…encourages them to go for regular HIV and cancer testing.
First Lady ‘Mathato Mosisili has encouraged street-vendors to go for regular HIV and cancer screening to ensure early treatment if found to be infected.
Ms Mosisili made the remarks on Tuesday as she went around the streets of Maseru meeting hawkers and engaging them on the advantages of knowing their medical status as well as the challenges they face in their businesses.
The First Lady also extended a helping hand to the vendors during her tour by purchasing their food items, and encouraging the nation to support such small-scale businesses.
Tuesday’s visit—which came a few weeks after the Prime Minister’s Office called for concerted efforts to eradicate HIV and AIDS in Lesotho—also resonated with the Ministry of Health’s new drive to reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer among Basotho women.
Ms Mosisili told the Lesotho Times she was “encouraged” after interacting with the vendors, many of them women supporting their families.
“I am moved to see people working so hard for their families. They are putting their children through school, and providing food and clothing for them from the money they are generating from these businesses,” Ms Mosisili said.
“It is even more encouraging to find out that most of them are women playing the crucial role of providing for their families.
“I have met women who have been selling goods on these streets from as far back as the 1980s. I would therefore, want to encourage them to live a fulfilling and complete life by going for early testing for diseases such as HIV and AIDS, as well as cervical cancer, which is on the rise in our country.
“It is important that since some are sole breadwinners, they do not succumb to illness because there would no longer be an income in their families.”
Ms Mosisili further encouraged Basotho to back such small businesses whose income “goes far” in supporting vulnerable members of society.
“As I went around, I noticed many people who have accepted what life has thrown at them but still decided to go ahead with these business as a means of survival. It is good that they have made business choices, but they also need support in making them sustainable.
“We have to support these businesses to ensure they survive,” the First Lady said.
A member of the vendors’ trade union who accompanied the First Lady during Tuesday’s tour, said the visit gave the hawkers an opportunity to highlight their challenges to a figure of authority.
According to the union’s Business Commissioner, ‘Mateboho Lerotholi, the tour had given the vendors hope that their grievances would be addressed.
“We feel honored that she has visited us today. This shows she is approachable and someone we can take our problems to with a guarantee that we will not be ignored,” said Ms Lerotholi of Khethang Tema Baitsukuli.
“There are many challenges we face here on the streets, some of which affect the youth who are here because of lack of formal employment. We would like a better future for these young people instead of having them on the streets.”