Written by Katlego Kganyago
The incredible queer warrior Roché Kester describes herself as a “passionate activist, poet and recent Feather Award Honoree.” Roché currently works as Director of Gauteng’s LGBTQIA+ And Others Desk in the office of Premier David Makhura. It has been a long time coming for Roché Kester whose meteoric and inspiring rise to success began when she was a peer educator at the University of Western Cape. During her student years, Roché co-hosted The Salon at UWC’s Bush Radio. Roché found herself deep in the advocacy space in Cape Town’s Triangle Project (as political advocacy coordinator) and later secured a position as Hate Crimes Manager at the Tshwane-based OUT, where she dealt with survivors of hate crimes/ discrimination daily. In 2021 Roché was awarded the Feather Award Role Model of The Year.
Katlego: What challenges are you facing in your field?
Roché: Our directorate is new, we have to lead conversations with departments to see how they can help mainstream LGBTQIA+ service delivery within their plans and their indicators, and see how it is budgeted for and also how it is monitored. It requires a lot of thinking and revisiting. The concretisation of that specifically is challenging. Education and awareness in general within government structures is what we are working on especially in terms of LGBTQIA+ vocabulary, sensitivity around queer people and working actively to create programming for LGBTQIA+ people.
K: What has been the highlight so far?
R: The highlight so far is seeing the willingness of government departments to just come to the party as well. The perception is that people don’t work and they aren’t enthusiastic, but we have had so many meaningful and inspiring conversations with departments such as the Department of Social Development as well as the Department of Community Safety.
K: Who do you look up to and why?
R: Bev Ditsie and Steve Letsike. I admire organisations such as Thami Dish Foundation, Triangle Project, OUT, Access Chapter 2. I know how hard they work behind the scenes.
K: Where do you find the strength to do the work you are called for?
R: It is very deliberate and intentional.
K: Any advice you would like to share with our readers that would love to follow your path?
R: I would say brace yourself. This work is not easy and it is taxing. It is emotional and sometimes draining but on the same note, there are pockets of people who will support you because you are necessary as a voice to bring change to the community.
K: How did you feel when you received The Feathers Role Model of The Year Award?
R: I was really honoured. I was being supported by the community for the work and I also have to acknowledge that I have many role models who have shaped me.