The right to read in Lesotho

EIFL supports libraries in Lesotho to advance adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities

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Over 50 participants from eight countries joined the regional seminar in Lesotho on the Marrakesh Treaty on 12-13 September 2017. Photo credit: Lesotho National Commission for UNESCO

To fulfill the promise of the right to read for blind, visually impaired and other print disabled people, EIFL is supporting ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in partner countries, and its implementation into national copyright law.

The Marrakesh Treaty (official name: Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled) improves access to knowledge for print-disabled people by giving organizations like libraries the right to reproduce printed works in accessible formats such as braille, audio, large print and digital formats, and to exchange these works across national borders.

In Lesotho, the Lesotho Library Consortium (LELICO) is taking the lead in advocating for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty. EIFL has worked with LELICO since 2005, building library capacity in copyright issues. Through the partnership with LELICO, EIFL Copyright Coordinators in Lesotho have attended three EIFL training events: Regional Copyright Training, Uganda (2005); Copyright and Libraries global conference, Istanbul (2008 and 2009).


According to the 2006 Population and Housing Census, an estimated 3.7 per cent of the population of Lesotho has some form of disability (the percentage of children with disabilities is said to be higher).

The most prevalent forms of disability relate to visual and hearing impairment. Disabled people in Lesotho face daily challenges getting access to education, employment and health care, and are among the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups in the country.

Two schools in Lesotho’s capital city, Maseru, provide primary and secondary education to blind and visually impaired children from all over Lesotho.

The lack of accessible reading materials – known as the ‘book famine’ - is partly a result of barriers created by copyright law, barriers that the Marrakesh Treaty seeks to remove.

By removing copyright law barriers to accessible information and culture, the Marrakesh Treaty also helps to implement important provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was ratified by Lesotho in 2008 (including in particular Article 9 Accessibility, Article 21 Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information, and Article 30 Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport).


2016 – 2017

Main activities and achievements

  • In May 2016, EIFL reviewed the Lesotho Copyright Order, 1989, concerning provisions on disability as well as libraries. The copyright law review was one outcome of a workshop organized by LELICO and the Registrar General’s Office in February 2016. Other recommendations from the workshop included the need to raise awareness among policy-makers and parliamentarians to build political support for the Marrakesh Treaty.
  • In September 2017, delegates to a high-level national seminar organized by EIFL, LELICO and the Registrar General’s Office, drafted a national action plan for accession to and implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Lesotho. The seminar, ‘Ending the book famine in Africa: libraries and the promise of the Marrakesh Treaty’, was co-funded by UNESCO and attended by Ministers and Members of Parliament in Lesotho, inter-governmental organizations, copyright experts, teachers, librarians, and representatives of people living with disability. The seminar aimed to support adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty in southern Africa, to raise awareness of the benefits of the Treaty among key stakeholders and to share national experiences on implementation. It featured in 'Thahameso', a morning news and current affairs programme from Lesotho TV with two reports: a news item (2.09 minutes, in Sesotho, including an interview with EIFL's Copyright and Libraries Programme Manager Teresa Hackett, in English) and a studio interview with Mampoi Taoana, Crown Attorney, Lesotho Registrar-General's Office and Matseliso Moshoeshoe-Chadzingwa, EIFL Lesotho Country Coordinator (18 minutes, in Sesotho).

Next steps

EIFL will continue working with LELICO to support accession to the Marrakesh Treaty in Lesotho, and to support implementation of the national action plan agreed by participants in the September 2017 seminar, ‘Ending the book famine in Africa: libraries and the promise of the Marrakesh Treaty’.

The action plan focuses on five key areas: policy and legal framework; institutional framework; capacity building and awareness creation; building evidence-based information concerning people with disabilities; building partnerships and synergies.

With a timeline of 2017-2018, it is a concrete basis for moving forward with implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Lesotho.