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Dyke March in Johannesburg
Lesbian Conference in Johannesburg

in SOUTH AFRICA, 16/08/2006

Lesbian movements grow to tides in South Africa

Despite emotions stoked by recounting of personal stories of marginalization among lesbians that led to tears, four-day lesbian conference hosted by Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) was a success according to Donna Smith, the chief executive officer.

Held at Woman’s Gaol of Constitution Hill between 5 and 8 August, the conference’s main intention was to start working as a collective, and to work on fully-fledged scale on gay issues.

Following the Coalition of African Lesbian (CAL) conference few months ago, the South African version conference attracted lesbian mothers, lesbians living with HIV/ Aids and transgendered individuals from all walks of life where they shared, learned and taught each other about their struggles.

Sizile Nkosi from the KwaZulu-Natal province was elated to meet fellow lesbians although she wanted a more radical pounce. “I would have liked if issues of sexual identity, roles that women take in lesbian relationships and what we are going to do from here, were discussed in the conference because I realized that many lesbians in the conference did not know which category of lesbianism they fall under”, she insists.

“I very much liked to interact with other people in the same situation as I am and these conferences always help me”, says Dikeledi Sibanda. She, however, denounced Charlene Smith, a journalist and a rape survivor’s facilitation as “She did not give us a chance to express ourselves. She should not have told people telling their hate crime stories not to cry. People heal in different ways.”

From the University of Cape Town, Gcobisa Mshiywa met her expectations, which include learning more about lesbianism and acquiring management skills. “I met people who are willing to share, to teach and to help. It was a very nice experience”, she says.

The conference ended with a Dyke march aiming at human rights, and the end to hate crimes against lesbians. Held high were placards that read; ‘Hate won’t make straight’, ‘Stop rape against lesbians’, ‘Womyn loving womyn do exist, so take notice’ and ‘God loves bisexuals’.

Excited Smith commended that the conference should be held every year as there’s been a lot of engagement, and the turnaround was impressive because 60 lesbians from seven provinces attended. “There are other issues that we should have included in the programme such as employment issues for lesbians and poverty, but we could not cover everything in one conference”, she concluded.

Behind The Mask (BTM): a website magazine on lesbian and gay affairs in Africa


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