Definition of Youth

The Lesotho Ministry of Gender & Youth, Sports & Recreation website defines youth as aged 15- 35 years old. The group is split into three sub-categories: 12-15 (developing youth); 15-25 (well-developed youth); 25-35 (young adults).


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 21
  • 18
  • XX
  • Female
  • 21
  • 16
  • --

  • Marriage without parental consent requires the written consent of the minister responsible. Male homosexual acts illegal. Female homosexual acts legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
From 7-14 years old, the state must prove criminal capacity. A child below the age of 7 cannot be held legally responsible for their actions. Source:  Penal Code Act of Lesotho

Majority Age


Source: CRIN

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 76.98% Male (15-24) %
  • 93.40% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 26.08%Male %
  • 40.82% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 26.40% Male (13-15) %
  • 21.70% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
There is a national youth policy of Lesotho from 2005. A new one is currently under development.

A 2006 paper by the Ministry of Gender & Youth, Sport & Recreation describes Lesotho’s original youth policy. Its objectives focus on environment, poverty reduction, employment, education & training, health & welfare, arts & sports, human rights, social integration, culture & values and youth participation.   A “supportive national youth policy” will be created, as described on the UNDP Lesotho country page. The youth policy is one focus of the Youth Empowerment Project, which has the overall objective of creating “decent employment for youth, women and men”. This project is related to Millennium Development Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.   The estimated project end date is listed as 31 December 2013, however at the time of publication of this Fact Sheet, no updated youth policy could be found.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Department of Youth within the Ministry of Gender & Youth, Sport & Recreation aims to  
promote the dignity and self esteem of all Lesotho youth; to ensure their physical, intellectual and moral well-being; and to take all measures to accelerate their full participation in the socio-economic, cultural and political life.
The Department runs two vocational training centres and has District Offices in all ten districts of Lesotho. The offices provide services such as workshops, consultations with Youth Officers, and computer access.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
Makalo Theko, Principal Secretary for Ministry of Gender & Youth, Sport & Recreation, described the National Youth Council (NYC) as providing “[advice to] the minster on programmes relating to youth development”, as reported by Mahoaba Majoro on 26 February 2010 for African Voices.   The launch of the council was due to occur between February and June of 2010, however as described on the Innovations in Civic Participation Lesotho page, elections did not take place until March 2012. The formation of a youth council is mandated by the National Youth Council Act of 2008.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
According to the Budget Speech to Parliament for the 2013/14 Fiscal Year, the total allocated budget (Recurrent & Capital) for the Ministry of Gender & Youth, Sport & Recreation is LSL 121.6 million (USD 11 million). It is unclear what portion of this amount is specifically for youth. According to the World Bank, Lesotho spent 23.72% of its government expenditure and 12.98% of its GDP on education provision in 2008.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

From Lesotho Paper Prepared for Submission to The Fifth African Development Forum (ADF-V) - Theme: Youth and Leadership in the 21st Century (2006):  
Education and Life Skills
Quality of and access to education have been identified as some of the priority areas in the [Poverty Reduction Strategy]. There are a number of key challenges that face the youth in the field of education and life skills. Ensuring quality, free and compulsory education at primary and secondary levels is one of them. Non-formal education should also be strengthened in order to ensure sustainable development. Other challenges include student-teacher ratio, provision of education facilities and equipment. [...]
Unemployment and Migration
Unemployment is one of the key challenges facing youth in Lesotho. Employment creation and income generation were identified as priority areas in the PRS. According to the Labour Force Survey of 1999 unemployment rate in Lesotho was around 31 per cent. Of particular interest is the age group 20-24 which has unemployment rate of 35.8 per cent. This is more pronounced in females. The main reason behind the high unemployment in Lesotho is slow economic growth. There are other challenges to grapple with such as insufficient in-service programmes in the country.
Lesotho also experiences both internal and external migration. The poverty incidence in the rural areas has pushed sizable numbers of youth from the rural areas to the urban areas in search of job opportunities. This has been the strongest pull factor in recent times and can be attributed to an introduction of Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Historically, Basotho men have been employed in the neighbouring South African mines. But factors such as falling prices of gold and other precious metals and the performance of the South African currency against major international currencies have led to continued retrenchment of our young men.
  From Innovations in Civic Participation - Lesotho:  
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. In addition to civil society initiatives such as this, the government and international organizations are expanding Youth Civic Participation opportunities.
In Lesotho, half of the 800 students that graduate tertiary school every year remain unemployed. Overall, Lesotho has a 45 percent unemployment rate. 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. 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.