The beginning might not have been convincing, but Activate Wits delivered on a fun night for all nonetheless.
The Activate Wits society decorated the former SRC offices with rainbow flags, awaiting students’ arrival at their first event for 2023, a games night at the DJ Du Plessis building on West Campus.
Activate Wits is a diverse all-inclusive student society dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQIA+ students at Wits University.
Activate Wits chairperson, Justin Yawe (20) asked everyone to join them in a circle of trust – forming a circle while holding hands – for “a proper welcome to the Activate family,” and brief introductions by attendees. This proved a tall order for the 100 strong crowd, so not all got the opportunity.
With the formalities out of the way, the music started pumping and games like chess, table soccer, and 30 seconds were played. Less competitive attendees took to dancing and singing along to those behind the microphone at the karaoke station.
Anouk Klijnstra (19), who is not a member of Activate Wits and was attending the event hosted by the student society for the first time told Wits Vuvuzela, “I am enjoying the community. I feel at home, happy and in a safe space.”
Itumeleng Moalusi (21) an Activate Wits member said: “I like how everyone is just happy and [Games Night] is a vibe. Did you see the dance moves that [other attendees] were doing!?” she exclaimed.
Activate Wits events officer and organizer of the Games Night, a third-year student Noma Sibanda (20) called the night a success. “Our aim as this year’s committee is to grow and further our family and the relations we have. Tomorrow these people are going to be able to greet and talk to each other on campus because they met each other here tonight.”
In the coming months, “More talks [around queerness], the pride march and regular smaller events like [Games night],” are in store for Activate Wits members.
FEATURED IMAGE: A member of Activate Wits, Itumeleng Moalusi (21) at the Games Night posing in front of the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
ACTIVATE Wits held a series of events during the week with the aim of celebrating transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, while also commemorating those who lose their lives on a daily basis to transphobic violence.
Wits is the first South African university to join the international anti-homophobic initiative known as Safe Zones, which will train community members to challenge human rights abuses on campus.
The Wits Transformation Office (WTO) has announced the SafeZones@Wits programme launch will take place on April 18 with the first of many free workshops. WTO spokesperson Ella Kotze said the workshops were aimed at “…anyone who has an interest in advocating human rights and challenging human rights abuse”. They will provide training on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) issues.
Click to go to SafeZones@Wits on Facebook:
Those successful in the training will graduate as “allies” to the LGBTQIA community. Allies provide support systems or “Safe Zones” for dealing with the issues faced by the community.
Kotze said these issues included the emotions and challenges of “coming out” to friends and family, and discrimination. Allies could refer or accompany those with problems to the appropriate campus resources, such as Campus Health or the WTO.
They could create and identify Safe Zones by, for example, placing badges and stickers on office or res room doors.
Many international universities have already implemented similar Safe Zone programmes. According to http://www.lgbtcampus.org, over 200 institutions in the USA had initiated their own Safe Zones by 2005, and some as early as 1998.
“…we’re definitely the first in South Africa. Our ultimate aim is to see the programme implemented in universities across South Africa in the next five years,” said Kotze.
A few unique Safe Zones logos from across the world:
From left to right: Wits, The University of Tennessee, Southwestern Illinois College, Northeastern University, Joliet Junior College.
Anyone interested in attending a workshop can email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org at the WTO. The next workshop will be on the April 21, but special sessions can be arranged if individuals or departments cannot attend the first two.
Homophobia: An extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people. Heterosexism: Discrimination or prejudice against homosexuals on the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm. #FightIgnorance
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