by Lerato Dumse
Looking at statistics, it seems like I’m more likely to become a hate/crime victim than get a job.
According to the results from the 2011 census, conducted by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the country experienced a population growth.
The population increased to 51.77 million people and under 40’s made up the bulk of the spurt.
While the population is on the rise and middle aged citizens increasing, there is also a troubling statistic that is equally on the rise.
Unemployment for black women, who make up the majority of the population, stands at 41% and that means chances of finding employment are pretty bleak.
As a black female graduate searching for employment, I have a lot at stake.
Not only am I a black woman but I am also an openly gay black woman looking for employment.
While employers are not allowed to discriminate, I run a higher risk of a potential employer discriminating against me for being lesbian.
I have questions but no one to pose them to..
I want to go up to some ‘expert’ and ask them where I can find these elusive employment opportunities.
I would want to know why are they not available to black females? I would also want to know why they are not available to a black female who is openly gay.
Could it be an issue of class or that of race? What is so wrong with black women, is it lack of skills or just continued prejudice inherited from the past?
My thoughts fall on Affirmative Action which is often criticized for “putting white people at a disadvantage and allowing reverse apartheid”. From where I’m standing, the wheels of apartheid are far from reversing; but continue to move forward comfortably and unchallenged.
Statistics show my employment opportunity is a frustrating 28%. Most companies advertising on the classifieds say they promote equal employment opportunities and encourage black women to apply as dictated by the Employment Equity Act. I start to wonder if this is not just a smoke screen.
A fellow KwaThema resident who was openly lesbian the late, Eudy Simelane, defied the employment odds and was due to start a new job. That day never came as she was murdered less than 48 hours before her first day at work. Apart from playing soccer and representing the national women’s team Banyana Banyana, as well as volunteering to work with HIV positive people, she volunteered as a soccer coach and referee. The job at a law firm had a monthly salary, a first for the then 31 year old.
Despite these challenges and the grim picture painted about me as a black lesbian woman, I refuse to be deterred from my plan of one day earning and being able to care for my family.
Entrepreneurship and self-employment sound like practical solutions to this challenge.
Being in the media industry I understand that content production is a vital asset. I also understand that without resources and equipment, “content production” is just a word.
During the Out In Africa film festival, I watched the story of the “abused black lesbian” continue to be told from the eyes of an outsider, telling the story from their perspective.
Speaking in English, the Xhosa “hate crime” survivor couldn’t even express her story properly. It was uncomfortable listening and trying to make out what she’s saying. Our stories in the hands of outsiders will always be “portrayed” rather than be told. Daunting question I’m left with is, ‘Where are our own black LGBT entrepreneurs/ tender-preneurs who’ll offer us jobs without judging our race, class, sexuality and gender expression?’ Where can we get resources and produce films and documentaries that will speak to us as insiders than to have people who are careless about our lives re-late our realities when we are left poor, down and out in our townships. As a black lesbian, I refuse to be a statistic.
I want to use my connections in the media industry and create for myself as well as other black lesbian women.
I have to take a chip at that unemployment statistic.
Sometimes it is incumbent upon us, although scary, to take the bull by the horns and do the unthinkable – create our own opportunities.
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