Exceptional Lab SA has launched its “Queer Voices Unlocked” project, an initiative to recognise outstanding LGBTQI+ public servants who are actively breaking down barriers and advocating for inclusivity and equality within their workplaces and communities.
Inspired by the Integrity Icon campaign, which celebrates and honors public servants who go above and beyond their call of duty, this project seeks to spotlight those who have made outstanding contributions.
A Six-Month Project with Multiple Phases
The Queer Voices Unlocked project is a six-month initiative. It involves recruiting ten queer filmmakers and storytellers to create mini documentaries about five outstanding queer public servants in Gauteng, initially nominated by the public.
The project will also offer training to these filmmakers and will launch a media advocacy campaign to boost visibility of the public servants’ narratives.
We asked Deekay Ndoni, Programs Officer for Accountability Lab South Africa, about the significance and intended impact of the initiative:
Why is it important to highlight outstanding LGBTQI+ and queer public servants?
It challenges stereotypes and biases by demonstrating that their sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t affect their job performance. It also provides crucial role models for younger LGBTQI+ generations, encouraging them to pursue public service careers with confidence and promoting diversity and inclusion. Moreover, this recognition acknowledges the historical marginalisation of LGBTQI+ individuals and empowers them to advocate for their rights and inclusion, ultimately motivating them to excel in their roles while redressing imbalances in society.
The public sector – including health, education, criminal justice and Home Affairs – is often perceived as unfriendly to LGBTQI+ people. In what way can this initiative change this?
I can do this by actively recognising and celebrating the contributions of LGBTQI+ individuals within the public sector, fostering a more inclusive environment, and inspiring positive changes in policy and practice to support LGBTQI+ individuals across various sectors. Additionally, increased visibility and positive queer narratives have the potential to transform societal attitudes and behaviors toward queer individuals.
Do you think it is valuable for LGBTQI+ and queer public servants to be out in their workplaces? What role could that play?
Yes, as it fosters a more inclusive and accepting environment, allows them to serve as role models, and helps challenge stereotypes and biases. By openly embracing their identities, they contribute to creating a workplace where diversity is celebrated and respected, which benefits both LGBTQI+ employees and society as a whole.
Do you feel that it is safe for LGBTQI+ and queer public servants to be out in their workplaces – and how can this initiative address this?
The safety of LGBTQI+ and queer public servants to be out in their workplaces can vary significantly depending on the workplace culture and societal factors. The initiative can address this by raising awareness, providing support networks, and showcasing successful LGBTQI+ individuals in the public sector, thereby encouraging workplaces to become more inclusive and protective of LGBTQI+ employees. As it fosters a more accepting environment and challenges biases, the initiative plays a crucial role in making workplaces safer for LGBTQI+ and queer public servants to be open about their identities without fear of discrimination or harassment.
If you know an exceptional queer public servant in Gauteng who deserves recognition, you can nominate them before October 30, 2023, using this link https://bit.ly/3ZIBR4n.