VOY INSPIRE: Tshepo Jamillah Moyo
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I have always wanted to interview someone who shares the same
sentiments as me when it comes to gender issues and feminism and
hopes for Africa. Someone who has dedicated her time to teach
girls that they are superheroes and to never hide their light.
Tshepo Jamillah Moyo is a 22-year-old Motswana superwoman,
writer, and gender activist. This was a fun interview to do
because Tshepo is someone I have always admired.
1. First things first, who is Tshepo Jamillah Moyo?
Tshepo Jamillah Moyo, also sometimes “The Joy”, but always a Poet, Woman and Super Hero. Born in 1994, I’m passionate about few things, namely, words, women, coffee and naps. I’m born of faith, and bred from patience. I am currently attempting to finish a degree in Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Botswana while serving as a Chairperson of the newly founded Higher Heights for Girls Organization. Formerly a journalist at The Tswana Times Newspaper and also a published poet, I’ve made it a habit to do cool things with my time when I am not napping. Sometimes she is a performance artist but these days she is mostly a feminist, gender activist and writer. She also really likes dogs.
2. Tell us about Higher Heights for Girls (HHGO). What inspired you to start it?
I was tired of a number of things. I was tired of Twitter activism firstly. I got to a point where I just felt like this is not the real work, this is not the place where I can really add value to the world. Not to say that Twitter activism isn’t real or isn’t important. HHGO’s mandate is to save the lives of the young people we work with. HHGO is a feminist organization that deals with socio-economic development issues in relation to young people, more specifically 15-25 year olds. This means we work around a number of issues, unemployment, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual reproductive health, politics, and disability, all from a gender lens in order to see how we can address this issues, balancing out the genders for gender equity not equality. HHGO has an amazing team of 10 who work tirelessly to make sure that we can provide a strong enough influence on actual lives.
3. What are your organization’s achievements so far?
Not many actually. We’ve been active for about a year now. Our
first year was mostly aimed at research and getting ourselves
steady; having some sort of organizational structure before
opening up our membership, looking into funding etc. So a
majority of HHGO’s work in the past year has been in
collaboration with a lot of other organizations in order to
sensitize young people to Gender based Violence and Sexual and
Reproductive Health and Rights. So we’ve become friends with a
couple of organizations, Ispeak Botswana, Project Concern
International, Men and Boys for Gender Equality to name but a
few. We’ve even built ourselves an international partnership with
the Coalition of African Lesbians in Johannesburg, South Africa
on the “I am more than campaign”. HHGO reached about 75 young
people last year. Most of which were at senior secondary level
and tertiary level. This is both through events we were invited
to speak at as well as our first installation of the Higher
Heights Dialogues which will hopefully return once we find a
4. Your goals for Higher Heights for Girls this year?
It’s a big year for HHGO this year. Our strategic plan includes
infiltrating the Ministry of Education as well as creating a
strong online presence. Not on Facebook or Twitter but through
material, articles, videos, and other forms of learning material.
We really want to put out more material. We’re also looking at a
lot of fundraising projects in collaboration with the Botswana
art scene and will hopefully be creating employment through that.
It’s hard to answer this question without disclosing too much so
I’m going to stop there.
5. Where do you see Africa in 50 years? What are the
challenges limiting us as a continent right now?
Neo-colonialism is so real but our young people are decolonising.
South Africa is one such example. They have the potential to
completely change the direction of Africa’s development. I am
however worried that young people are way too hungry to share
their wealth, which is a serious problem in the long run. Right
now? Africa looks like it’s heading for success. Over 50% of
Africa is below the age of 35; we literally have the power to
press delete and start over. We, however, still need to
decolonise a lot of minds.
6. Your work was recently published on Walking the Tightrope:
Poetry & Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa. Kindly tell us
more about that.
That was another opportunity that just showed up. It just fell on
my lap and I happened to have a love poem lying around. I didn't
think they would take it either. But they did. And I completely
forgot about it till September last year when they emailed me to
say that we were getting published. I was so excited. I didn't
tell anyone about it though because I didn't want it not to
happen. I'd promised myself another publication by 21. The book
went live 4 days before my 22nd birthday. I haven't received a
copy yet but I can't wait and I really hope you guys will buy it.
It's an important piece of literature.
7. What are your views on the stigma and abuse LGBTQ go
I used to be homophobic. I didn't understand why, I was offended by feminine gay men and I was annoyed by lesbian women. Trans people I just didn't get. But I was young and these things are learned and unlearned. And I'm sure I've been a terrible human to someone from the LGBTQ community. But what I've learned in the past couple of years is that it's none of my business what anyone's sexual orientation is. And that automatically implies a place of tolerance. But honestly once you begin to think of sexuality as something fluid and flexible you begin to realize love is love. People should be free to love who they love. If I want to love a woman no one should have a right over my love. The truth is people find LGBTQ communities offensive because they threaten their patriarchal hetero normative way of life. The one that's entrenched in violence and controlling people.
8. What are your future project(s)?
I am currently working on a small collection of poetry: Love
notes to black girls. It's going to be free online as an apology
to all the people who've been nagging me for years to put out
some work. It will also be an apology to my writing alter ego
“The Joy” because I had to completely remove her from the stage
in order to concentrate on HHGO.
9. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Honestly? I’d tell her that she doesn’t need to set herself on
fire to keep other people warm. Or at least read her “the Warsan
Shire” poem that line is from.
10. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write as much as you read. Even journaling counts.