Working toward Pan-African Trans and Intersex Advocacy Leadership
By Kellyn Botha
From 21 to 29 June, 18 transgender and intersex delegates from eight African nations were brought together by Iranti for a nine-day intensive leadership and wellness training session. Delegates hailed from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria.
Delegates were encouraged to engage meaningfully throughout the training, with everyone presenting during the program on the work conducted by their local organisations and the successes and challenges faced, sharing knowledge that strengthens trans and intersex activism work.
Delegates also led a number of self-organised dialogues on a variety of topics of importance. Trans and intersex activists specifically were targeted for the programme, as Iranti identified a lack of representation and leadership of transgender, non-binary and intersex leadership in activism spaces across the continent’s LGBTI movements, which often focus more exclusively on gay rights.
Gabriel Khan facilitated nuanced conversations on the funding landscape, power dynamics, and the impact of global economic realities, giving space to think through interventions and how to actualise our visions for change, while participants also had the opportunity to have a video chat with Kim Mukasa of the International Trans Fund. Busisiwe Dlamini gave delegates tools to engage in intense self-reflection, looking at internalised oppression as well as internalised dominance, and how our awareness of the effect of normativitiy can help us be better activists and leaders. Sibongile Ndashe of the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) spent several hours educating delegates on concepts of strategic advocacy, noting the use of looking to global examples for inspiration in the ongoing fight for equality, but reminding delegates on the importance of tailoring their strategies and goals to local contexts.
Ndashe noted that in all the countries represented, it is only in South Africa and Namibia, that there are protective laws, though hate crimes in South Africa seem to be more prevalent than elsewhere. In all other countries present, the challenging socio-legal environment, when combined with a lack of funding and infrastructure, makes advocacy challenging for all.
This, argued Monique Salomon of Korumo Coaching for Transformation, is why it is so important to sustain holistic wellness. Salomon made clear the strain that facing discrimination and fighting against it can take, and noted that without sufficient self-care, leadership capacity within activist spaces would deteriorate and movements for equality would suffer as a result.
Further wellness-training was facilitated by Peter and Linda Richer who provided trauma-release and relaxation exercises through Yoga, and Mpumi “Mamadrum” Nhlapo from The Drumming Campaign, who had delegates express their passion and release their pent-up energy with a traditional Djembe drumming circle.
On 25 June, delegates got to leave the seminar room behind for the day. They were taken to The Apartheid Museum to get a glimpse of South African history, reflecting on the intersections that the socio-economic and racial justice movements share with our trans and intersex struggles, before having lunch on Soweto’s historic Vilakazi Street.
On 28 June Bobby Rodwell, together with the Iranti media team facilitated discussions on the use of media in and as advocacy, and how activists can more directly create and own their own narratives in a world full of misrepresentation and silencing.
The coming together of individuals from such wide backgrounds gave everyone a clear insight into the many similarities and differences within allied communities – specifically the shared disappointment in South African food! And by the end of the training, it was clear that, as ever, there is a great deal of work to be done. Convenings of this nature allow us to recharge and dreconnect with each other and ourselves in this important work of resistance and resilience, and to quote Joshua Sehoole in his first dialogue on self-and-community care, “We are enough. We are all we need to survive and always have been. We must remember that”.