- Says commemorations are not a box ticking exercise but a continuing journey
- Activists says LGBTQI+ people have proven their existence and earn their recognition and acceptance
- Dow: “When you find yourself struggling to accept others, pause and reflect on
the source of your struggle”
- Teaching libraries held simultaneously in Orapa and Jwaneng
In a historic turn of events, Debswana launched its inaugural pride month commemorations at the end of last month in Gaborone, marking the diamond giant’s official journey to becoming an active advocate and ally for the LGBTQI+ community.
Taking place every June, Pride Month celebrates the dignity, equality and increased visibility of LGBTQ+ identifying persons. As an ally, the organization usually leverages their economic power in support of social causes, especially for diversity and inclusion, which is a rare occurrence in Botswana’s corporate sector.
“We had wanted to embark on this journey for a couple of years and to make sure that when we do, we do it within the confinement and rules of our country,” said the Head of Transformation and Change at Debswana, Kefilwe Mokone, at the commemoration.
“As you are aware, the decriminalisation ruling was only made in November 2021. So it is perfectly fitting that in June 2022, we jump on the bandwagon to commemorate pride. We believe in an inclusive workplace where minority groups are not marginalised. Different perspectives are important because you are able to come up with comprehensive solutions, which is something we want at Debswana.”
The commemoration also featured a dynamic and diverse panel to create awareness and discuss life after decriminalisation. Among the speakers was lawyer and human rights activist, Unity Dow, who in 2014 served as legal counsel for LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana). In the case, they sought to register the organisation with the Department of Civil and National Registration and successfully received a ruling for the government to allow the organisation to be registered.
Dow spoke about culture and how it keeps changing. “I took on the LEGABIBO case because we need to accept that we are all not the same and cultures change,” she asserted. “What worked 50 years ago doesn’t necessarily work today. Traditionally, marriage was a marker of adulthood and not getting married was seen as evading responsibility. That construct is not there any more (and) the old concepts are struggling to catch up with our reality. When you find yourself struggling to accept others, pause and reflect on the source of your struggle.”
Reverend Thabo Mampane, who is a supporter of the LGBTQI+ community and welcomed the landmark ruling of decriminalising same sex relations, said issues of sexuality were not black and white and people should live with the principle of treating others as they would like to be treated. The essence of his massage was that everyone is created in the image of God and that God does not discriminate.
Said Mampane: “I have seen violence incited on LGBTQI+ people, including in the church setup that is supposed to be inclusive. Let’s see God in all of us. These people are our children and we are going to continue to fight for our rights until we accept that we are all human beings created in the image of God.”
Pride Month is an important time for the LGBTQI+ people because it promotes their visibility and encourages acceptance, these being luxuries that have not always been afforded to them. Today, members of the community continue to face social persecution. Even in highly industrialised nations, LGBTQI+ people are hesitant to come out in the workplace due to concerns about discrimination and career growth.
“Other organisations need to follow in the footsteps of Debswana because we need to see people beyond their sexuality and what they can bring to the table,” said human rights activist, Ratanang Mosweu. “Everyone should be free, dignified and respected regardless of who they are. LGBTQI+ people have proven their existence. Stop fighting them!”
While Botswana has made significant strides in issues affecting LGBTQI+ community, Thato Moruti of LEGABIBO said there is more that still needs to be done. The government should come on board because private organisations cannot make the necessary changes alone, he added.
While Debswana is a shining example of what real diversity and inclusiveness is all about, Ludo Tema of Debswana said the commemoration is not a box ticking exercise but an ongoing journey with policies and procedures.
The mining giant also hosted human libraries on the day in Jwaneng and Orapa for people to learn more about real LGBTQI+ experiences.