International convenings are important for connecting and exploring different or similar ideas. As a youth activist, it has taken quite a lot of work and effort in getting the opportunity to attend these. This is common for many that do not have institutional backing that can allow access, eligibility or selection. I was lucky to attend the Pan African ILGA conference as a virtue of it being in my home country and under the auspices of AQYI membership. This allowed me to learn more about ILGA and its work. Getting the chance to go to Wellington one of the best ever opportunities in my journey of activism. One of the most beautiful, enabling and accommodating environments; from arriving with the visibility of the rainbow colours everywhere I went, a visit to parliament and overall kindness amongst its people. This could also have been due to the unfortunate events that occurred in nearby Churchhill a few days before arrival.
The youth pre-conference was a first in ILGA world conference history, starting off promising but eventually I observed a notable number of people of colour leaving the room. What was on paper in terms of agenda, was not completely what we experienced. Youth representatives were presenting their issues and reasons for running for some governance mechanism, and there was some orientation around ILGA membership processes. My personal expectation was to share experiences, learn from other youth activists and explore ways of collaboration. Unfortunately, this was not the case. It made sense to transfer to other pre-conferences where one can learn or have the chance to engage. Many who left were either new, like myself, or not really interested in the elections/working relations issues. One thing that came to mind is how representation is an issue in many planning committees, and that the elite will always determine what is on the agenda; inclusive of those who might have not had privilege at some point in their journey of activism. This was a takeaway from me for the entire week.
The main highlight for me was the reflections panel on ILGA’s journey. Insight on different country, regional and representation issues (i.e. gay, lesbian and eventually trans) and the underlying dynamics. More notably is the events and relations with the United Nations. The rescinding of observer status is something I did not know previously. This reminded me of the situation with the Coalition of African Lesbians and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. It was interesting to see how its important to consistently remind ourselves of previous work, developments and achievements in order to progress in our own work. One glaring observation is how relationships are strengthened on the margins of these, spaces are strengthened or safeguarded. These are the kinds that could be influential in perpetuating gate keeping and exclusivity for young people’s organizing and mobilization. There was a bit of campaigning on the elections, this was interesting, along with sessions on how members can participate. What was unclear for me is how to secure membership at a conference, particularly with people referring to regional processes and how one can vote if their term has not started or is expiring at a conference.
I also loved the LGBTI in the workplace/business session. There was a lot of insight in work happening at the Commonwealth front and in select regions. I contributed to highlighting the need to create synergies around established corporate governance mechanisms such as the King III, UK combined code, Global Reporting Initiative, US Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the LGBTI standards for business. Furthermore, I delivered a Rainbow Talk, a ‘TED’ style session on self-care and understanding, manifesting and carrying the pain and harm that surrounds us as family. Weirdly enough, this is the talk that was omniscient of my abrupt departure from private sector work and 18-hour workdays managing different jobs. The latter remains albeit within the realm of my life’s purpose for changing the world.
By Dumiso Gatsha – AQYI Member (Botswana)
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