LGBTI community march for social justice

Tired of being maligned, persecuted and discriminated against, a small group of about 50 WSU students marched zealously hand-in-hand on Friday 10 October, permeating the Mthatha air with crisp chants for social justice and equality.

 

The Men Having Sex With Men/ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (MSM/LGBTI) WSU community marched from the University’s NMD Site entrance in Mthatha to the auditorium to commence a two-day programme aimed at creating awareness and sensitizing the University community about issues confronting the LGBTI community.

 

Students line up to sign a pledge of support to the MSM/LGBTI poragramme

Students line up to sign a pledge of support to the MSM/LGBTI programme

“The time has come for us to embark on this journey for social, human rights, human dignity and transformation within the University so that we as people can tolerate and embrace each other’s differences,” said WSU Centre for HIV/Aids Director Nomvula Twaise.

 

The MSM/LGBTI programme was introduced at WSU in 2014 following findings by Higher Education AIDS (HEAIDS) that noted lack of responsiveness from the institution regarding issues affecting this key population in the institution’s HIV/Aids prevention programme.

 

It was at the fore of this background then that WSU’s MSM/LGBTI community gathered at the University’s Mthatha campus to raise awareness in its efforts to clamp down on incidences of discrimination, persecution and violence against the MSM/LGBTI community based purely on individuals’ sexual orientation and identity.

 

Following the march, a number of other activities helped drive the message home, including a “Hate crime, Health and Wellness Session”, a dialogue which proved critical in interrogating and unpacking the root causes to some of the challenges – important inputs that sort to produce equitable solutions.

 

Different panellists gave broad perspectives about MSM/LGBTI issues during the dialogue

Different panellists gave broad perspectives about MSM/LGBTI issues during the dialogue

It was during this session that a pledge was signed by all in sundry, including WSU student affairs executive director Zoleka Dotwana.

 

“I pledge to fight for every student at WSU, no matter their background, colour, creed or sexual orientation for that matter. All WSU students must receive must be able to study in a healthy and conducive environment,” said Dotwana.

 

WSU second-year journalism student Ziyanda Yono rose to rapturous applause as she took to the stage to read a declaration that will soon be submitted to University management.

 

Burning issues contained in the declaration include, amongst others:

  • Amending the current institutional application form of study to recognize the prospective and existing students who exist beyond the biological sex conformity of being male or female;
  • Halting the grouping of students according to their biological sex without accommodating the preference of allocation for intersex and transgender students;
  • Sensitizing lecturers to use all-inclusive language that is not discriminative towards LGBTI students
  • Sensitizing support services staff to know how to do their duties without discriminating LGBTI students and staff.

 

Winner of the overall prize Ziyanda Yono (left) with the engine behind the LGBTI cause, WSU MSM/LGBTI programme coordinator Mawethu Zita

Winner of the overall prize Ziyanda Yono (left) with the engine behind the LGBTI cause, WSU MSM/LGBTI programme coordinator Mawethu Zita

The day would end off on a “lighter” note, with an awards ceremony aimed at honouring those who have played a critical role in advancing the MSM/LGBTI cause.

 

Yono would walk away with the overall prize as a leading figure in the progress, growth and development of issues concerned with the MSM/ LGBTI programme.

 

“Let’s stop discriminating against one another as students, but rather come together to fight for student issues that are beneficial for all. Greater strides will be achieved if we band together in creating a just and equitable environment for all under WSU,” said Yono after receiving her just rewards.

 

By Thando Cezula

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