by Bulelani Mzila and Uncle P
Isibani Civil Society Forum is a baby of Bulelani Mzila’s, a young gender non-confirming activist and visionary. The organisation is dedicated to political advocacy for the LGBTQIA+ community. It is based in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa. Bulelani says that the LGBTQIA+ community continues to face marginalisation because of lack of political representation or a political voice. “It is alarming that even after 27 years of democracy there is still no political representation. It is with this in mind that the civil society forum was established and seeks to highlight issues faced by the community” he adds. As part of their advocacy work, the forum dedicates itself to continue lobbying those who have political power, especially the youth wings of the major political parties in the country.
Isibani approached Exit Newspaper in 2020 with some ideas of the two organisations could collaborate on. At the same time Exit happened to be looking into expanding their work into community work, having been recently been bought over by its new owners, it was an opportune for Exit to venture into a new partnership thus the two organization agreed to officially work together on the basis that Isibani will be the community projects subsidiary of Exit’s. This new partnership will ensure that Isibani benefits not only from a greater exposure and access to Exit’s media platforms but also that the scope of their operations and community work will grow from Pietermaritzburg-only to covering the greater KZN province and eventually the rest of the country over time. To help you understand the role of Isibani and the work they do we put together a set of questions and responses.
What is the one main long-term goals of the project or organization?
To tackle socio-economic problems through meaningful civil society engagement to enforce programmes in government that will address gender diversity and inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community and youth political participation.
What are the intended short-term and medium-term outcomes of the work that Isibani does?
To promote the work done by Isibani by continuously lobbying political parties’ youth structures to include and support LGBTQIA+ communities in KwaZulu Natal. To engage Exit’s existing network of organisations including high schools, tertiary institutions and local communities, at the same time use Exit’s platforms and events to promote Isibani’s work and thus amplifying their reach. KwaZulu Natal is said to have the highest gender-based violence incidents and human rights crimes and abuse against the LGBTIQA= communities in South Africa. Therefore the intention is to engage communities, especially in poor and/or rural areas through dialogue with authorities and peaceful protests. In addition, Isibani will circulate edu-pamphlets which can help the communities to be better educated and knowledgeable about LGBTQIA+ matters.
Who do you think will benefit most from this work?
This project will benefit the LGBTQIA+ community in KwaZulu Natal – the intended work will force the political structures in KZN to notice and work closely with LGBTIQA+ communities, thus fostering inclusivity.
How do you believe the intended beneficiaries will benefit from this work?
Political awareness of LGBTQIA+ community in KZN and influencing a shift in policy and response to LGBTQIA+ matters in the region.
Why do you think this work is important and why does it need to be supported?
The main aim of this work is to lobby political parties, mainly their youth structures to support and incorporate LGBTQIA+ matters into their political agendas so that there is inclusivity when political parties push their agendas in the South African political landscape. Politics drive policy in most parts of the world and the hope is that with this involvement the Political parties and civil society would take LGBTQIA+ issues into consideration as they draft policies and or shape our society.
What is unique or particularly innovative about how Isibani works?
The deliberate working together of Isibani and political parties and youth groups in KZN. Political parties have been known to shy away from LGBTQIA+ matters and to work together on various projects will be a win for Isibani and for Exit.