YGSM Blog: How Young People Can Be the Change: SOGI/E and the Post-2015 Agenda

The blog is the sixth in the series written by participants of the  Post-2015 Youth Global Strategy Meeting. The meeting convened by the YCSRR brought together young advocates working on the Post-2015 process from across regions and movements and was held from June 27-29 in Hong Kong. Click here to read more blogs.

by Dumiso Gatsha

The World We are Raised in is Made up of Boxes.

The kind that define who you are to be, how you are to express yourself and what your definition of success is. From the moment of birth, with the sparkle in a parent’s eye, it has been decided that the body you’re given is that in which you are to identify and ultimately express yourself. From the first day of school, you’re placed with others of the same sex, made to stand in a line to fit in as all others.

The moment in which you stand out or question the world you’re placed in, you experience the reality many others face years on, even decades. This is the world we’re born into as young people, one of prejudice, judgement and consistent conforming.

Coming Together for SOGI/E Rights

Having met other young SOGI/E activists from different regions at the Post-2015 Youth Global Strategy pre-meeting training, I came to understand the stories of others: that being African is no longer enough to justify your circumstances, that fighting for a cause is a journey that can be lonely and often surprising. I learned of the danger that silence can afford – repressive states and regressive interpretations of law.

I also learned that for too long, the Global North has been the frontline of the human rights movement, highlighting the stark difference in approaches implemented by the Global South and ultimately, towards extreme discrimination or legal protection. It is true that there are great leaders to learn from, that the passion that has driven movements from the Barbara Gittings times, Harvey Milk era, to those of the Eric Rofes and David Kato. Now there is a more complex battle to be fought, where international law, gender equality and economic transformation are at conflict with the development landscape the Global South is experiencing.

In some country cases, no longer can a young person be worried about raising their siblings alone, with the improvement of maternal mortality rates. No longer can a young person be subject to limited knowledge as a virtue of a shortage of skilled teachers. The context in which we now live is that of income inequality, labour migration and limited opportunity amongst many other factors. It is this complexity in which the world is demanding of change agents, where it is no longer sufficient to be isolated within a community or defined by HIV/AIDS and MSM studies

This is the consciousness brought about by interacting with young people, where thought-provoking discussion brings you to a point of acknowledging that you cannot learn effectively without being provided nutritious meals and adequate health services; where the environment in which you are subjected to, regardless of the context, can protect you by constitution and social construct.

The Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YCSRR) did the previous SOGI/E activist leaders who sacrificed their lives justice by providing the platform for tomorrow’s leaders to share insight, the experiences of their peers and possible ideas as an investment towards increased possibilities. I, as an activist, no longer have an excuse to be reliant on institutional funds, nor do I have the veil of bureaucratic structures enabled by profession  because I have seen, heard and been exposed to other young people that have done, and can do so much more at a younger age.

We are now empowered with ICT infrastructure, data from research and the intellect of our leaders to assist in building solutions for SOGI/E persons globally, friend by friend, community by community, nation by nation. That is the power of involving young people in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

A New Era: Young People, Post-2015 & SOGI/E

The world of equality, protection and legal recognition is not possible if there are no voices to advocate for it. Having the prime example of Apartheid South Africa as the backbone of universal liberation equality, different perspectives are needed to contribute to the multi-dimensional experiences we go through.

The demands of an ever-changing world need the conscious effort and optimism young people can aspire to. This is nothing new, as observed with the Soweto Youth Uprisings in 1976, or the Stonewall Movements that engaged the many young brave souls that could challenge the oppressive state and mindsets of society.

It is young people that think beyond their years or the status quo. Investment in this wealth of potential is a true testament of the leaders of tomorrow being present. Two months ago, President Obama made a call for LGBT organisations to get involved beyond marriage equality, encouraging the importance of linking human rights with national issues. This is the emergence of realising that LGBT persons are just as important to nations as poverty reduction, economic engagement and inclusive well being. The Post-2015 Development Agenda is not only complex but also the first ever of its kind where young people can have a voice for their rights, future and prosperity.

Sub-Saharan Africa is becoming a rising star from Foreign Direct Investment, economic growth, political stability and robust human rights engagement. This gives opportunity for the majority of youth, an estimated 60% of the population, to fully steer the direction in which the region is to prosper.

Through regional mechanisms, an increase in regional trade and accessibility of information through rapid ICT infrastructure development, the possibilities for young people to engage with their policymakers have never been more evident. The African Union Commission’s Vision 2063, National Economic Transformation hubs and reigniting of Commonwealth Human Rights national focal points are signals of the rise in Sub-Saharan nations shaping the future that young people shall inherit. Through enabled access, young people’s interests can be aligned to these initiatives, along with the Post-2015 Agenda for better accountability, transparency and priorities expected from their nations.

One of the best things I have learned through the Post-2015 Youth Global Strategy Meeting, that the coming together of young people translates into exponential learning, diversity in thinking and a newly defined form of inspiration to fuel the work that you do and challenges you face on a daily basis, both as an activist and a young African.

One cannot change the world alone and no similar thinking can improve the value proposition without being critical.

What one can do is inspire the kind of work that changes lives. Be it in ideals, change or equality, the emancipation of any suppressed society was driven through the hope one finds in a child, friend or leader and young people invested in the Post 2015 Agenda are a marginal testament of that.

This was a bridging of differences for those with the know-how of UN processes and those without, those with the resources and those with the grass-root perspectives. One thing is certain, no form of work was ever easy to achieve great results and the few change agents that met in Hong Kong are a reflection of the great work being done in all regions for the betterment of all lives, LGBT persons included.

Do your little bit of good where you are; It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. ~ Desmond Tutu

*Dumiso Gatsha was recently appointed as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of a multinational financial services company in Botswana. He is a University of Derby MSc Scholar, Youth and Sexual & Gender Diversity activist and his experience includes national, regional and international instruments/engagement including the African Union Commission’s Maputo Plan of Action (SRHR), German Development Corporation’s work with the Botswana Ministry of Finance and Development Planning & Ministry of Education and Southern African Development Community Secretariat regional programmes. He has previously served as a Peer Educator, amongst other roles, and advocates for Gay and Lesbian rights, well-being and diversity through establishing http://www.pinkanatomybw.com and engaging in occasional SOGI/E awareness interviews through several radio stations. In addition, he provides motivational youth talks and established http://wwwprosuccessbw.org, an intellectual capacity building tool for young people.