2013 Feb. 8: “Let your voices be heard”

by Charmain Carrol

Given an opportunity to tell my story I will talk about where I’ve been and what I have done and the remarkable people I met along my journeys. This remains in my archived memories. It was an ardent path that any other youth might have gone through without much guidance and support from parents and relatives. One had to rely on strangers and friends who then became my extended family. People who loved and embraced me as their daughter, younger sister, who loved my daughter as theirs and fed me when there was no food on the table.

Charmain Carrol  (14-02-2013) Photo by Maureen Velile Majola

Charmain Carrol
Photo by Maureen Velile Majola

My name is Charmain (without an ‘e’).
My surname is Carrol.
I’m a gender activist, a lesbian mother, a partner, a media activist, a homemaker, a writer, a motivational speaker, a counselor and facilitator. Currently I work for the bank as an External Sales Manager and part-time for Inkanyiso productions as a volunteer reporter and project administrator.

I was born on the 7th July 1977, Durban. KwaZulu Natal.
Birthed by mixed parents, an Indian father and a Xhosa mother which makes me be classified as colored according to the South African color bar.
I don’t like that much but prefer to be just ‘Black’.
I speak English, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans.
I embrace Xhosa and Zulu traditions and thus perform rituals from both tribes. Ngingumuntu nje!

You know it stunt me to see that some people will stand in front of me in the queue and gossip in Zulu assuming that I don’t hear them. I know that my long hair and complexion confuse them. Surprisingly I hear(d) them quite well. Sometimes I respond but most of the I just keep quiet.
Worst of is when some lesbians assume that I’m a heterosexual women. Ok, I’m not.

I was raised in the Eastern Cape by my grandmother. My mother worked in Durban as a domestic worker and my father remained in Durban working as a Private Investigator for a private company. I was two months old when my parents separated. I’ve heard that my father was too violent towards my mother and she could not take it and left him.
Later, my uncle told me that racial differences sparked that gender based violence.
He was mixed race himself, born and grew up Qumbu. He was such a jealous man. That’s the men who met his mom at 16 and I met him when I was 9 years old for the first time. You can only imagine what does that do to an only girl child longing for paternal love.
With all that said, my grandmother was there for me throughout. She mother, my father, my all.

I’m grateful to her for all the teachings she taught me. Unfortunately my gran died in 2007 at the age of 100 plus which was a blessing for a black family.
After meeting my father, I was moved to Durban to be with my father and his other children (born by different mothers). It is where I attended coloured school in Wentworth. I was there until I was 17 years old. My father died in 1995, he was murdered.
So all the children were returned to their mothers. My mom came for me as well, who I last saw at the age of 9 when she left and dropped me off at my father’s.
In 1995 my mother was selling second hands clothes and own a shebeen in Philipi,
Cape Town.

I fell pregnant before my 18th birthday. I gave birth to Lynne my only daughter in 1996, Cape Town. I must confess that it was a natural birth with no complications even though my body tender or not matured enough. I was young and a teenager at that time.
I was not raped like how most lesbians would say to shun away from the fact that some of  us do not conceive due sexual assault or have the luxury of artificial insemination and other birthing processes. With that said my sexuality did come from  the point of abuse.
I’ve been intimate with women before I gave birth to my child and continued thereafter.
Hence, I won’t judge those who want to use the abuse or rape as means of protecting their sexual identities.

Different strokes for different folks. Amen to that!

My child has a father that she met later on in life just like I did with my own father.
Contact between them is not that good because he was not involved in her upbringing and maintenance – papgeld
a big issue like some men in South Africa who refuse to take responsibility of their offspring. I had to admit that we were both young and got involve in teenage sex without an understanding of the consequences. I then started working from an early age to support my child. My mother could not assist much because she had her own challenges.
I don’t stop my daughter to be in contact with her father. She has a right to communicate with him. He also knows of his child’s existence. The guy is also fully aware of my lesbianism.

If I remember well my first encounter with same gender love was with my cousin sister who was a year older than me. She is a heterosexual woman with kids, probably do not recall what we did but I remember very well cause that excited me very much.
I will later narrate on how I fell pregnant which is a life story on it own!

Important people I met along the way

In 1996 I met Kali van der Merwe, filmmaker, who trained me in Media Activism and conducted Radio Training. She came to the Onsplek, which was a place of safety for girls in Albertus Str, Cape Town central. Where I lived for two years with my daughter because mother did not accept that I fell pregnant early.
Read more on:  http://www.otherwise.org.za/pages/radioparticip.html

The crew featuring Charmain Carrol (blue dress) and Funeka Soldaat (light yellow polo t-shirt)

The Inkanyiso crew featuring Charmain Carrol (blue dress) and Funeka Soldaat (light yellow polo t-shirt).                            Photo by Zanele Muholi. (2012 Dec. 8, Hector Pietersen Museum at the Iranti – 16 Days of Activism event)

Another person I was lucky to share my life with was Funeka Soldaat, gender activist, who guided and mentored me.
Soldaat is currently involve with Freegender – (http://freegender.wordpress.com)
now, but at that time she was working for Triangle Project.
Not forgetting Gabrielle le Roux, an art activist, who worked for Media Watch.
Le Roux and van der Merwe taught us life skills, media skills and how to conduct interviews and deal with public related projects.

In 1998 I worked for Idol Pictures which was headed by Jack Lewis, filmmaker, producer and director, some of his productions is Siyanqoba/ Beat It!
I did voice over for the Gugu Dlamini, HIV activist who was brutally murdered in December 1998, Durban for disclosing her HIV status.

After that I was later appointed by Media Watch…

In 1999, I represented the gay and lesbian youth at International Lesbian Gay Association  (ILGA) conference held in Johanneburg, on behalf of UManyano, the defunct black lesbian organisation which was based in Khayelitsha.


Read previous activities


My message to the youth is: “Let your voices be heard”.

Charmain Carrol

Charmain with her daughter Lynne recording at a creche (1997)

I was first introduced to Other-Wise in 1996.
I worked with a group of girls from Ons Plek. We did a series of programmes: “Nontlupeko”, “The Break Through Girls” and “The Street Educators”. During that time I learnt how to work with people also finishing what I started. I was very Interested so I carried on the following year to work with Other-Wise (1997). We sat down to write proposals. We each had a copy of the proposal. One day Kali said we were going to see the person who is funding our work but we had already started with the recordings. We went to meet Jean from the Open Society. I was at first scared but when she started speaking I felt at ease.
She is a very nice person and it was a pleasure meeting her.


The reason why I chose Iintsomi Programme was because I feel that our culture seems to be fading away. Our grannies these days never tell us iintsomi. there are different reasons why some of the grannies don’t tell these stories: some have forgotten them, television also plays a major role today, the family’s spare time these days is spent in the living room in front of the TV.

I want our culture to survive if we communicated better then we would know each other better. What is better than telling iintsomi. The children in those days knew if they go somewhere or next-door they would not steal or do something wrong because they knew there was going to be a punishment, something scary would happen to them. I think if we communicated this way than the rate of street kids would be fewer. Iintsomi are stories told by grandmothers just before bedtime these stories could be things that happened long ago and are told from generation to generation. It is also a form of communication between the whole family.

The training and making of the programme

The training was very interesting and tiring . We had to know exactly what we are working with e.g. the four track mixer we had to know the field recorder when and how to decrease or increase the volume . Getting contacts and phoning the people to make appointments. We also travelled to the Transkei to get some stories   which was fun until the equipment got moist and we could not record for that day, one set back for the day. The transport was terrible we could not go to as much places because off transport the day we were returning from Enxabaxa we had to walk to the main road and still wait an hour for a hike. We did manage to come with our stories .When we sit and talk about the trip to Transkei we can laugh for hours.

Other projects

At this moment I have just passed my matric at cape college. This year I am doing marketing management N4 at the Cape College.   I am also a member of Media Watch.
I also sometimes take the minutes of the meetings that we have and type them out .I joined Media Watch because I am very interested in the representation of women in the media.
I will be interested in taking part in their next course as I missed the last Gender and communication course.

Plans for the future

Charmain recording Iintsomi (children’s tales) with grandmothers at an old age home (1997)

My plans for this year is to do a programme on Gay and Lesbian rights and what the community thinks about them. This will include a radio drama. It’s time they let their voices be heard too. I also plan to pass the course that I am doing in Marketing Management with flying colours. I believe this course and this knowledge that I have about radio productions will take me somewhere some day soon.  My plans for the future also include being the best mother to my daughter Lynne who is 2 years.

My advice to youngsters is if you set your mind to doing something you can do it.
Make it happen!

Another interesting link from previous:

Radio Training



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33 Responses to 2013 Feb. 8: “Let your voices be heard”

  1. Pingback: Inkanyiso - "Let Your Voices be Heard"

  2. Nomagugu Bapela says:

    Wow……this is too amazing having to go all through that and you still standing and being a great woman of power! It takes great courage to do that, as much as people would judge about being a lesbian u still remain a child of God. He still sees the best in you even when they see the worst in you!!!! May God take you to greater heights and may his hand of favour and blessings be upon you……ALL THE BEST!

  3. mpho morejane says:

    Am so motivated n inspired

  4. ndurmiey says:

    Wow…….you’re a strong woman Charmain, such inspiration..

  5. HOLAA! says:

    Hi there! We really love your initiative and would love to do a feature on it for our site. Would it be possible for us to connect? holaafricaonline@gmail.com

  6. maroga says:

    ..true essence of an amazing and women of perseverence..in most levels I’m convinced you went through same challenges that I faced ..so proud of you and would appreciate meeting you…… Indeed I look unto you carol.*bowing*

  7. Am a lesbian in Pretoria but originaly from Eastern Cape.I’ve been through alot myslef,but i just want to know where can i find this organization in PTA?please assist I need to open-up myself.thank you

  8. nkunzi says:

    Charmain if you are the one called me regarding that event please contact me as I have been trying to get hold of you and I don’t know some how the email that you sent me got delete. So here is my email nkunzi0712@gmail.com or call me on 0768610048

  9. Pingback: 2013 March 8: Affirmation – I Am A Lesbian | inkanyiso.org

  10. Yolisa Mdila says:

    You have been through a lot Carrol but what I admire you the most is the fact that you do not let opportunities pass you. God’s willing you are going far in this life.
    A woman of substance indeed.

    Yolisa Mdila (Cape town)

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  13. Hi there you have a good weblog over here! Thanks for sharing this interesting information for us! If you keep up the great work I’ll visit your website again. Thanks!

  14. hello, that is a cool report! it gave me exactly the information i was looking for!! lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails

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  23. website says:

    As usual, really fascinating and also helpful piece on 2013 Feb.
    8: Let your voices be heard ..

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  27. Nokwanda says:

    Mangwanya ndiyazi being part of da route nd people u met kulondlela wawuyihamba ndithi united we stand sakhathele uthulu we shud tell our stories nd write nt be ashamed nd feel pitty Sisonke Jolinkomo.

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  32. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally
    educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is an issue that not enough people are speaking
    intelligently about. I am very happy I found this during my hunt
    for something concerning this.

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