|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
In an effort to acknowledge the hard work and activism achieved by the older generation of lesbians over the years, Free Gender a lesbian-women’s rights organisation based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, recently hosted an event held in Raggazi, Long Street aimed at celebrating older, wiser lesbians.
Siya Mcuta, Project Manager for Free Gender expressed that by saying “older wiser lesbians” they want to acknowledge the older generation of lesbians as they are “stronger and more matured” and as younger lesbians they tend to depend on them for information.
“We felt some of the older lesbians have a propensity to lie low, some of them think they are not needed anymore or that we don’t care anymore, but they need to know that their struggles, pains, laughs and heartaches are appreciated”, said Mcuta.
Mcuta alluded that it is because of the older generation of lesbians that they are free to express themselves today, saying “we might struggle but we are free to express our feelings without fear of being arrested.”
“We often forget about older lesbians many of whom have never been able to come out and even now find it much more difficult than younger sisters. So it is great that Free Gender, a group of young Queer sisters have chosen to acknowledge and celebrate older and wise lesbians”, said Sokari Ekine, founder and writer on Black Looks.
Asked on the difference between the older generation of lesbians in terms of activism compared to younger lesbians nowadays, Mcuta said most of the younger generation of lesbians is more interested in alcohol, sex and all the other destructive methods like drugs.
“Activism is not their interest hence we need this older generation to show us the way as some of us don’t have parents, some died and some just don’t want to be involved in our lives as we are a disgrace in their eyes, we need more young people active in fighting for the rights of Lesbians especially in the townships.”
According to Mcuta, Free Gender is about grassroots activism and they seek to challenge homophobia in Khayelitsha and the surrounding areas.
“Organisations like Free Gender are very important especially to those young lesbians, often you would find these girls stranded not knowing what to do with their problems, it is also a free space to express your feelings through dance, writing and poetry. Zanele Muholi has also helped a lot of unemployed lesbians by giving them skills in photography”, said Mcuta.
Zanele Muholi, is South Africa’s most renowned artist and activist
Mcuta also lauded the founder of Free Gender, Funeka Soldaat describing her as a wise person who will also be celebrating her 50th birthday on 12 May 2011.
“I and other members of Free Gender have learned a lot from her hence the celebration”, said Mcuta.
Mcuta also highlighted that besides hate crimes and curative rapes, the biggest issue facing black lesbians in townships that needs to be addressed is unemployed.
Meanwhile research conducted by the South African LGBTI organisation the, Triangle Project, 86 percent of black lesbian women in Western Cape say they live in fear of sexual assault.
In an article titled “South Africa must live up to the law and protect gay rights”, Mbuyiselo Botha, Government and Media Relations Manager for Sonke Gender Justice Network, says “nearly 17 years after we proudly ratified what is considered one of the best and most far-reaching constitutions in the world, which guarantees equality for gay rights, we have to ask ourselves how is it that we as a society allow gay men and lesbian women to suffer from prejudice and bigotry.”
Free Gender is a black lesbian organisation based in Khayelitsha a township in Cape Town. The organisation was founded in 2008. The groups’ objectives are to raise awareness in relation to LGBTI women rights within the community by providing space to bridge the gap between parents and LBTI women, and to work towards a non discriminatory community which is accepting and towards homosexuality by opposing all forms of violence and hate speech.