Iyanda’s  Journey to the top

Iyanda’s  Journey to the top

March 9th, 2023 | BY a100voicesofus |

by Jane Nkiwane

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is the cornerstone of international human rights law states that, “All humans are born free and equal in dignity”. However, despite the law put in place, in the past years the United Nations, regional and local human rights bodies have documented widespread violations and abuses targeting LGBTI people worldwide. Acts of violence include brutal beatings, sexual violence, ill treatment and wide spread stigma. 

According to the Universal Declaration of Human rights article 5; No one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, in human or degrading treatment or punishment. For people who are part of the LGBTI community like 29 year old Iyanda, fair treatment in society is only a pipe dream due to the social stigma that they face. 

  Living as a transgender woman in Zimbabwe, she has overcome many challenges, including overcoming the urge to commit suicide three times, depression and alienation. However despite the setbacks, her determination, resilience and fighting spirit has managed to propel her to greater heights and success. 

In 2022 she hogged the limelight nationally by landing herself a gig as a red carpet host for the prestigious Roil Bulawayo Awards where she shared the stage with notable figures in the entertainment arena of Zimbabwe.The bubbly personality dons a hat of many colours, she has carved a name for herself in different platforms by being a fashion enthusiast, TV personality and human rights defender. She also runs a successful luxurious custom made furniture business called The Home which has two branches one in Bulawayo,Belmont and the other in Johannesburg, Boyseen. The company currently employs thirteen people and it manufactures creative high end furniture like couches,bedroom sets,tables and wall units.

  According to her, the journey to the top was not a rosy one. Iyanda, who was born  male ,vividly recalls the period when she decided to come out in the open and live freely as a transgender woman.

“I grew up in an era where being LGBTI was not popular, I recall it was in 2007 when I made it known to people close to me that I was LGBTI . My friends were prohibited from playing with me because their parents thought I would infect them with my disease as they thought that being LGBTI was a disease,” she recalls.

 “Back then, in my community there were a lot of negative talks being said about me. They thought I am unAfrican and immoral due to my sexual orientation. Luckily during that trying period I befriended four of black LGBTI young men and we became each other’s support system. We would go out to visit and hang out, have fun in different spaces however it was hard to interact with new people due to the stigma. I remember at times we were bashed and in one incident, we were thrown out of a night club because they said no LGBTI people were allowed.” 

Despite all the negative reactions she got from society Iyanda grew a thick skin and soldiered on. “What enabled me to move forward with my life is that I taught myself to block out all the negative challenges that I met earlier in my life, especially during my school years. I faced a lot of discrimination; homophobia from community members, teachers and students however blocking this out of my mind and forgiving has brought tranquillity and progress into my life.  I have learnt to avoid negative people. On the brighter side, there are people in my life who have embraced me as I am, loved, nurtured me and enjoy my company and personality. My mother is one of them and she has been very supportive throughout my journey.”

Iyanda urged local people to embrace and accommodate diverse groups of people in society. “Teach your kids manners and kindness so that they grow up to be adults who respect people from all walks of life even if they are different. I believe that this will make the world a better place. 

On a parting remark, she had a word of advice to the LGBTI community. “All I can say is that at times the environment that we currently live in is not friendly for people like us. The advice that I have for LGBTI who haven’t yet disclosed their lifestyle publicly is that they should not rush the process, take their time up until they feel ready, mentally, emotionally and even financially prepared before they come to make life easier. Furthermore do not succumb to societal pressure and never be fazed by what people say, just know how you are.” 

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