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Activist of the day: Meet Dumi So, Botswana.

  1. Could you describe the first moment when you realized you wanted to do this work? I don’t think I ever wanted to because I grew up wanting to be a Chartered Accountant and wanting to make money for various reasons; supporting my family, living comfortably and moving away from home. When I completed my undergraduate in South Africa and returned home (Botswana), I realized that a degree was not enough. In fact, even now with two Masters degrees – it is only a part of it. It is in realizing the unfortunate circumstances I was in that led me to human rights work. Young people, regardless of how hard they work and how skilled; privilege will continue to be victorious. As a millennial, I am often told about how tacit knowledge is lacking, or how I must fit within a box of eligibility or even worse, be someone that left the role I was aiming for. Also in experiencing things I never should have as a teenager; I was not aware that those things were not right. It is through having a voice to prevent others from what I went through that I realized I am a survivor. Thus, it is a cumulation of an un-enabling environment and being uncomfortable with the gate keepers’ of young people’s well-being.
  2. Could take us through a day of your work? Where do you put most of your time and energy? Operating at a grassroots level there are two main priorities, a) seeking out funding opportunities and b) managing expectations of volunteers and other stakeholders you’re accountable to. It requires some structure in ensuring Success Capital can deliver her mandate without compromise of those who need our interventions the most. There is a mapping and grant writing component every single day; seeking out avenues for connecting with enablers to help scale our impact and planning/implementing the next activities. There is a lot of follow up, deliberating on collaborating with others and trying to document as much as possible to show that our work has value. Since this does not pay my bills; I also seek out and bid on calls for consulting work. Unfortunately in human rights work, self-care is largely neglected because it comes at a cost and the causes we work on don’t really allow for someone knocking off.
  3. What are your key achievements in your work? It’s in reframing how young people, gender and LGBTIQ+ individuals are often thought of or presented as in advocacy narratives. A lot of focus was on tokenism, binary constructs of parities and public health/law respectively. Our philosophy integrates all these in acknowledging that individuals in their indivisible and universal rights, have so much more to them impacting and influencing the linear and thematic issues we work on (Unemployment, SRHR, Participation, etc.). We have documented these and prepared submissions for the African Commission on Human & People’s Rights, World Forum for Democracy and other rights based initiatives aimed at policy making. We have created some synergies by being secretariat to other international youth civic action mechanisms such as International Youth Alliance for Family Planning and the African Network of Youth Policy Experts. All largely without funding (our annual budget averages USD 5000 in project/activity funding since inception). At a personal level, working on a shadow report, statement and fielding questions before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women was a highlight. More especially with seeing how some of the concluding observations reflected some narratives presented. Also having been selected as one of the CIVICUS Goalkeeper Accelerators gave a new lifeline for us to strengthen ourselves. Were it not for that, we would have most likely shut down and focused on securing our livelihoods.
  4. How does your organization promote inclusive participation of youth from diverse backgrounds? We are inherently diverse and have emerged to understand the importance of decolonization in our practices, narratives and knowledge production. We work on young people’s human rights issues in recognition of our collective diversity as queer individuals, Africans, unemployed’s, differently abled and climate conscious. We are intersecting in our composition, advocacy and participatory forms of engagement.
  5. What has been your hardest struggle so far, and how did you get over it? Resourcing; in core (non-project related) support, retaining skills and garnering institutional power. It’s a day by day process and never-ending. If you know someone who can help solve this challenge with us, let me know 😊
  6. What is the biggest challenge you currently face? Resourcing and not being at the table within and outside civil society. Many other youth-led, managed and serving organizations have the same problem. As LGBTIQ+ it just seems worse.
  7. What has been your biggest surprise on this journey so far? That we have managed to be resilient thus far despite many faces coming and going, despite at least three years where there was no funding at all, despite gatekeepers blocking us from engaging with enablers, despite some enabler practices. We are dynamic, innovative and game-changing in what we do as a virtue of being young, Pan African oriented and proudly queer.
  8. What keeps you going and give you inspiration in your work? What gives you hope? The many brave young queer and non-conforming people I live, work and meet with daily. They keep me going. They are my self-care because I have been where they are despite not knowing or having seen myself in that position. They survive bad parenting, abuse, hate and exclusion that can never be adequately framed in M&E indicators. They inspire me because despite knowing and being aware of what they’re going through (unlike myself), they survive and make it another day. This gives me hope that young people’s participation, civic action and talent will be respected, upheld and amplified in the future.
  9. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self? Stick to the money. Ignorance really is bliss. The ideologies and systems you will try challenge will not guarantee you the stability and do justice to the sacrifices your family has made to get you to being an adult. There will always be injustices as privilege, patriarchy and power manifest themselves in variant ways and through generations; you can do something about it once you can afford to.
  10. What words of encouragement would you give to women, children, minorities, and other disempowered groups when they are facing rejection because of the prevailing cultural norm? It is okay to cry and to be angry. Just do not let it burn bridges, more especially in the spaces that are to enable you. Yes, there is a lot of harm and pain within our spaces of intellectual discourse, spirituality, residence, friendships, learning, relationships, volunteerism and work; they will never understand how you are a survivor. What is key is centering yourself and being conscious that you have made it this far. That you are valuable and that you have voice. Something will have to give and because it has not been you yet; then you still have a fighting chance. Never loose hope, never disservice yourself and its okay to say no and leave the table when its not mentally, economically and physically safe! The world is big enough and there is place for you; especially at Success Capital.
  11. How can people contact you and learn more about your work? (eg: email, blog, webpage) On any platform; whatsapp +26771562628, IG: dumi.activist, email: coordinator@successcapitalngo.com / gatshadumiso@yahoo.com, web: www.successcapitalngo.com and www.dumisogatsha.com Thank you!

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