Gay and Lesbian Network faces closure due to cash crisis

The Gay and Lesbian Network is set to shutdown.
The Gay and Lesbian Network is set to shutdown.
Image: FILE

The Gay and Lesbian Network says it will have to shut its doors unless they get a R600‚000 windfall.

The Pietermaritzburg-based organisation was founded in 2003 and since its inception has been able to assist over 200‚000 people. Working at grassroots levels‚ the organisation offers counselling‚ legal and medical assistance to victims of hate crime.

They also use of theatre to raise awareness and conduct workshops relating to the lesbian‚ gay‚ bisexual‚ transgender‚ queer or questioning‚ intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) community.

In a plea for help posted recently on crowdfunding site givengain.com‚ the organisation said: “It would be a pity if our doors would close‚ as LGBTI people across KwaZulu-Natal would continue to face discrimination and experience secondary victimisation at the hands of government service providers‚ bullying at schools‚ unresolved hate crimes‚ suicidal thoughts‚ low self-esteem and rejection by families and communities.”

According to the network’s director and founder‚ Anthony Waldhausen‚ the much-needed funding would go towards paying staff and volunteers‚ sustaining their Rainbow Theatre Group and supporting the various outreach programmes and workshops they run in rural KZN.

“We go into communities in the heart of KZN and work closely with traditional leaders‚ religious groups and families to educate and advocate for the gay and lesbian community‚” explained Waldhausen.

“We also go into people’s homes within these communities and offer support to those who are neglected by their families [because of their sexuality]‚” he added.

Thobeka Bhengu‚ artistic director for the Rainbow Theatre Group‚ said: “Some of the people I’ve worked with are members of the LGBT community who have gone through some serious hate crimes. The group has become a home for them‚ a safe space.

“Now they feel like they are losing their safe space.”

One such person who was been helped by the theatre group is openly gay traditional healer Sphelele Ntshiba. “Working here has made me feel like I have a voice and a platform to challenge society‚ to say: ‘We are here‚ we are gay‚ we are not going anywhere!’” he said in a video posted by the network.

“Theatre made me own my past experiences‚” he added.

Referring to the possibility of the network closing as a “disaster”‚ Ntshiba continued: “It would mean that the LGBT community would no longer have an assurance of a safe space. I know we are not the only LGBT organisation in KZN‚ but we are one of the few that operates in the heart of rural KZN‚ in places like Newcastle and Estcourt.”

Waldhausen said they had previously received some funding from the departments of arts and culture and social development‚ but this was never on a permanent or regular basis. He predicted that if they are not able to reach their R600‚000 target‚ they would only be able to keep their doors open for the next two months.

To date‚ they have only been able to raise R12‚236 on the crowdfunding site.

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