“I’m a member of the organisation, FreeGender, here in Khayelitsha in Cape Town. I did the organisation’s media communications.
“One day, one of my colleagues told me about the Children’s Radio Foundation, which looks at training people to become youth reporters. I jumped at the opportunity.
“We start out training in how to put together audio dramas. Our first audio drama was called Ntloziyo Ndise (Take My Heart There). It’s about the experiences of lesbians and gay men in the townships here.
“There were about 10 of us in that group, but it was like we had one spirit, because we were telling our story about how we were treated in our communities.
“After becoming a youth reporter, I eventually became a facilitator and am now the co-ordinator of Future Positive.
“As part of this, I mentor HIV-positive youth at Nolungile Youth Clinic to become youth reporters and tell their own stories. For this, they go out and do vox pops, audio profiles on people in their communities and also commentary from people on issues affecting them.
“We also have live debates. For this, we partner with the community radio station here, Zibonele FM.
“Once, I spoke on Zibonele FM about how LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] people are treated here — how lesbians are raped and murdered — and, you know, it really changed people’s attitudes.
“Before I spoke on that show, I was seen by the people in my community as different; almost like an animal or something that doesn’t exist. But after sharing my story on radio, I saw a big change in my community.
“After that broadcast, I was featured in a local newspaper, in a story about me going to attend the World Aids Conference in Durban this year.
“I was walking down the road when these young kids came running up to me with the newspaper in the hands, screaming: ‘Sikubonile ephepheni!’ [We saw you in the paper.]
“The older people were asking what I was going to do in Durban and I said I’m going to represent myself and people with HIV here in our community and they said: ‘Okay, go and represent all of us here.’
“I was like, wow, that kind of respect is something new to me; something big.
“Now they see me as a woman. So doing that radio work has really shown people that we as LGBTI people exist.
“It has shown people what we think — and what we feel.” — Velisa Jara, 30, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian