Washington — Five years ago, Marethabile Sechibe of Lesotho was working on her dream of opening a guest house, but because women in the country then held the legal status of children, she needed her husband to sign all the paperwork and she needed his permission to run the business.
The process became tedious; she often had to run home to get her husband's signature or schedule a time that was convenient for both of them to fill out paperwork at government offices. Despite these hurdles, she realized her dream and opened the Scenery Guest House.
In 2012, Sechibe learned through flyers and radio about the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006, landmark legislation that the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) helped pass.
Before that, she didn't realize that having joint ownership of her business and being able to take care of the paperwork herself was an option. She now signs her name on business documents and legally owns the business with her husband. Since she learned of the law, she has gotten a loan from a bank and is expanding the guest house to include a conference center.
"I am excited to have legal ownership and the legal support to grow my business without my husband's consent," Sechibe said, according to a March 11 MCC news release. "I am also lucky to have a supportive husband who is OK with these changes."
Like Sechibe, men and women throughout Lesotho are learning about the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act and how it can help them become more active participants in the economy.
The Gender Equality Activity team at Millennium Challenge Account-Lesotho (MCA-Lesotho), the local entity managing implementation of Lesotho's MCC compact, is building awareness, knowledge and acceptance of gender equality in the economic rights of both men and women.
The team is conducting training and has a countrywide outreach program to reach into rural society and institutions to advocate and teach the benefits of gender equality for the development of the Basotho people.
FEDERATION OF LESOTHO WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
As part of the advocacy efforts, MCA-Lesotho established the Federation of Lesotho Women Entrepreneurs earlier in 2013 to bring women entrepreneurs together to share experiences, best practices, information and networking in order to address challenges in business and the economy.
The federation aims to bring gender aspects of the economy to the attention of policymakers, especially the issues of women's participation in economic planning and sustainable development.
Sechibe is a member of the federation, which is made up of aspiring women entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs who own small, medium-sized and large businesses.
There are 6,550 members, with chapters located in all the districts of Lesotho. This includes women living with HIV and AIDS and women living with disabilities.
The activities of the federation include capacity building, resource mobilization and establishing business networks.
CONTRIBUTING TO GENDER EQUALITY
The Lesotho compact's gender equality activity is building understanding and support for changes resulting from the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act. More than 100 compact-funded outreach activities have been held to date.
With MCC support to the government of Lesotho in this area of legal reform, more Basotho women are taking leadership roles, have joint ownership of property and are becoming key movers and equal participants in economic development.