Pride 2024: A moment for Solidarity & Learning

Walking the streets of Oslo filled with rainbow flags and posters illuminating Pride month has been a joy. A joy of many firsts for me.

scheduleOppdatert: 26.06.2024

createForfatter: Innlegg av Dumi Gatsha, feminist, menneskerettighets- og LHBTQI+aktivist


Firstly, experiencing pride outside my home country. Second, learning about the history of Norway, the EU and insights from amazing people. Third and lastly, seeing the importance of representation, affirmation and respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-confirming, intersex and gender diverse (LGBTIQ+) people in community, government, private sector and society. I had the pleasure of visiting Norway in commemoration of Pride, as I joined a panel with the heads of Norad and MSF Norway in dialogue with representatives from LHL International and HivNorge.

“I am a black person. I come out of an experience of exile and migration. I have always felt myself to be at once at home and away from home at the same time. It is inevitable that my perspective will be international.” Kwame Dawes

My participation isn’t just from the perspective of a non-binary queer individual, but the identity of being a migrant born in Zimbabwe, educated in South Africa and as a citizen of Botswana. I move as a neurodivergent individual that has navigated activism the only way I know how; through many failures, mistakes and the foundation in which many queer movements have been built, sometimes sustained and most times lead – the HIV response and activism. In my presentation to MSF Norway, I shared how I attended a national meeting in my home country Botswana, where the programme had paragraphs for biographies for scientists and doctors. My biography however, only had the word ‘activist’. This propelled me to seek out as much education and knowledge as possible, to never be reduced to a word. It triggered me because we are only ever known as subjects: in data, statistics and as those that need to be ‘observed’.

It reflects colonial era infantilising of our experiences as ‘key or at risk populations’ and reducing them to any category outside of expertise. The same can be said for binary gender: where gender diverse folks don’t fit into a category and are consistently reminded of this through stares, government forms and immigration points. Coming to Oslo helped me put «survival mode» aside for a few days as I have been hosted without want or need. So I don’t have to think about what my ‘niblings’ have to eat or whether the prepaid electricity meter is low. It provides a freedom that I do not know in my own country. As stigma and discrimination, police harassment, and a deeply unequal economic system continue to deny me, fellow activists and many from the LGBTIQ+ community, dignified freedoms. I am reminded how colorful everything is as Oslo and much of Norway have embraced its LGBTIQ+ community, which has had representation at the highest levels of government, private sector and civil society. This, for me, reflects a country that is not only committed to human rights but understands that leaving no one behind is good for the economy and democracy.

When I share experiences of my peers and ‘niblings’ in other African countries, I am reminded about how dire their economies, social protections and levels of service delivery are for the entire population. Many of the countries invoking or mulling anti-LGBT laws and protests are not succeeded in many development and economic metrics. This has left many from my community to fight for their lives whilst fighting for livelihood, service provision and basic health. The gains made in the human rights based approach to health within the HIV response are slowly regressing. Harmful cultural norms, anti-rights movements from the United States and societal perceptions are exceedingly regressive partly because of the elimination of social behavioural change in HIV interventions. The gains made in strategic litigation, registration of key population organisations and supporting community health have all been compromised by this. Further aggravated by decreased investments and the non-recognition if key populations in broader health and multilateral governance.

LGBTIQ+, sex workers and injected drug users have never been, and will not be a priority for multilateralism. We see it with the erasure from policy commitments and United Nations member state deliberations during high levels meetings, voluntary national reviews and at the general assembly. The rules based order, international law, multilateralism and development architecture as we know them were not made for us. More glaringly, those of us who are from intentionally underdeveloped countries that have been exploited and extracted from in modern history. I am filled with much joy and insight in understanding how and why HIV is a key determinant in strengthening health systems. The lives we have lost, and in some instances continue to lose, because of compromised continuums of care, migration and climate change have only strengthened the arguments of sustaining the very HIV infrastructure many countries have built their health systems and COVID-19 response interventions on. More importantly, that the progress made should not mean a reduction in investments in HIV; as digitalization, anti-rights movements, cultural practices and consistently changing politics continue to shift the dynamics of how integrated health systems truly are.

A country like mine having only one TB (tuberculosis) Coordinator in a ministry should be a grave concern. A country like mine spending less than 5% on community health system partnerships with civil society, structurally excluding grassroots key populations led organisations, should be a concern. As it can only get worse for those of us in the margins, who have to navigate one of the most unequal countries in the world. I reiterate my belief, solidarity is like  sunshine, everyone deserves some. Thus, my only ask is; do not forget us. Do not leave us whether in moments of success or regress, we need the solidarity that can allow us to not only survive, but meaningfully thrive as Africans who were persistently denied this for generations. The work is in the day to day decisions that ensure equity, diversity and putting those most intersectionally marginalised at the center of sustaining community solutions. It lies in ensuring safeguarding, transparency and investment in key populations that are continuously changing the landscape of healing, referring and connecting the many facets of injustice – for better health and human rights systems for all.

Dumi Gatsha is a GFAN Speaker, UHC 2030 steering committee alternate member and founder of Success Capital Organisation, a sub-sub recipient of the Global Fund providing community health and justice referral services, while working in the nexus of human rights and sustainable development at grassroots, regional and global levels.

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