Soweto Pride is a political project initiated by the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2004 with the aim of creating and making political and social space for black lesbian women to create visibility and amplify the voices of black lesbian women and also to engage with community organizations and the broader local community people in Soweto.
The project is used as a political vehicle to confront homophobia and discrimination experienced by gays and lesbians in South Africa especially those living in the townships. FEW partners with organizations working in the LGBT sector, women’s rights and broader human rights on this project. The project has also created opportunities for networking with organizations and people that participate in Soweto Pride.
When the event started in 2004, a small number of gays and lesbians marched in the streets of SOWETO despite the fear of being attacked but over the past five years, Soweto Pride has grown in attendance numbers; now not only gay people participate in this march but also families, friends, and those that support us join in to show support to ending homophobia in our townships and also people of different races also come in huge numbers to show solidarity.
SOWETO Pride starts on Heritage Day (24th September) every year and The Pride March will be on last Saturday of September and this happens annually.
The programme starts on a Friday with cultural activities and a movie screening and the second day is a march from central point in SOWETO through the main roads and ends at a point such as a park.
A political programme at the endpoint is followed by an edutainment programme to celebrate our struggles and victories as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities and as Human Rights Activists and Women Human Rights Defenders. Friends, family and all those in solidarity with us in our struggles join in the celebrations.
Organisations display their messaging, products, promotional items and engage with participants. After the SOWETO Pride, the messaging, materials and products produced for and used in that event are used at other events to expand the reach of the messaging. One space where this happens is Joburg Pride, usually held one week after SOWETO Pride. The week long activities that precede Joburg Pride also provide important opportunities to engage with the LGBTI community and others to popularize the issues and the messages we raise in the course of the year.