The right to read in Lesotho

Lesotho becomes the 37th country in the world and the ninth country in Africa to join the Marrakesh Treaty

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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) took the lead in advocating for accession to the Marrakesh Treaty. 

On 30 April 2018, Lesotho deposited its instrument of accession at WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) in Geneva. The Treaty enters into force in Lesotho on 30 July 2018. Lesotho became the 37th country in the world and the ninth country in Africa in Africa to join the Marrakesh Treaty.

EIFL has worked with LELICO since 2005, building library capacity in copyright issues. Now that Lesotho has adopted the Marrakesh Treaty, EIFL looks forward to continued cooperation with LELICO and other stakeholders on introducing the changes required by the Treaty into national copyright law. The key changes to the law should ensure that an accessible format copy may be made and supplied to a print-disabled person or an institution, such as a library, within a country or across a national border.

 

Background

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).

Timeline

2016 – 2018

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. 
  • On 12-13 September 2017, EIFL, LELICO and the Registrar General’s Office co-organized a high-level seminar 'Ending the book famine in Africa: libraries and the promise of the Marrakesh Treaty’ in Maseru. The seminar was attended by 70 people including Ministers and Members of Parliament in Lesotho, inter-governmental organizations, copyright experts, teachers, librarians, and representatives of people living with disability. During the seminar, a national action plan 2017-2018 for implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Lesotho was drafted.
  • On 1 November 2017, the Minister of Education and Training, Honourable Mokhele Moletsane, who participated in the seminar in Maseru, announced that Lesotho would ratify the Marrakesh Treaty at the 39th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO. In his statement the Minister noted the importance of the September 2017 seminar in encouraging adoption of the Treaty
  • On 30 April 2018, Lesotho deposited its instrument of accession at WIPO in Geneva. The Treaty enters into force in Lesotho on 30 July 2018. 

Next steps

EIFL is continuing its work with LELICO and other stakeholders working to amend Lesotho's national copyright law to meet the requirements of the Marrakesh Treaty.

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