Written by Siliziwe Mapalala
Mino Likwasi is a Zambian queer activist who co-founded the Women’s Alliance for Equality (WAFE). When Mino and their colleague noticed that visibility and interventions were mostly targeted at gay men, they decided to come together to form WAFE, which aims to create a space for LBQ voices to also be amplified within the broader LGBTQIA+ movement in Zambia. Along with being the co-founder of WAFE, Mino is also a trustee of The Other Foundation.
Though Mino was traveling, they were able to make time to answer a few questions for us. When asked what changes they have witnessed over the years being involved in activism in Zambia, they noted that 5 to 10 years ago the narrative on LGBTQIA+ issues was almost completely negative, but in the last few years they have started seeing a shift to a more neutral to positive narrative. “Allies are more visible and vocal; people are freer to be openly LGBTIQA+ allies.”
But as Mino talks to the progress made, they also highlight the setbacks:
“I feel however that this has been rolled back by this Ban Homosexuality Movement that has been organising all of this month. Since they started organising, we have seen a rise in calls to inflict violence against LGBTQIA+ people.”
They suspect that the increases in hate crimes are driven by political motives, with Zambia declaring itself a ‘Christian Nation’, justifying the bigotry. But Mino is still hopeful, acknowledging that there has been increased visibility, tolerance and acceptance in some parts, pointing to the fact that broader change is still possible.
Mino enjoys sports, whether football, tennis, cricket or athletics. They follow the English Premier League, and are an avid supporter of the Chelsea Football Club (I ask that football fans not use this as a platform to fight).
Mino is the voice that Africa needs; with a cool, calm yet strong demeanour, speaking up against injustice and creating safe spaces in the face of opposition. With more individuals like Mino we could see a free and just society within our lifetime.