With the aim of highlighting lesbian and gay rights outside the larger urban centres in South Africa, a group has held a Pride March on Saturday 24 November in Mafikeng in the North West Province.
The event was organised by The Gay Umbrella; a new organisation serving LGBTI interests in the North West Province, and is thought to be the first in Mafikeng or the province.
According to the organisation, the reason for the march was “to draw attention to hate crimes in particular and discrimination in general.”
“With the recent murders of prominent lesbians in Gauteng, the march aims to draw people’s attention to the fact that hate crimes are not to be tolerated in our new society, while discrimination must be rooted out of our communities,” said the organisers in a statement.
The march began at 3pm and ended at Mmabana Mafikeng Park where the approximately 70 participants closed the day with a picnic.
“It was a first step, – it was very important to just do it,” said Hendrik Baird, Secretary of The Gay Umbrella. “We had a fantastic reaction from people on the street in Mafikeng. There were no protestors or any opposition at all.”
Baird said that the organisers had the full support of the authorities in holding the event and the emergency services even included a fire engine in the march.
“This will definitely become an annual event,” said Baird, adding that, “we will have it around the same date – to coincide with the 16 Days of Activism [for No Violence Against Women and Children] campaign.”
The organisers have said that they hope the march will also ultimately generate income for the city by stimulating tourism to the area.
For more information about The Gay Umbrella visit http://gaymaf.blogspot.com.