CELEBRATING LGBTIQ MONTH
The core focus of Khulisa’s work is underpinned by social justice by promoting equal rights for all.
11 years ago we ran a youth leadership programme in the deep rural area of Nkomazi near the Komatiepoort border, just south of the Kruger National Park. This programme empowers young people to identify community projects close to their hearts after which they were then capacitated to raise funds for in order to sustain ongoing activities.
Lydia Sono was a member of the first group. In 2010 she ‘came out’ as a lesbian. Shortly thereafter she and her girlfriend were brutally raped in their home, in the presence of their young child. When they reported the incident to the police they were told ‘you deserve this’! With the support of Khulisa Lydia decided to focus her community building efforts on the establishment of an Ubuntu Club to provide support to the local LGBTQI community located near to the primarily Afrikaans town of Schoemansdal. In 2017 the community voted her as winner of Mpumalanga’s Woman of the Year Award for her bravery and commitment in escorting children safely across the highway to and from school on a daily basis.
Lydia and PJ uniting to encourage
South Africans to be more accepting
of each other.
The Khulisa Ubuntu Club programme develops community-based structures that provide a ‘safe environment’ in which members of all ages learn about and discuss all manner of topics, whether personal or community-related. Members are also encouraged to become involved in recreational activities and community service (give back) initiatives that reflect the spirit of Ubuntu (community solidarity).
The Nkomazi Ubuntu Club has now been operational for 8 years and, under the leadership of Lydia, has provided support to over 70 members of the local LGBTIQ community who were previously ‘invisible’. The group has actively engaged with the community on many fronts in an attempt to share their status, to ‘pay it forward’ and provide a variety of services to people with albinism and those in child-headed households.
PJ Powers, our Global Mentorship Movement Ambassador, and I met with the group earlier this year to gain an understanding of their needs and their vision for a fulfilling life. We were appalled by the injustices that this stigmatised LGBTIQ community is facing, including having no access to services, , being banned from church, being mocked at the local clinic, facing police refusal to document cases of abuse, and being beaten by security guards at local retail stores. They are ostracised by their families and, apart from the support group that has been created for them through their Ubuntu Club, they have nowhere to turn.
It is alarming to know that this particular community is just one of thousands around South Africa where, despite political, legal, and educational reforms, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex youth continue to battle against discrimination in their daily lives. The issues faced by South Africa’s LGBTIQ and other marginalised youth groups are not unlike those problems faced by similar communities around the world.
Commencing next week PJ Powers, a champion of human rights and equality for all people in SA will be spearheading a drive to draw awareness to the injustices faced by our Nkomazi community. As part of this drive we will be running a campaign to raise funds for the construction of a multi-purpose facility which will provide a place of safety for those who have nowhere to go, whilst simultaneously creating opportunities for them to have access to IT and training.
We are appealing to you to please support PJ’s call to action next week by visiting and liking her Social Media pages, and sharing her posts as widely as possible. With your help we will be able to support Lydia and her community.
Our long-term vision, through our Dare to Dream Resilience Building programme, is to create an Nkomazi interactive storytelling presentation group who will travel to other rural areas, using their personal narrations to encourage others to speak out and claim their Constitutional rights.