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Recognising Gauteng’s outstanding queer public servants through the voices unlocked project

Recognising Gauteng’s outstanding queer public servants through the voices unlocked project
Activist Deekay Ndoni Sibanda at Accountability Lab SA, Media Mill, Braamfontein, Johannesburg. (Photo: Denvor de Wee)

This Pride Month, the non-profit organisation Accountability Lab SA aims to break stereotypes and promote representation through the ‘Queer Voices Unlocked’ project that recognises LGBTQI+ public servants in Johannesburg.

The queer community is rarely portrayed in a positive light in the media —  whether it’s the gay character who provides comedic relief in a television series or movie, or the hypersexualised portrayal that gives little to no depth of character beyond the person’s sexuality.

Accountability Lab aims to shift these narratives by asking you to nominate a queer person in the public service who is outstanding at their job.

The initiative was inspired by its Integrity Icon campaign, which honoured public servants who go above and beyond the call of duty. The campaign highlighted the work done by public servants, especially in health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Accountability Lab SA is now working on the “Queer Voices Unlocked” project, which seeks to spotlight outstanding LGBTQI+ public servants who are actively breaking down gender barriers and advocating for inclusivity and equality in their workplaces and communities. 

Sibanda queer public servants

Activist Deekay Ndoni Sibanda at Accountability Lab SA, Media Mill, Braamfontein, Johannesburg. (Photo: Denvor de Wee)

Deekay Ndoni Sibanda, a lesbian photographer and filmmaker and programmes officer at Accountability Lab, says she pioneered the idea intending to create better visibility, especially for young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer, or intersex+.

“We want young queer people to look at this and say, oh I can be a teacher or a social worker, this will be told by queer people because our stories have been told by people who are not queer who might misnarrate the stories,” Sibanda said. 

Sibanda’s previous job entailed monitoring hate crimes and violence against LGBTQI+ people.

“My mental health was negatively affected because the only stories we would get would be… maybe a lesbian was raped and other instances of violence, it took me to a [dark place]. I couldn’t cope.”  

outstanding queer public servants outstanding queer public servants outstanding queer public servants

As much as Sibanda thinks those stories are important to tell, she also wants to shine a light on the captains of industry who make a difference in their communities and workplaces.

“Queer Voices Unlocked” was launched in early October and will run over six months.

Ten queer filmmakers and storytellers are getting an opportunity to train to profile the outstanding LGBTQI+ public servants once they are selected. 

Monica Yona (33) a gender non-conforming writer, says they are happy to get an opportunity to tell positive queer stories as they had little representation growing up. 

“For me, personally, there weren’t many queer people in a public space when I was growing up, let alone them being celebrated. If anything queer came up it was always negative,” Yona said 

outstanding queer public servants

“I love being part of this initiative because it’s not only sharing positive stories, but I believe it will inspire young people to do great and follow their dreams,” Yona added.

Yona is undergoing training by Accountability Lab and its partners to sharpen the skills needed to produce and profile queer icons through media formats such as mini-documentaries, articles, podcasts and vox pops. The documentaries will be played at the Human Rights Festival in Johannesburg in early 2024.

The nitty-gritty of the project 

Sibanda said a rigorous nomination process would identify and select five queer public servants from Johannesburg. They will be featured in minidocumentaries filmed at their workplaces and within the queer community, showcasing their vital contributions and involvement.

“If you’re aware of an exceptional queer public servant in Gauteng who deserves recognition, please nominate them here.”

Queer Voices Unlocked aims to celebrate these individuals’ dedication to promoting inclusivity and fostering positive change in their workplaces and society. By sharing their stories, it hopes to inspire others, challenge stereotypes and contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society. DM


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