watch other family members eat pap and meat while Emma would be given pap and jam to eat. Emma would remember how good life was back home where she ate well. Her family was well off but now she was in a marriage where they would hide food from her.

After her father-in-law passed away, Emma husband could take his place in the mine and work in the mines which would also allow them to move away from the mother in law\’s house. Soon Emma\’s husband had to leave the village to start work at the mines. After working away from home for awhile, Emma was excited that her husband was finally coming back home for a short holiday on New Year\’s Eve. Sadly, this excitement was quickly shattered when, on his return, her husband kicked her all over her body because their children left their home without asking for his permission. Emma\’s husband told her to go and sleep outside that night. Emma had no choice and went to sleep outside. The dogs started barking, her husband told her to move away from the house because she is causing the dogs to make noise and he wanted to sleep ‘peacefully\’. Her husband would just come outside whenever he felt like it and kick her, leaving her bleeding while he went back to sleep.

Things got a bit better when she gave birth to the twins because the husband was happy for the twins. But the twins passed away shortly after being born. Emma says that her husband use to kick her in the stomach while she was pregnant with the twins. The Doctor wanted to have the husband arrested for kicking his pregnant wife but Emma pleaded with the Doctor not to get him arrested since her husband was the breadwinner.

One day Emma\’s husband came back from work with another woman and kicked Emma out of their house. Emma went to the Chief to report her husband but the Chief seemed to be afraid of her husband and refused to help Emma. Emma had to go back home and stay at her parent\’s house. As if chasing her away was not enough, her husband followed her to her family home and burnt it while the family was asleep inside. Fortunately, they saw the fire in time and managed to escape with her pregnant sister-in-law who was in the house with her. Emma\’s sister-in-law went into labour immediately that night and thankfully she gave birth to a healthy baby. 

Emma\’s husband would then plead with her and tell her that he is doing everything because he is bewitched. Emma forgave him and they decided to leave that village hoping things will be better. But nothing changed, her husband became more abusive. Emma\’s husband took all the money that Emma made from cooking food in schools and left her with nothing. One day, Emma\’s son sold his sheep so that they could have something to eat but this angered her husband. Emma\’s husband was so angry that during daylight, he was kicking her like a dog in the view of everyone nonstop until her children were called by someone to help her. This time her children were old enough and they were ready to beat their father but he ran away before they could catch her. Emma\’s children couldn\’t take seeing their mother being violently abused so they gave Emma money so that she could runaway to South Africa. 

Emma\’s husband continued to stay with another woman and after some time he demanded divorce. Emma returned to Lesotho to finalise the divorce. But soon her husband changed his mind about the divorce. But Emma stood her ground and told him that if he doesn\’t divorce her, she will. It was at this time when Emma met Mampati who encouraged her to join RWA and participate in the empowerment programme and draw strength from the RWA support network.

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