“I have had to fight a lot of battles as a HIV positive, black and gender non-conforming queer body in South Africa, such as limited access to healthcare, stigma and discrimination,” says thirty-year-old non-binary LGBTI and HIV/AIDS activist, Nkokheli Mankayi. It is through those battles that Mankayi constantly implements new strategies to advocate for equal healthcare rights for all, consequently establishing a movement for sexual and gender minorities that are side-lined.

Mankayi recently convened a dialogue to discuss possible ways for the liberation of transgender and gender diverse persons in South Africa. The panel of speakers consisted of Mary Hames from Gender Equity, Leigh Davids of SistaazHood SWEAT, Trauma Practioner from TRE for Africa Claire Gemmil, Whitney Quanita Booysen of the Trans Wellness Project as well as Zachary Akani Shimange from Gender Dynamix. The interactive dialogue also looked at the impact of colonisation on access to healthcare and ideas for new tools to work in improving healthcare for all queer persons were brainstormed.

Mankayi currently works as a Health Facilitator for Enhancing Care Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides key health system strengthening capacity building, as well as clinical and non-clinical research services. In addition to being a chairperson of Sinethemba LGBTI Group, a community based organisation that aims to act as a safe space for the LGBTI community in Lower Cross Roads, Cape Town, Mankayi sits in advisory boards of various activist organisations and groups within the LGBTI community. Mankanyi, whose resolute determination in LGBTI rights advocacy is a force to be reckoned with, is also a member of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers network

Mankayi says Trans and gender diverse individuals in South Africa are still the most marginalised community and for that reason their rights and needs are often neglected. This is mostly due to cultural and religious principles. “I organised the dialogue as a platform for transgender and gender diverse people to come together, share experiences and possibly come up with innovative solutions for their day to day struggles,” they add.

Their activism work stretches back to their varsity days where they volunteered as a peer educator for Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s HIV/AIDS Unit and later founded one of the institution’s most active LGBTI student organisation, GlosCPUT. The organisation mainly focused on the recognition and inclusion of LGBTI students and this is where Mankayi’s passion for activism was tested and strengthened.

“My dream is to alleviate all forms of discrimination against queer bodies even though I am aware that we still have a long way to go as South Africa is a culture and religion orientated country. However, I will continue finding new ways to make life comfortable for my fellow LGBTI community members,” they say.

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