Eight young sexual and identity diverse individuals met in Gaborone to discuss the issues surrounding the Post 2015 Agenda. From Bisexual and Closeted to Non-conforming, these young souls were appraised on the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights’ Global Youth Strategy Meeting. This engaged an unexpected form of thinking for most participants, as the conversation moved beyond the themes of stigma and discrimination. Acknowledging that we are not only citizens, but that we can shape the surroundings in which we find ourselves not only empowers a young mind to think critically, but also encourages action. These are some of the points raised during the short discussion.
- Policy makers in Botswana have many priorities to focus on, inclusive of the water shortages, electricity power cuts and the stagnant growth of the non-mining segment of the economy; where do LGBTI rights fall?
- Are LGBTI rights a national issue when there are so few people to be counted? Considering the few studies that have been carried out had less than 500 participants
- The Human Rights approach to service provision has certainly worked in Sub-Saharan countries, but to what extent has this contributed to the backlash other nations such as Nigeria and Uganda have experience in terms of LGBTI persons?
- Too many a times we have often heard of influential persons being supportive of LGBTI persons in Botswana, but to what degree are they willing to commit to advocacy or even signal that support on a public domain? Did the Marriage Equality success stories in some of the states in America happen as a result of influential people being involved in the fight or as a result of the nation becoming more tolerant, activists enhancing their work or policy makers acknowledging the numbers?
These are a few of the questions raised and in learning, we found that being able to question something is the first point of change. Being able to raise the status quo and redefine what has always been. Highlighting that there is a lot of negotiations with regards to the wording in which states are to sign or commit to at the United Nations leveled understanding. It is evident that the actions in which a state my take at the UN in New York or Geneva (be it voting or choosing not to) might not be well received by the communities back home, or that politics could be at the forefront for economic interests between two nations. In further dialogue:
- Does this mean that I may talk to a Minister of Member of Parliament regarding an issue they strongly advocate for, or can support and it might translate into possible action in my community or the bureaucratic red tape would not filter my concerns through at Cabinet level? Or that the Diplomatic Mission to the UN stationed abroad might not even know of it?
- Does it also mean that essentially, only the Office of the President would be empowered to decide on certain voting protocols at the UN or it is the Minister of Foreign Affairs/International Relations (the highest diplomat)?
- Within the same context, does this mean that national strategic tools such as Vision 2016, might not be aligned to my nation’s interest at UN level? Or the Development priorities agreed upon between the Government and the UN decades prior?
This is the state in which young people are often left to filter through. Where there are many aspects that determine the framework in which young people are to be raised in. One thing for sure, there was consensus on being able to have the information to appropriately use. It is in our hands now to disseminate and share. It is through knowledge and the ability to communicate our interests as young LGBTI persons that we can possibly change the landscape in which we inherit. The responsibly to shape our future lies not only in the business community, civil society, municipalities, but also on ourselves as citizens and future drivers of these. The onus is on us to ensure that their interests are aligned to ours as young people, be it a friend, mentor or leader, it is in our best interest to ensure that we can share ideas, possibilities and the future we want for a more prosperous, healthy and developed nation.