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The future of South Asia’s LGBT community is bright

The future of South Asia’s LGBT community is bright

Trans advocate Akkai Padmashali, shares her journey with the summit participants and future LGBT leader.

India’s fourth Youth Leadership Summit has just wrapped up leaving organizers optimistic about the future of LGBT advocacy in the country.

Held in the western city of Bengaluru, the annual summit aims to identify potential leaders among LGBT youth and prepare them for future leadership roles.

The attendees were selected from from South Asian Association Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries. The SAARC countries are; India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan.

More than 250 young people applied to attend the summit from which 35 were chosen. They were selected based on their leadership potential and willingness to engage on LGBT issues.

The theme for the summit this year was ‘Oneness. Togetherness. Happiness; with a focus on inclusivity in diversity.

New friends and inspiration

MINGLE (Mission for Indian Gay & Lesbian Empowerment) organized the two-day summit. MINGLE is the first kind LGBT think-tank and advocacy group in the region.

After the summit participants said they were not only inspired to make change, but had made new friends.

‘MINGLE has reminded me that although the cultures and contexts that LGBT come from are different, there are universal issues that all LGBT people face,’ said participant Patrick Drown.

‘Ideas of self-love, acceptance, and labelling oneself are issues that all LGBT people face in their journey of owning their own identity.

‘I feel privileged to be able to now have a network of queer South Asians whose life experiences may be different than mine, but still share some of the same issues that al LGBT people face.

‘LGBT people gathering with other LGBT people is not only important, it is necessary. We can amplify each other voices to grow am even bigger platform to create change.’

The summit helped the youth leaders understand their personalities, strengths, and beliefs. It helped them know themselves better and equipped them with an array of tools on leadership.

‘[It] brought together a dizzyingly diverse group of young leaders with inspiring achievements,’ said participant Anubhuti Banerjee.

‘In the course of the workshop we realized our uniqueness and our similarities.

‘As we spoke and we listened we found many answers, and raised many new questions, learned to question our beliefs, and ultimately found how we are all better together, as a team spread out all over India and South Asia, leading the change.’