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Activist Beverley Ditsie receives honorary doctorate from US university

Beverley Palesa Ditsie is well-known for becoming the first African lesbian to address gay and lesbian rights before a conference of the United Nations (UN).

In 1995, the year after South Africa's first democratic election, she told the UN Conference on Women that if it was to address the concerns of all women “it must similarly recognise that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a violation of basic human rights.”

Read: Still a long way to go to achieve rights of LGBTI people in SA - SAHRC

Also Read: Gay SA Radio comes out online to highlight LGBTI realities

Now, decades later, the LGBTI activist and filmmaker has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the Claremont Graduate University in California.

On her return, she joined Phemelo Motene on Weekend Breakfast.

She says her UN address was a pivotal moment in her life, although she did not realise at the time that what she was doing, was groundbreaking.

On a personal level I knew that I had to take a stand and the stand that I took, if you look at the context of the time... we had a president that mentioned sexual orientation in his inauguration speech, tata Nelson Mandela... and all of those things made it momentous, but I didn't know I was the first African lesbian to have addressed the United Nations.

Beverley Palesa Ditsie, LGBTI activist

I only found out as I stepped off the podium and walked out of the plenary session and there was media all around me.

Beverley Palesa Ditsie, LGBTI activist

Ditsie says hearing she would be receiving an honorary doctorate was also unexpected and she first checked to see it wasn't a prank.

It wasn't just a surprise, it was a shock... Not in my wildest dreams did I think that somebody would want that...

Beverley Palesa Ditsie, LGBTI activist

I was honoured for that moment and for how my activism also transcended just being in front of the mic, my use of media and particularly film and TV work.

Beverley Palesa Ditsie, LGBTI activist

She says she's always felt that she has a calling and that her life is guided accordingly.

I just did what I knew needed to be done. From the very first Pride march and absolutely everything else since then, I just do what feels needs to be done.

Beverley Palesa Ditsie, LGBTI activist

Listen to the in-depth interview below:


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