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Pride Month: Happy looks to amplify LGBTQIA+ voices through leadership

Pride Month: Happy looks to amplify LGBTQIA+ voices through leadership

After a year of being on hold, Happy Phaleng, the POP INN Project Coordinator at The Aurum Institute and an LGBTQIA+ activist, has successfully applied and been accepted into The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). This milestone paves the way for his remarkable role within the LGBTQIA+ community, a community he proudly identifies with.

The application process was not without its challenges for Happy, who serves the Aurum POP INN project, offering free sexual health services to Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and Transgender Women (TGW) in Tembisa, Mbombela, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, and Pretoria in 2021. Despite his initial doubts, Happy seized this opportunity, recognising its potential benefits for both his personal growth and the betterment of the community he serves. He eagerly stated,

"This opportunity will not only enhance my own leadership skills but also contribute to the work I do."

YALI, an initiative by USAID for International Development, aims to invest in the next generation of African leaders. Happy's acceptance into the program as a project coordinator specialising in civic leadership, community development, and advocacy feels like destiny to him. He believes it will be a game-changer, allowing him to strategically plan his advocacy work and engage with LGBTQIA+ issues. He enthusiastically shared,

"Interacting with like-minded individuals in this environment will enable me to learn from their best practices, understand their challenges, and share my own experiences."

Looking ahead, Happy envisions a stronger advocacy effort and aims to explore the LGBTQIA+ agenda within an African context, transcending borders. In light of recent news about the anti-LGBTQIA+ law in Uganda, Happy's motivation has surged, as he anticipates using the skills gained from YALI to influence policies and bills in African countries that still criminalize LGBTQIA+ individuals. He acknowledges the vital work of activists across the continent and aims to build upon their efforts.

With his sights set on the future, Happy intends to apply for other scholarship opportunities. Joining forces with fellow activists, he aspires to amplify the voices of the community and create a better, healthier world for key populations.

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