Lesotho is a small country located in an enclave in Southern Africa. It has a GNI per capita of US$1,080, anLesothod a population of just over 2 million people with 970,000 people below the age of 18.[1]

Youth Civic Participation Overview

Due to various economic and other socio-political factors, civil society in Lesotho is largely uncoordinated, lacks a central organizing body and operates in relative isolation from the government. As such, limited information is available about Youth Civic Participation initiatives implemented by civil society organizations in Lesotho. One organization, the OlympAfrica Youth Ambassador Programme (OYAP), is seeking to engage young people in addressing specific social issues plaguing the youth population. Started in 2003 by the Lesotho National Olympic Committee, the Commonwealth Games Canada and UK Sport, OYAP uses sport as a venue to teach youth leadership, disseminate information on critical social issues, and prepare young people to provide peer mentorship to other young people in their communities. OYAP trains young people to develop their own creative, youth-focused programs centering on issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS and family issues. OYAP hosts 76 youth ambassadors who engage young people throughout the country.[2] In addition to civil society initiatives such as this, the government and international organizations are expanding Youth Civic Participation opportunities.

Policy Overview

On April 28, 2010, Lesotho officially launched the Youth Volunteer Corp Project (LYVCP). Developed in conjunction with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV), the program, which is one year in duration, provides unemployed tertiary school graduates with work experience in an effort to increase their employment success. After receiving training [3] in local governance, participants are placed in positions throughout government ministries and public sector organizations.[4] The project started in 2010 with 153 volunteers. It is a three year project with a cost of about M7 million and it is funded by the Lesotho government and the UNDP, with some assistance from the European Union.

The Youth Volunteer Corps Project is organized under the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, Lesotho’s primary governing body of youth related issues and programs. Lesotho has a National Health and Social Welfare Policy which incorporates youth issues, however, the authors were unable to identify a comprehensive youth policy.[5] The Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, in an effort to act under the National Youth Council Act of 2008 and the council’s regulations of 2009, proposed that elections for a National Youth Council take place in 2011.[6] Elections for the Council actually took place in March of 2012. Unfortunately youth did not seem to show very much interest. Some are blaming this on the government, saying that they should have done more to promote the election. [7]

Finally, Lesotho has many other youth employment initiatives under way. The government provides vocational training for young people at locations throughout the country, and it has formulated policy calling for a reduction in youth unemployment. The government is currently partnering with organizations such as UNDP and the International Labour Organization to draft and implement an action plan aimed at increasing economic opportunities for young people in the country.[8]


In Lesotho, half of the 800 students that graduate tertiary school every year remain unemployed. Overall, Lesotho has a 45 percent unemployment rate.[9] To address this, the Lesotho government has a number of initiatives, such as the Youth Volunteer Corps Project, aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals while also enhancing youth employment prospects.[10] The UNDP and UNV programs in Lesotho are working toward fighting poverty, HIV/AIDS and food security, while also helping the Lesotho government manage environmental change and adopt sustainable practices with regards to its management of natural resources.

Going Forward

Government officials have stated that in the long term, they hope to develop the National Volunteer Youth Corps as a program in which all Lesotho graduates will participate.[11] As the program expands, the government also hopes to place participants in volunteer positions within the private sector and in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho.[12] Expanding opportunities in Lesotho such as those described above can help improve youth employment, while addressing other critical community and national needs.

Contact Information

Ms. Orfhlaith Ramsey, Program Officer, UNV, orfhlaith.ramsey@undp.org
The Hon. Mathabiso Lepono , Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, honsec@mgysr.gov.ls/ exec@mgysr.gov.ls

[1] “Lethoso,” UNICEF Info By Country, Web, 21 October 2010, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/lesotho_statistics.html#69.
[2] “Commonwealth Games of Canada Association,” Canadian Development Agency, Web, 13 October 2010, http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/acdi-cida/psij-iyip.nsf/Eng/STE-10685831-57L; and “OYAP,” Kicking AIDS Out Member Directory, Web, 13 October 2010, http://www.kickingaidsout.net/WhatisKickingAIDSOut/Members/Pages/OYAP.aspx.
[3] Many participants went through training provided by the European Union Local Governance and Non-State Actors Support Programme.
[4] “PM to Officially Launch LYVCP,” Kingdom of Lesotho Government, Web, 21 October 2010, http://www.lena.gov.ls/index.php?model=headline&function=display&text_id… .
[5] “Lesotho National Health and Social Welfare Policy, 2003,” Web, 21 October 2010, http://www.youth-policy.com/Policies/Lesotho_National_Health_and_Social_….
[6] “Gender Ministry Organizes youth Council Roadshows,” Kingdom of Lesotho Government, Web, 21 October 2010, http://www.lesotho.gov.ls/articles/2010/GENDER_MINISTRY_ORGANISES.php.
[7] “Lesotho Youths Show Little Interest in First National Youth Council Election,” Net News Publisher, Web, 3 March 2012, http://www.netnewspublisher.com/lesotho-youths-show-little-interest-in-f….
[8] “Decent Work Country Program: Lesotho, 2006-2009,” International Labour Office, Web, 21 October 2010, http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/program/dwcp/download/lesotho.pdf.
[9] “PM to Officially Launch LYVCP.”
[10] “Cheering On Lesotho’s Development Volunteers,” UN Volunteers, 3 May 2010, Web, 21 October 2010, http://www.unv.org/en/news-resources/news/doc/cheering-on-lesothos-devel….
[11] “PM to Officially Launch LYVCP.”
[12] “National Volunteer Corps Project Launch in Maseru – 28, April, 2010,” United National Development Programme: Lesotho, Web, 21 October 2010, http://www.undp.org.ls/unv/UNVC_launch.php.