This new found responsibility had always been with me, I assume I wasn’t educated enough to be aware. The science of people is dynamic and exciting. There are always sacrifices and choices to be made in the work that we do and within any context, this same science can make all the difference in a movement for freedom or liberation. The demands of the recently agreed UN’S SDGs and AU’s Agenda 2063 are great examples of the way in which the world’s challenges have evolved and intersected. No longer is food security, capitalism or philanthropy enough for the development of a nation. Similarly, the discourse of HIV/AIDS has separated the two components, acknowledging the advancements of research, medical and advocacy work.
The above is the foundation for the frame of thinking I have come to advocate for in its complexity. SRHR and Gender diversity are evolving and increasingly becoming visible in public discourse. It is no longer enough to demand Health services, but to also encourage professional development and entrepreneurship as avenues to explore for the well being of my community. I believe there is so much more to HIV or STI driven programming, there is more to Legislative engagement. These are important components for the LGBT movement, but if visibility and a culture of change agents isn’t embedded, it will be difficult to realise the kind of snowball progress more developed nations have achieved. I believe in the development of intellectual capital; where a movement is built on ideals, a narrative of hope and the pooling of skills. People are the main differentiator and factor for change. How we connect to people, is important in establishing a common ground for making things happen. I wish I could say more, but this aspect of leadership for me is a work in progress.
Looking back, I yearned to find a mentor that I not only could identify with within a professional context, but one that I could relate to on a personal level. The narrative for the gay man or lesbian woman in Africa has and still is filled with tragedy and struggle. This is critical for public discourse and trying to effect change from the injustices we face daily. I have learned of the importance of diversifying, as would any business or nation that might need to evolve or progress. It is this barrier for diversification that led me to establish an initiative aimed at addressing the Intersectionality faced by people of sexual and identity diversity. I have awakened to the need to review policy mechanisms, engaging LGBT community members in professional development, mentorship and exploring opportunities. In addition, I have discovered the importance of work that is supported by evidence and data for engaging stakeholders. I envision a world where everyone can be a Human Rights Defender, conscious of the need to protect and promote the rights of all. This could be an accountant, such as myself, a politician, a student, a procurement officer and the many other capacities we aim for as young people.
The world I would like to create is one that encourages individuals to contribute to society. Given the many challenges we face, in energy and water provision, a lack of transparency in leadership, a lack of infrastructure and financial inclusion; there is a need to ensure the voices of those marginalised are heard. There is a need to encourage a culture of change agents beyond the framework of peer educators, focal persons and activists. That everyone in and outside the LGBT community can be encouraged to lend a voice for justice, solidarity and dignity. This cannot be achieved by one person or organisation, but by the efforts of many who are connected to a cause. The first step, naturally would be to turn to the LGBT community. For me, I believe in enabling people to achieve their dreams. This is entrenched in the right to life, protection, freedom of expression and to opportunities. Through one fulfilling their purpose, I have found that people can be more engaged and willing to effect change. This cannot be possible without enough provisions for livelihood and the tools needed to be successful. Civil Society in Botswana is faced with this challenge, where there aren’t enough skills, interested professionals and researchers to be engaged to strengthen LGBT work.
I believe in a world were focus can be on professional development, entrepreneurship or some other aspect of capacity building to enable members of the LGBT community to not only fulfill their dreams, but also voice themselves when the need arises. Too many of my peers are unemployed, in abusive relationships or are unsatisfied with the lives they lead. Too many are comfortable enough with the lives they lead to do without being advocated for or to contribute towards the movement. One alone is too many to know of. There are countless success stories we are yet to hear of. This narrative does not take away any value from the prevalent injustices against LGBT persons, but it creates a hope for the young boy that never understood themselves or the circumstances they were born to. This new narrative is needed to lend credibility to the powers that be on the talents, gifts and accomplishments LGBT persons can and have achieved. That we are of value and an important component of society as citizens, voters, community builders, professionals , friends and family members.
When looking back to the times of the Stonewall actions, businesses were supporting the cause. Likewise when liberation movements where challenging the status quo, other nations supported in various forms. I do not think there is a need to reinvent the wheel, but a need to build on the lessons of previous works and shift the approach. We have gone from having HIV/AIDS as a platform for public discourse on LGBT issues, to inclusion in SRHR and the rights based approach to Health provisions. I believe now is the time to evolve and have these conversations in the workplace, in the Arts and in entrepreneurship. I believe now is the time to show the world that LGBT people are just as much a part of society and the general population of a nation. This is the story I have come to know myself as. A story of success, a story of contribution and a story of redefining the way LGBT persons are known.