August marks the start of a brand new cohort of Herd Boys receiving life saving information through HIV/AIDS education, gender equity training and life skills.
Herd boys like Mphepe (left) and his friend Mohato often have to leave school to earn an income for their families by herding sheep or cattle.
“I started herding animals in 2014; my family didn’t see the purpose for me to acquire an education. My father was burdened by a lot of work so I had to help him with field work and herding animals. I dropped out of school when I was in Grade 4.”
Herd Boy Training
Mphephe, 15, and his friend, Mohato, who is deaf, joined the Herd Boy training program in 2017. The boys live in the rural, mountainous district of Thaba Tseka.
“One of my greatest memories is when I roasted maize (corn) in the mountains with my beloved friend – Mohato.”
Stigma in the Mountains
But not all days are good on the grasslands. Mphephe and his friend narrated the unfortunate ordeal of a day when they neglected the animals while roasting their favourite maize cobs. The animals went astray and destroyed someone’s crops.
“We actually got carried away with the roasting without keeping an eye on the animals; they disappeared and fed on one man’s crops. He was furious and we were beaten thoroughly.”
Herd boys are often stigmatized by their communities and accused of sexual violence, theft, and destruction.
Life Saving Information
Help Lesotho’s Herd Boy program provides the young men with life skills needed to navigate their lives successfully while showing them compassion and acceptance.
The training includes sessions on anger management, drugs and alcohol abuse, gender based violence, as well as an opportunity to test for HIV.
Mphepe says he stopped smoking as a result of the training. After the alcohol and drug abuse sessions he decided to break the smoking habit.
“One of the most important things that I have done as a result of the knowledge I gained during the training is to quit smoking. We were taught about the dangers of using tobacco and other drugs and I stopped smoking, although it was not easy!’’
When herd boys are educated on the consequences of their actions through compassion and support: change occurs, violence ends and hope is born.