LGBTQIA+ ICON: IRENE //GAROËS

Written by Motlatsi Motseoile

 

If you are wondering what a feminist world could possibly look like, feel like or be like, – Namibian feminist activist Irene //Garoës has imagined it and is working towards it daily. It is her life’s mission to provide knowledge-building work so that people are informed about their rights and can take action to demand their human rights. Having known she was passionate about justice, equality and human rights, Irene joined the police force hoping to put her passion to action.  While there, she realised she wanted to be part of spaces that hold those in power accountable and provide communities with tools to organise themselves. 

 

Today, she is the programme manager for Young Feminists Movement Namibia (Y-Fem Namibia Trust), where she advocates for adolescent girls and young women, LBQ women and rural women to set their own agendas or sit at tables where agendas are set. She is also the co-founder of pride Pop-Up Namibia, which is leading queer entertainment in Namibia by holding pride expos and live music concerts for and by LGBTQIA+ communities and their allies, holding poetry and acoustic nights and supporting the LGBTQIA+ community in Namibia with economic justice activities.

 

Irene also works with Women’s Leadership Centre where she builds transformative feminists leadership of lesbian women in Namibia through writing and creative arts. “I’m a feminist activist that believes strongly in movement building for change. I grew up seeing inequality everywhere and coming into my own power, I realized that I cannot just let things be,” she reflects. 

 

Her ideal world is free of violence, and everyone has access and opportunities to realise their full potential. Hearing this, you know she does not just talk the talk, but she walks it as well. In a country such as Namibia that still holds on to Apartheid laws that criminalise same-sex relations, she holds dialogues with various stakeholders throughout Namibia to critically analyse laws that are violent to certain groups of people, as they pursue total equality and freedom. 

She further believes that there are harmful cultural norms and narratives that control women and young girls on the African continent. Of this, she says: “The world we live in has not been designed for women to thrive and make decisions over their own lives, bodies, health, sexuality, land and their own money. We need to disrupt harmful norms and narratives that decide for us who we are and how we should be treated.” Irene is of the view that this world is possible, “if we keep on pushing, every little step counts.” Despite the difficulties that are faced by LGBTQIA+ communities across the continent, she acknowledges the gains of activists who came before her and remains resilient in her movement building. 

 

Irene states boldly: “I find joy in everything I do. I try to live in the present as much as I can and just appreciate all that is within me and surrounds me.” She is a respected and adored feminist leader, and activist. Irene holds herself to a standard of normalcy and honesty; and believes that people will experience her differently and that is part of their individual truth. With that considered, she hopes they all remember her in the unique ways they experienced her. The African continent ought to remember Irene as a bold, fearless and fierce feminist who was not afraid of her own power and used it to benefit others – near and far.

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