Lesbian empowerment programme
In Namibia, the hate speech articulated in particular against lesbian activists by ruling party leaders in the years 1995 – 2006, led by then state president Nujoma, is still deeply embedded in the psyche of many families of lesbians as well as political and religious leaders and staff of state service providers. This is evident with the current backlash against the June 2022 ground-breaking decision by the Supreme Court to recognise same-sex marriages solemnised outside Namibia between a Namibian and a foreign partner. Since this significant ruling towards LGBTI + rights in the country, conservative Christian groups, politicians and trade union leaders have called us satanic, immoral and un-African, while attempts are underway in parliament to undermine the Supreme Court ruling though the hasty adoption of new laws, using scapegoating to draw public attention away from the real social issues of corruption, poverty, unemployment, crime and gender-based violence in the country.
This is having a significant impact on the progress made by human rights organisations to change the discourse in Namibia, causing division in families, communities and in society. The humanity, dignity and rights of lesbian women become erased through homophobic prejudice and abuse, leading to homelessness, loss of jobs and family. The silencing of lesbian women through stigma, discrimination, social exclusion and all forms of violence leads to fear, isolation, invisibility, loss of voice, loss of creative power and agency, and internalised homophobia which may result in depression, self-hate and self-harm. In this way young lesbians are excluded from participating in shaping the vision and future of their country.
Namibian Lesbian Festival - November 2022
The objective of this programme is strengthened feminist critical analysis, transformative leadership, visibility, voice, courage and solidarity among young lesbians in Namibia, and increased awareness of the dignity and rights of young lesbians among their communities and the general public.
We use creative forms of expression including writing, spoken word, storytelling, dance, drama, music and film as tools to build resilience and resistance to stigma and discrimination through increased self-knowledge, voice and visibility. Working together to create public performances in the Namibian Lesbian Festivals builds the courage, pride, sisterhood and solidarity of the participants.
This programme contributes to the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan developed under the auspices of the Office of the Ombudsman – Namibia’s human rights watchdog, and adopted by Cabinet in 2014. This plan includes public education and awareness raising on the rights of lgbti people in Namibia.
In 2023 we are publishing an anthology with writings by young lesbians in Namibia, and creating our first feature film, as well as conducting well-being and healing workshops for young lesbians in six regions of Namibia.
Pride march against hate - June 2023
PUBLICATIONS AND RESEARCH
Loving and supporting our lesbian daughters! (2013)
This booklet educates parents, family and friends of young lesbian on human rights, gender and sexual diversity, the impact of stigma and discrimination, and coming out as advocates for their lesbian daughters. This booklet is also available in Afrikaans and Oshiwambo.
Going in Coming out. Writings by young lesbians in Namibia (2023)
Welcome to this anthology featuring the voices of young lesbian women in Namibia! It was created through the Lesbian Empowerment Programme of the Women’s Leadership Centre, which has brought the contributors together in numerous feminist leadership institutes, writing workshops and Namibian Lesbian Festivals over the past years.