Behind the Mask, the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) and OUT have announced that they will no longer be involved in the running of this year’s Pride Mardi Gras and Parade in Johannesburg. The organisations initially stepped in after the financial collapse of the Equality Project – at the time responsible for Pride – in an attempt to rescue the event.

The three organisations put their support behind Paul Tilly as the coordinator of the event and contracted him for the period of one month (July 2005) to continue work on securing funding, arranging of a Mardi Gras, finalising the Parade route, and organising a week long public education programme.

At a meeting held at the end of July, and to which all stakeholders were invited, Tilly provided feedback on progress achieved to date. At this meeting Dawie Nel, the Director of OUT and representative of the community groups, said that the community groups had fulfilled their commitment to taking interim steps to ensure the continuation of Pride, and would no longer be directly involved in the management of the Parade and Mardi Gras. He further said that sufficient progress has been made and there is a strong chance that Pride will take place on 24 September 2005.

The organisations added in a statement that their further lack of input in the management of Pride Parade and Mardi Gras is due to an absence of resources to support such a role, which has never been within their mandate, and should not be interpreted as a lack of support for Pride, explaining that they will continue offering whatever guidance, advice and support they are able to.

The groups will nevertheless still be involved in the community events around Pride: Their efforts will be to ensure that the Lesbian and Gay Pride Heritage week from 19-23 September 2005 will take place and an educative programme, to be co-ordinated by FEW, has been planned.

Paul Tilly responded to the statement by saying that, “Joburg Pride will always be a broad community-based initiative. We look forward to building upon the experiences of past Prides and working with OUT, FEW and BTM this year, and in years to come, to ensure that the work which the non-profit sector undertake plays as much of a role as the cultural and social aspect of Pride, such as the Parade.”

The organisations have encouraged everyone in the constituencies they represent to make their presence felt at the Pride events, and to come out in their numbers on 24 September to celebrate Pride’s “Sweet Sixteen”.

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