Puleng Relebohile Letsie a Mosotho woman, a human rights and gender activist,
mother of one boy aged 10 (Litšitso). I am currently employed by UNAIDS in
Lesotho as a Mobilisation and Networking advisor, working on HIV and AIDS,
Gender and Human Rights issues. I work with individuals and teams in the United
Nations agencies, government, civil society and other development partners.
As part of my work in UNAIDS and as
part of the UN Joint Team on AIDS as well as the Gender, Human Rights &
Youth (GHRY) technical team in Lesotho, I lead, participate in and manage
several initiatives focusing on women, girls, gender and human rights issues. I
forge and maintain strategic partnerships on women leadership issues, girls’
empowerment initiatives and anti-stigma and trafficking campaigns.  I work with civil society organisations,
especially women’s groups and community based organisations; and participate in
national planning, development and resource mobilization initiatives.
I studied as a teacher from the
National University of Lesotho; went on to do my Masters in Educational
Psychology at the University of the Free State, then studied Public Health at
the then MEDUNSA (Medical University of Southern Africa), now called University
of Limpopo. I continue to study and enhance my skills and competencies as I
also studied Project Management and did an Advanced Health Management Programme
with the Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) in South Africa. I am
about to compete my articles for a PhD in Educational Psychology focusing on
Sexuality Education, Culture and Gender.
The desire and urge to make a
difference in people’s lives gets me going every morning! I am motivated by
results and seeing that special smile on an empowered citizen who stands for
her rights and knows exactly what works for them.
Assertiveness: I strongly
believe that my being an assertive person has highly contributed to my success.
Being assertive should clearly be isolated from arrogance or not respecting
others’ views but more on believing in what you stand for and making sure that
your values and integrity are not compromised. Being assertive for me also
meant claiming my rights even in the most challenging situations and basing my
arguments on facts, policies and all legal instruments at my disposal. I have
been able to oppose unfair treatment in the workplace and continue to strive
for equity and equality in my job and my life. 
Excellence: I am a person who
always strives for excellence. I do not want to be associated with dubious
people, institutions and initiatives and try as much as possible to remain a
dependable, credible person who always delivers as expected. I enjoy being in
teams which deliver, are motivated and inspire others to do more. Delivering to
the minimum expected levels is not my motto, and once l don’t feel like going the
extra mile, then I know that whatever I am doing is not something of interest
to me, and I avoid being is such situations.
Integrity & Respect: Integrity
is everything, as I believe there is no success without integrity. Alongside
integrity is respect – respect for self and for others is key in everything
that one does. There are no short cuts in life and in aspiring for integrity, I
have turned down some offers in life as they were not in line with my values
and I therefore felt that my credibility would be compromised. I particularly
love this quote by
W. Clement Stone: “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage
to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic
keys to living your life with integrity”.
I have been inspired by many women including my mother,
who single-handedly raised two daughters to become the strong and assertive
women that my younger sister (Refuoe /Pinkie) are I are today. She had the
greatest influence in the way I am as she has always instilled in us strong
elements of independence, assertiveness and integrity. She believes in straight
talk, even in the most difficult situations and practically lives by her own
motto as nicely captured by  N. R.
Narayana Murthy in saying, “ Leadership
is about doing the right thing, even if it going against a vast number of
naysayers and mediocre people”.
This is usually a tough question for me, as sometimes I
look up to someone and then later on realise that some non-negotiable
attributes for me like integrity are not necessarily within the non-negotiables
for that person. However, there are some women who have inspired me in
different ways, and they are;
·       Mrs Scholastica Sylvan Kimaryo, a former UNDP Resident
Representative in Lesotho, who is a focused, determined and results-driven
woman, with the best interests of the people she serves at heart. 
·       My aunt, Ms Puseletso Morai, who continually inspires me
with her humility, tolerance and her ability to motivate us even in instances
where the odds seem to be against us. Her tolerance and endless support to all
of us in the family, always ‘blow me away’! 
·       Dr Khauhelo Raditapole, a former politician and leader.
With her sharp outlook and vision, she has been instrumental in helping me
reflect on the way I look at issues and life in general.
My goal for the next 5 years is to further develop myself
academically and professionally. My PhD studies have recently re-ignited a
strong passion for research in me and I intend to pursue that and hopefully use
the knowledge to develop programmes and / or set up an institution /
organisation focusing on issues affecting women and girls in Lesotho – possibly
with me at the helm of that institution and/ or programme.
African women are faced with a myriad of challenges. I do
however remain committed and motivated to work on these issues as I feel that
most of them, if not all, are man-made and can be controlled, managed and
eradicated by human beings.
Most African women are regarded and treated as ‘minors’
and are unable to contribute to decision-making, even in instances and issues
that affect their own lives such as sexual and reproductive health. I am always
perplexed why this is the case as women are great managers – they manage homes,
they manage social and other institutions but when it comes to national and
economic decision making platforms, women are usually not recognised.
Though most countries like my own, Lesotho have enacted
laws to protect women especially on issues such as inheritance, land rights,
access to economic opportunities and sexual and reproductive health rights, the
implementation of these laws leaves much to be desired, hence my passion to
continuously advocate for women’s rights and human rights in general.
Women and girls in Africa bear the brunt of the HIV
epidemic, there are increasing levels of sexual and gender based violence,
coupled with the effects of climate change, women’s vulnerability is one the
I love travelling so much and I enjoy road trips with
family and friends. I also love some informative / educational adventure trips
such as Women’s 4×4 off-road challenges in the rocky mountains of Lesotho. I
love socialising and sharing inspirational stories and ideas and off course
going out with the girls occasionally as I love dancing. 
MY   –  
African women should be inspired because now is the right
time, more than ever when women are exposed to various opportunities to make
life good for them. They should be celebrated as they do a lot of work,
contribute so much to their countries’ economies even without the recognition
and acknowledgement, and continue to do a lot of unpaid work, caring for
families and nations. African women should be empowered because they already
have lots of capacities and potential that just needs to be unleashed by
providing a conducive environment for women to deliver as they should.
My first point would be to ensure that women’s
contributions in the form of unpaid work gets recognised, acknowledged and
remunerated. There is need to strengthen the implementation modalities of the
various laws and policies that our countries have on paper – to make them a
reality for the African woman. The laws, policies and regulations should translate
into real differences in African women’s lives. We should not celebrate meeting
targets which are not evident in people’s lives. The issue of child marriages
is fortunately already on the radar for the SADC region at least and I would
just ensure that all African countries eradicate child marriages and female
genital mutilation, as well as other socio-cultural beliefs and practices that
continue to frustrate, humiliate and dehumanise women.
Believe in yourself, do not ever underestimate or doubt
yourself. Always aspire to maintain your independence and integrity and never
admit that you cannot do certain things just because you are a woman.