Walking in the Footsteps of Mandela; NGLCC Global Travels to South Africa to Support LGBT Economic Inclusion

By Yolande Kwinana
Other than the beautiful scenery, South Africa boasts being the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. South African law prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace and forbids any employer from firing an employee based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, on paper, the constitution of the Republic of South Africa is widely considered as one of the most progressive constitutions in the world; however, in reality, the law is often poorly implemented and LGBT people lack adequate protection.

Imagine the struggle you might face if you had to live the reality of your church, your family, your teachers, your peers, and your neighbors all telling you how dirty you are. Or consider when you, as an LGBT entrepreneur, are excluded from a contract, because of your sexual orientation. Imagine the reality of our brothers and sisters being brutally raped because some believe homosexuality is a crooked line that must be straightened or corrected.

Many people believe that because South Africa was the first country to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation that LGBT persons are fully accepted in society, yet this is not necessarily the case. South African laws have become such a façade with regards to LGBT rights that the president of the country, President Jacob Zuma, could say without repercussions, “Same-sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God. When I was growing up ‘ungqingili’ [homosexual in isiZulu] could not stand in front of me, I would want to knock him out.”1
As an intern for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), I have had the opportunity to work in an environment where I am accepted, where I don’t feel judged or have to hide my personal life. I had to travel all the way to Washington, DC to get this experience, but why can’t every South African feel liberated in their work and, in return, use their business as a place to liberate others?
Hopefully this will become a new reality for my country, as team NGLCC Global is currently traveling through South Africa to meet with corporations, government officials, and LGBT and allied entrepreneurs, with the goal of aiding to form a new South African LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Through NGLCC’s public-private partnership with USAID and corporate partner, including Wells Fargo and 2015 NGLCC Corporation of the Year, MillerCoors, NGLCC will be able to collaborate with local leadership in South Africa to foster a local LGBT business movement through 2020, beginning with the launch an LGBT Chamber of Commerce—the first on the continent of Africa—at IGLTA’s Annual Convention in Cape Town from April 14th to 16th, 2016
As we know, including LGBT into the business framework makes economic sense.2 With a progressive legal structure and a vibrant LGBT community, South Africa has the potential to become one of the top destinations for LGBT tourism worldwide and take part in the nearly $165 billion LGBT tourism industry, as estimated by Out Now Consulting, which would help create new jobs for LGBT people, lower unemployment, and increase in the overall GDP of my country.3
I am human. I am a South African. I am a lesbian. I am an entrepreneur. I am inspired, inspired by our father Nelson Mandela who told us that “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated and passionate about what they do.” To me the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will be walking in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela with the work they will be doing in South Africa. 

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