Forum for the Empowerment of Women
FEW was established by black lesbian women activists living in Johannesburg in 2001. In a post 1994 South Africa and with the new constitution of 1996 recognising sexual orientation within the equality clause, it was clear that we had to organize ourselves to ensure that we were able to claim and live the rights entrenched in the constitution. Already, with increasing numbers of LGBTI people coming out and being visible both in everyday life as well as within human rights defending work, the age-old issues of discrimination, stigmatisation and marginalization were becoming more blatant. The group which initially began the conversation about organizing black lesbian women were concerned that within the broader LGBTI and women's human rights issues, black lesbian women were more vulnerable because of intersecting identities, contexts and realities.
FEW also recognised the power within our community – both black lesbian women, women in general and the LGBTI community – to confront the abuses that were being perpetrated against us in a democratic South Africa. Initially, the focus was on social space and service provision, including counseling and information, education and communication on key issues, health and related realities of lesbian lives. A key focus was on the issue of hate crimes, particularly rape and sexual assault, which were being reported in growing numbers. The hate crimes were being perpetrated based on assumptions about sexual orientation and gender identity which were seen as deviant and so worthy of responses by communities. This homophobia was directed at all LGBTI people, but the targeting of black lesbian women for this "fixing" was obvious and linked to the patriarchal nature of our society which in turn fed heteronormativity. Projects included a small scholarship fund for survivors of hate crime related violence, drama and soccer as processes to engage with black lesbian women.See more