Amani Cassim
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Society has progressed significantly, becoming more inclusive and accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community. Countless movements and activists have participated in the efforts to achieving this, including the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G).CSA&G aims to “[explore] diversity and [enable] inclusivity”. They do this in UP’s very own Akanyang building.

What began as the Centre for the Study of AIDS in 1999 has since expanded its primary focus from HIV/AIDS to broader aspects of human rights and social justice. Founded by Mary Crewe, CSA&G was initially created to assist UP in coping with the influx of HIV cases. Chris Joubert, a former volunteer and current facilitator, stated that the centre evolved to “[stop] being just about AIDS and started being about different topics that very commonly overlap with HIV”. Thus, the CSA&G continues to offer HIV testing and counseling, in addition to a variety of programmes that involve students in the pursuit of creating a safe and inclusive environment within UP.

Among these programmes is Just Leaders. Through this programme, volunteers are trained to conduct research that provides a comprehensive understanding and education on HIV, sexuality, and gender. Additionally, volunteers are trained to become leaders of inclusivity within communities, beginning with sex education in high schools.

The coordinator for community engagement, Belinda Pakati, stated that “it actually helps [high schoolers] understand themselves as sexual beings and how to conduct themselves”. Pakati feels that “each and every generation of the community benefited from the centre”, which provides imperative knowledge on social issues and misconceptions that affect people of all ages. While the current theme is comprehensive sexuality, the focus of this education is adjusted to the new developments in society. Joubert described the programme as a project that continuously evolves to include new aspects underexplored in the field of humanities.

Pakati described how “people [involved at the centre] are very warm”, “helpful” and “not judgmental”. The volunteers and the team are surrounded by people who “help you to grow” – Crewe’s legacy that the staff continues to embody. The centre is an open and accepting space for all. This enables students to feel more comfortable discussing ‘taboo’ subjects such as the spectrums of sexuality and gender, as well as the implications of living with HIV.

The CSA&G can be credited for their efforts to increase inclusivity and education within the university, as well as on a broader scale.