Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Breaking the Circle Of Poverty of An African Lesbian

She doesn’t consider herself black or white but African. She has made friends across the racial lines, and strives to see herself as human more than a race. She was however pained that she was born with a darker skin, place in a black Christian humble family. She wishes she was a Jew. Her Jewish friends seems to have welcomed homosexuality with open arms. Her name is Kaya.

Her mom was a cleaner at the hospital, and her father,a labour in the firm.  They grew up in the rural outskirt of the city in Joburg Orange Farm. There were four of them, two boys and two girls. Like in all African cultures the inequalities were there a long time. Boys would be given better education that girls, better opportunities than girls. They had to learn to fetch water, and to clean the house where as the brothers were studying. Life was not easy.
Kaya’s father was treasure at church.  They prayed twice a day and believed in the Bible. That he had expectations from his family to get married and raised decent kids. He also believed in perpetual family name. The boys school fees was paid for, allowance for college and further training was in place. She has never heard her father say anything more to them than they will finish Matric and get married. He liked saying they should join the women who sell tomatoes in the neighborhood. Amazingly Philile her sister, was quick to appreciate the context of what she is being told by her father. She got pregnant by a trucker and bore two kids in less that no time.   And she had to move in with the trucker.

 At school, she was not a bright spark, and doing all the chores she had to do didn’t do any justice to improving the marks at schools.  She barely finished school and had to look for a job to save for the college to study her passion that would have been fashion designing.  Kaya discovered that she had no interest in man. A lot of men in her neighborhood had advances, none of them was interesting. To her parents it meant a well brought up child. Both brothers finished school well. They went to varsity and the other one to college. And got married.

At one of the church overnight trips she find herself connecting to this woman in a strange way, enough to initiate a strange relationship. The kissing with this woman, Puleng left butterflies in her tummy. She knew that if she was to talk about it, the church will disown her, and be displaced in her parents’ house. She thought that she is possessed by some demon. She asked the church to help pray for her sins without mentioning names.

One day the parent had gone to church, came back and early and found her red handed in her bedroom with a woman engaging intimately. She was thrown out and had nowhere to go. That was the end of her dependency on her parents. Thank god she had save enough to get herself a backroom in Soweto. She worked double shift as a waiter to be able to buy a second hand machine A beginning of a long abusive journey. She did a lot of minor jobs to keep the wolf off the door. She sometimes had gone to bed without food, had to learn to hustle as her way of life. Her crime here was she was a lesbian.

I attended the first LGBTI conference in Africa sponsored by  IBM, Anglo America and HP.  It  was free. I must confess saddened by the number of attendances. It was a attended by a few, usual culprits, that was the NGO officials and government representatives from Department of Justice. Well at least they were there. These event should be happening every year henceforth. I hope to send a different message. About the support and participation from the African Lesbian community.
 I expected to see all departments that could impact in improving the lives of LGBTI to be there, that would have included the Department of Health, Education, Economic Development, and Communications. All this departments would contributed in how they would like to contribute in improving the qualities of Lesbians Transgender, and Intersexed.

 We shared on the success stories of companies that have appreciated diversity and accepted differences. IBM has a policy called Chapter 4 which is known to all employees. The policy emphasize that they only employ on capabilities and nothing but capabilities, that do not discriminate on colour sex or creed, that they were one of the first companies  to remunerate men and women equally. An organization that has skilled their leadership, middle management about acceptance and how they intended using such differences to add value into their organizations. That got me thinking how many of organization in  South Africa that can be there to help change the face of the country, empower lives of those who do not have.
On the same breath, I also heard of a success story of a couple of lesbian Junie Sihlangu and patner of Stud Nation whose businesses initiative is  funded by Coalition for a African of Lesbian Business in Africa (CALBiA) .  CALBiA was founded by an Australian white gay activist named Andreas Citak from who felt a need to land a hand to the African Lesbian who is a victim of her sexual identity. The back of his business card has a qoute by Arch Desmond Tutu and it read …….. “and those of us who have a freedom must speak out for those whose freedom is under attack”. I had a tear in my eye. In South Africa, the initiative is headed by  a volunteer, Thandi Masuku, who juggles between her day job and her new found passion. 

Julie told me that they had submitted their proposal to CALBiA for funding, in the less than six weeks they had started their  business. Their background is  graphic designers in background who has seen an business opportunity in fashion for a clothing label directed to the African Butch Lesbian. Also they know that they will not make it in the mainstream business which discriminate against women like her. She also told me that they were helped to put the business plan together, in a way learning more about their business.
CALBiA has an opportunity of empowering the African Lesbians by creating a  business network of services offered by lesbians, offer business mentorship to the young upcoming lesbians, and support for their business ventures. Unfortunately, Kaya like the most of lesbians in her same situation were not aware of the event taking place in Sandton that would have afforded her a chance to grow as a person.  It is also possible that she did not have money to get to Sandton even if she heard of it. She is not alone. Many African Lesbians are caught in the circle of poverty. And because of they are background they might never be able come out unless institutions like CALBiA lend a hand. And for lesbians to mobilize themselves to be heard seen and empowered. She has recently submitted her funding request to CALBiA, hopefully to break her circle of poverty

The African Lesbians are called to mobilize themselves into clusters in their areas, so that need analyses are conducted and roadmaps to help improve their qualities of life are in their areas  Lesbians who have passion for what they do and are looking into tapping into entrepreneur skills are invited to contact  CALBiA Lesbian Africa to register interest and those who are able to land a hand to mentor and support the African Lesbian are invited to do so. For more information about CALBiA, please contact their website www.calbia-foundation.org. It will also be of value to share your success stories  with  www.lesbianAfrica.blogspot.com.

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