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Lesotho mothers trying to cope with drug addicted children

Mrs Pontsho Florina Tumisi, a widow and mother of two children is a member of the Saint Anne’s Catholic sodality in Lesotho. When she found herself dealing with her daughters’ drug addiction, she reached out to other mothers facing trials.

Fr Paul Tatu CSS – South Africa.

Enclosed within the Republic of South Africa is a small nation of 2.2 million inhabitants known as the Kingdom of Lesotho. Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy. Under the country’s constitution, the King (King Letsie III) is head of state but he does not participate in political activities. The prime minister is head of government and has executive authority.

Discovering substance use in a child

Mrs Pontsho Florina Tumisi, a 40-year-old widow and member of St Anne’s in the capital city of Maseru, is a mother of two, a son and a daughter. Her 22-year-old daughter became one of the victims of the escalating drug business in Lesotho.

At first, her daughter displayed what seemed to her mother as erratic and strange behaviour. She had no idea of what was going on with her daughter. She hoped and prayed that her daughter would outgrow her wayward teenage ways.

It was not to be.  One day her daughter went missing for days. It was when she discovered she was dealing with something bigger than just a delayed adolescent phase. Mrs Tumisi eventually realised, to her dismay, that her daughter was caught in the clutches of a serious drug addiction. As a mother, she found it hard to accept. She was also frustrated by the fact that she had. nowhere to turn to, for help. She could not easily go public for fear of stigmatisation.

Mrs Tumisi says drug addiction among the youth in Lesotho, today, is not yet seen as a very serious social problem by many Basotho. The state is bent on pursuing drug dealers. Most people also do not expect or suspect girls to be addicts.

The Mokhosi oa Mangoana Association of mothers

Faced with little institutional support, Mrs Tumisi found other mothers whose children had become addicts.  Together they formed themselves into an organisation of concerned mothers: Mokhosi oa Mangoana (MoM). They have since morphed into a small but growing non-governmental organisation of women who have children struggling with or have lost children to substance use. The association’s primary objectives are to raise awareness, advocate against substance use, and provide psychosocial support to mothers of addicts.

The Mokhosi oa Mangoana Association, which in the local Sesotho language means the  ‘Cry of a Mother for her Child’ has two official founding members: Mrs. Pontsho Tumisi herself and another unnamed mother who was stabbed twenty times by her drug addicted child and left for dead. The child wanted money from her mother to pay-off his drug debt. Mrs Tumisi approached the stabbed woman after reading about her story on Facebook. Before seeing the Facebook story, she thought she was the only one facing the challenge of having an addicted child The story of the ferocious stabbing inspired her to take action. In the process of giving moral support to other women, the women have realised that addiction victims too require significant assistance.

Victims of addiction require assistance

Although some women in the association are single, others are married and have spouses. However, the women complain that they lack moral support from their male partners -possibly out of fear for the stigma associated with having an addicted child. The lack of encouragement from male spouses is discouraging for the women. Mrs Tumisi says most of the men in Lesotho are not willing to take an active part in addressing the problem of drug abuse among the youth. The tendency is to criminalise all substnce use. 

According to Mrs Tumisi, addiction and substance use does not respect the status of a person or family. The victims can come from all classes of society.

Needs to acknowledge substance addiction

“Mokhosi oa Mangoana’s main objective is to ensure that substance addiction is acknowledged as a condition similar to mental health,” said Mrs Tumisi. She reiterated that addicts need treatment, support, and compassion. They need help and empathy similar to the way those living with mental health are taken care of in Lesotho.  In other words, drug addicts need treatment appropriate to their condition, she said.

Mrs. Tumisi has, however, expressed optimism with the recent arrival in Lesotho of the male religious congregation of the Stigmatines.

“I admire the Stigmatines’ pastoral approach in Lesotho, despite their small number. It cannot be imagined how much they will accomplish as their influence in Lesotho widens,” she remarked. She hopses to develop a mutual working relationship with the Stigmatines to delve deeper into social issues that impact Lesotho.

Mokhosi oa Mangoana has surpassed 120 members, representing various regions of Lesotho.

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