IAM at 25: Civil Society Partnerships

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

It is amazing that we are celebrating 25 years already and, had it not been for the global pandemic, would have had the ability to share this year of celebration with our partners. The pandemic has resulted in reshaping how people work and connect remotely. As we reflect in our own practices, IAM staff has provided blogs and videos sharing strategies on how to remain connected in a reality where physical connection has become a risk to our health. In reflecting on how far we have come, we recognize and appreciate the relationships we share with our civil society partners. Relationship building has been a core principle of IAM’s work – we believe that in order for equality and inclusion to be achieved for all members of our community, we need each other. Through honest engagement with partners, many of whom we have shared platforms of heated debates and then later laughed over glasses of wine, we deepen our commitment to a common goal, inclusive and equitable communities.  

Strategic alliances, collaboration and accompaniment have been some of the methods of advocacy that IAM has adopted in strengthening relationships with civil society partners and faith leaders. Working in the community is something that I hold close to my heart as a Black, queer, activist. Being a part of IAM has allowed me to navigate spaces within different communities within the Western Cape. It allows me to engage with and support women activists, activists living with HIV, researchers, academics, and government partners on how we can collectively work to achieve inclusive communities. Conversations within our communities range from dialogues in churches, formal presentations in Parliament portfolio events and community outreach activities; to protest marches that shut down the city and engaging peer educators as they to hold spaces for conversations on gender-based violence and youth protests. I have come to appreciate that accompaniment as a representative of IAM does not only mean that it must be financial or written eloquently in memorandums of understandings. Being present and speaking on the importance of acknowledging diversity for a civil society partner who was lobbying for the recognition of LGBTIQ+ people within their organizational charter is equally important. Since 1995, IAM has evolved to reflect the principles that we hold as an organization – integrity, truth and being open to learn – to mention a few. We recognize the intersectionality of our gendered identities and needs as we continue to navigate spaces working towards the eradication of the misinterpretation of biblical scriptures as a weapon against people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identities, expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).

IAM’s partnerships on an interfaith level, both within and external to the SOGIESC community has allowed us to navigate spaces and provide support to activists who are still starting the conversations of same-sex relationships and SOGIESC. IAM has worked to empower its partners through the provision of anti-bias and sensitization trainings, provision of a variety of resource materials that can be downloaded for free on our website, as well as providing linkages to other partners from our networks on a local, national, and regional level. We believe that it is in the access to information that one is empowered with the language to engage and give voice to their lived reality as they become change agents. Whether sharing meals after Shabbat, holding intimate spaces of worship, or marching side-by-side calling attention to the unsolved lesbophobic attacks on black lesbians at Khumbulani Pride, IAM has ensured that our visible support for the community is maintained through our shared principles of integrity, trust, and drive for equality. 

This month, our blog contributors reflect on their journey in partnership with IAM. We invited Imam Muhsin, Jacqui Benson and Linda Chamane to draw on their experiences as well as share about their (re)imagined future for faith within advocacy for equality for all people of SOGIESC. We invite more partners to the table as it’s through our collective efforts that we can bring transformation within our communities, places of worship and our country. So as in the words of the African proverb, we need each other to go far.