UWC's Gender Equity Unit Awareness Week
“Students from the LGBTIQ community often face prejudice and marginalisation - and as a result some try to hide their true selves in order to fit in amongst their peers. But people need to see the authentic you and not a portrait of an ideal self.”
So says Ndimphiwe Bontiya, a co-programme leader for LoudEnuf, a division of the University of the Western Cape’s Gender Equity Unit (GEU) that focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity, and co-leader along with Philip Ntlaba of UWC’s 2017 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) march in October.
The march was aimed at raising awareness around the violence and discrimination that LGBTIQ students face in their daily lives - both on and off campus - and formed part of Solidarity Week, celebrating gay rights with this year’s protest theme: “I am who I am”.
Students, lecturers and volunteers showed their support in numbers, taking pictures and videos and posting them in online platforms, sharing their support and pride. This year’s march included a faculty-to-faculty solidarity pledge from UWC staff members, who demonstrated their commitment to the cause with a signature and a photo with the LGBTIQ international flag.
“Marching and raising the flag is not only a symbol of our pride as a community, but also a way of asserting our visibility on the UWC campus,” says Ndimphiwe.
Sister, Sister and the Gender Equity Unit: Join the Conversation
The GEU is a safe space for all students - it represents and fights for their grievances and encourages the unity of the students, even when they are not in that space.
The Unit demonstrated this ideal recently with a “Sister, Sister” event - an independent workshop founded by Ndimphiwe.
“The Sister, Sister Workshop focuses on conversations concerning gay internal politics as well as the safety issues of gay male feminine individuals. The primary intention of this workshop is to esteem gay feminine men and establish a healthy self-image for ourselves as both a community and as individuals,” says Ndimphiwe.
This event was in line with the theme of Solidarity Week, during which students from the LGBTIQ community were encouraged to be their authentic selves. They discussed the negative perception which is held by the heterosexuals in the campus community.
The GEU has taken it upon themselves to have programmes which share positive portrayals and information about unconventional family and unity.
“How do we as a LGBTI community find a family of our own, in which we can portray the love we have for ourselves and each other, and share that with the heterosexual community?” Philip asks. “That’s the kind of issue the GEU is trying to handle.”
It’s also a space where heterosexuals can educate themselves about the LGBTIQ community on campus and beyond.
“There is sometimes a lack of respect for our community on this campus,” Ndimphiwe notes. “Our space can be categorised negatively and so students miss out on the educational programmes we have here throughout the year.”
The GEU will have a closing function at the end of the year - the date is still to be confirmed, but students are encouraged to attend (watch this space).
Also, “Why not visit the unit from time to time?,” Ndimphiwe says. “The space is always open and it is guaranteed that you will feel welcome.”