28 Jan 2008
In southern Africa deep within the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho is a treasure. It is not the treasure of diamonds that were once mined below these mountains. It is not the treasure of gold for which South Africa is famous. But it is a treasure Worth Far More than Rubies the treasure of the African Basotho woman.
Many Basotho men are absent from their homes and communities. Some work in jobs far away from home in other towns or in the mines and factories of South Africa. Other men have shirked their responsibilities as husbands and fathers and have abandoned their families. In the midst of this, Basotho women have stepped forward to become the strength of the family of the community of the nation and the strength of the church!
Living in the mountains is especially hard for women. The Basotho woman rises early in the morning when the first rays of dawn peek over the mountains. Often, she starts her day working along side the men taking her turn with the plough. or caring for the family vegetable garden.
The basic necessities of life must be found and gathered. She journeys along rugged mountain paths seeking fuel for heating and cooking and then carries the discovered sticks or cow dung back to her home.
Her hard work continues throughout the day preparing meals for her family in the traditional cast iron pot, getting her children ready for school, washing clothes in a nearby spring or stream, ... getting water from a well or pump and carrying it on her head back to her hut.
In awe of the strength of Basotho women, a missionary recently remarked ... The Basotho woman has the strength of a 4 by 4 Landrover truck. She can carry anything on her head.
Mountain stores or trading posts have a meager supply of food items. To pay for these expensive necessities, Basotho women must work at odd jobs such as sorting wool at the shearing shed. Others make crafts such as weavings from mohair, the hair of mountain goats. Some weave the traditional basotho hat out of straw and sell their wares on the streets. Still others sew making dresses such as this traditional Shoeshoe dress worn proudly by Basotho women. This enterprising Basotho woman uses a hand-cranked sewing machine to make a jacket out of the traditional Basotho blanket.
When roads need to be constructed or improved, the local residents are hired to work on the section near their village. Using picks and shovels, women join in with men ... working side by side in this backbreaking work.
When one Basotho woman was asked, Why do you work so hard? Her answer was a firm, I work hard for the future of my children!
A Basotho proverb speaks of this love and commitment that the mother has for her children. It says, A mother will grasp the sharp edge of a knife to protect her children from attack.
The life of Basotho women in the lowlands of Lesotho and in the Free State of South Africa can be equally as challenging. Those women who are skilled at sewing may be fortunate to find employment at one of the many foreign-owned garment factories working 10 hours a day 6 days a week and earning $3.75 a day. Most of them will walk the several miles to and from work to save the daily transport cost of 60 cents. Others set up stalls on the streets to sell fruits and vegetables or to cook food to sell during the lunch hour.
Those fortunate ones who are educated and attend the National University of Lesotho have the greatest opportunities for finding jobs in government or with private companies in the capital city of Maseru.
Since Basotho culture is patriarchal, the woman becomes part of the husbands family through marriage. A lobola, or bride price, is paid to her family. This may be 20 cows or the equivalent in money. Once the lobola is paid, all children become part of the mans family.
The tragedy of AIDS has become a heartbreak in the life of Basotho women. Many husbands who worked in the mines of South Africa returned to Lesotho with more than money. ...They returned with HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that one out of every three adults in Lesotho has the virus. Saturday is the day for funerals and funerals are becoming more and more common because of AIDS.
HIV/AIDS affects Basotho women in many ways. . They are more vulnerable to HIV. They can pass the virus to their children through childbirth and breastfeeding. Also, when both parents die because of AIDS, orphaned children are left behind many times cared for by an aging grandmother.
On any given Sunday, a visit to the churches will show the spirituality of the Basotho woman. Whether it be the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Lesotho Evangelical Church, a Pentecostal Church, or a Baptist Church, women make up the vast majority of the adult congregation. In fact, men are scarcely found in church. Sundays will find more of them watching soccer or passing their time at homes flying white plastic bags on long poles indicating the sale of home-brew.
As women gather together in church and sing praises to Jesus, their beautiful harmony brings to mind the words of Proverbs 31:30 a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Yes, the treasure of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the treasure of the Basotho people, is the Basotho woman. She holds the family and society together. In her spirit, she seeks to praise Jesus. She is worth far more than rubies.
"A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies."
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