The Women's Leadership Centre (WLC) hosted the first local Lesbian Festival in Windhoek late last year at the Warehouse Theatre.
More than sixty young lesbians from eight regions came together for a week of sharing both the pain and the joy of their lives, making new friends, building community, gaining feminist understanding of their oppression as lesbian and as women living in a patriarchal society that denies women autonomy, choice and freedom, developing their voice through learning new skills in creative expression, and creating visibility through outstanding public performances with their poetry, stories, music, drama and dance.
Liz Frank, Programme Manager at WLC said for many it was their first workshop and for most their public performance. "They took up the challenge and overcame their fears of standing up as young lesbians in public spaces to speak their truth and demand recognition and rights as equal citizens of their country," she said.
She added that young lesbians in Namibia face so much discrimination, stigma and violence in their daily lives therefore this is a legacy of the years of hate speech by some political leaders in Namibia, whose words have poisoned the hearts and minds of the people.
"In our workshops we see the healing power of friendship and creative expression and young lesbians can feel free to find themselves, share their stories, gain self respect, pride and the courage to be open about who they are and who they love despite the negative response they get from many in their families and communities," she said.
She explained that through creating a lesbian cultural festival in the public arena in Namibia they have created new social, cultural and political space for celebrating the richness and diversity of lesbian experience form across the country. "We have taken up the ideal expressed by our current state president of building an inclusive Namibian house in which no one feels excluded," added Frank
Zenobia Dausas from Swakopmund said this was her first workshop and it was really insightful for her. "I learnt a lot, starting from the history of the feminist movements to how we can enjoy our freedom today although we still get judged," she emphasized.
The festival was the culmination of a two year outreach project run by the WLC to young lesbians and their communities in four regions of the country. The WLC now plans to support the local activities of the young leaders that have emerged through this programme.