Peace-building in action: the Commonwealth family makes it truly possible
On my recent tour of Southern Africa, it was just by chance that I discovered a weaver’s workshop, a little gem hidden away in the back of the government-operated Basotho Hat craft shop in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. This is where I met Esther, a weaver who has been capturing the essence of Lesotho’s culture and history in hand woven tapestry for more than two decades. I was fascinated by the clever artistry that she and other Basotho women effortlessly created in the back of this shop. From spinning wool into thread to packaging and shelving, everything was done on location. For me it is a great example of a simple but clever enterprise that can boost local economies and empower women.
It also reminded me of the importance of the Commonwealth’s peace building work. In a matter of weeks, the country will go to the polls following a no-confidence vote in parliament and the collapse of its coalition government. For Esther, employment is a priority, and it is imperative that she and the rest of the electorate are given the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to choose their leaders in a credible election process.
This is why I was delighted that our message of peacebuilding, the Commonwealth theme for the year, resonated with all parties in Lesotho and with the ministers and officials I spoke to on my subsequent visit to Malawi. During my mission to these two Southern African countries, I was able to have frank discussions with leaders, ministers, opposition parties, NGO representatives and members of the diplomatic community. It is clear that there is strong commitment to democracy and an acknowledgement that peace and prosperity go hand in hand.