An international LGBTIQ+ conference has been announced for Johannesburg at the launch of the Global LGBTIQ+ Network.
The network was unveiled at a ceremony attended by an array of activists and members and allies of the LGBTIQ+ community at Constitution Hill on Wednesday.
Spearheaded by the Thami Dish Foundation, the network aims to bring together individuals, organisations, entrepreneurs, corporates and governments to raise awareness about global LGBTIQ+ challenges and to discuss and share experiences from across the world.
The first major initiative of the network is a five-day conference planned to take place in Johannesburg in October 2018, under the theme of ‘Unlocking the world by linking LGBTIQ+ communities globally’.
The organisers see the conference as a space to network and explore international synergies around various forms of activism, expression, economics and opportunities.
“My vision has always been to create platforms that advance the protection, promotion and visibility of LGBTIQ+ people, identities and communities,” said Thami Kotlolo, Chairperson of the Thami Dish Foundation and co-founder of the Feather Awards.
“We want this network to unite the world’s LGBTIQ+ community. We should speak with one voice and show that we are powerful if we work together.”
Anele Mdzikwa, Communications Manager at the Gauteng Tourism Authority, expressed her support for the conference as well as a commitment to make Gauteng an LGBTIQ+ welcoming destination for visitors.
Jay Matlou, Programme Manager at the Thami Dish Foundation, said the bi-annual event would help to further cement October as Pride Month in Gauteng by linking to other events taking place around the same time.
He stressed that the network does not aim to duplicate the work done by groups and organisations but rather to “build relationships with structures that exist and say, ‘how can we help and how do we empower LGBTIQ+ people?'”
Present at the Global LGBTIQ+ Network launch was the first international partner, Emil Wilbekin, journalist, activist and Founder of Native Son, an American movement for Black gay men.
“I’m very excited to be partnering with the Thami Dish Foundation on the Global LGBTIQ+ Network. It is important that LGBTIQ+ groups at all intersections connect and support each other in creating change, healing, and cultural understanding and acceptance in this world. Native Son is doing this work in the United States and we are happy to expand our mission to South Africa,” said Wilbekin.
If you’d like to contribute ideas about the conference and what it should focus on, contact the Thami Dish Foundation.