Flying flag high for PMB and LGBTI community

2016-06-15 06:00
PHOTO: nicole john Pierre Buckley leaves for the United States tomorrow in the Mandela Washington Fellowship, part of the Young African Leaders Initiative developed by President Barack Obama.

PHOTO: nicole john Pierre Buckley leaves for the United States tomorrow in the Mandela Washington Fellowship, part of the Young African Leaders Initiative developed by President Barack Obama.

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PIERRE Buckley has been selected as one of the Mandela Washington Fellowship participants in the Young African Leaders Initiative (Yali) and will be leaving for America tomorrow, 16 June.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is in its third year and offers people from across Africa the opportunity of visiting tertiary institutions in the U.S. There are three tracks of study - business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public management.

The group this year includes 1 000 people from 46 countries in Africa with 60 from South Africa and only four from KwaZulu-Natal.

With a long association with the gay and lesbian network, Buckley will be flying the Pietermaritzburg flag as he represents not only the city but also the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in South Africa.

He will be spending six weeks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at Duquesne University, which was founded by Catholic nuns and is focused on religion.

Buckley manages all areas of health at the Gay and Lesbian Network (GLN) in Pietermaritzburg and has recently been appointed to the management committee for GLN.

Speaking to Maritzburg Fever, Buckley said his selection into the fellowship is an opportunity for him to grow GLN and take it to the next level in terms of an organisation that stands up and helps the LGBTI community.

“We have made inroads in the Pietermaritzburg community in terms of addressing religious organisations in terms of the LGBTI community so being at a university that is focused on religion will help me make more progress. I will be giving a lecture on tackling homophobia within the church as well,” he said.

Buckley said there are big problems and stigmas attached to the LGBTI community when it comes to religious organisations, but GLN has built good relationships with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council.

“I believe we have found the right balance to be able to gain access to religious institutions and teach them about the homosexual community in order for everyone to feel loved and welcome in their various places of worship.

“This is something I hope to share when I am abroad in order to teach others about what we are doing but also to find out what other countries are doing to make a change in their communities for LGBTI people,” said Buckley.

Buckley will also visit various families in America in order have the full cultural experience. He will also be doing exchange visits with religious, health and LGBTI non-governmental organisations.

One of the highlights of the trip will be that fellows meet President Barack Obama during a four-

day conference.

“I am so excited to be able to go on this journey and network with people. I am thrilled to be able to fly the GLN flag. After we finish with our exchange in America we have the opportunity to become ambassadors for the programme and have access to funding and other international opportunities so the experience is life- changing,” said Buckley.

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