The 21st International AIDS Conference held in South Africa’s Durban opened on a high note. The opening session was a hive of activities with HIV and AIDS activists from around the globe gathering in the main arena for programmed proceedings. It was a priceless moment for the GALZ Board chair and LGBTI activists in attendance. Martha Tholanah the GALZ Board chair was presented with the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award amid screams and ululations.

The Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Awards recognises the exemplary efforts to advance human rights in the field of HIV and AIDS. All in smiles Martha went forward to receive the award presented to her by South African born American actress Charlize Theron. Presenting the award Theron said, “HIV isn’t just transmitted by sex – Its transmitted by sexism, racism, poverty and homophobia.” Charlize went on to say, “If we are going to end AIDS, we must cure the disease our hearts and minds first.” Theron continued to say “We value some lives more than others; we value men more than women; straight love more than gay love; white lives more than black lives, adults more than adolescents”

Formerly GALZ Programmes Manager, Martha leads and sits in a number of boards of HIV and AIDS and Human Rights organisations. Commenting on the development GALZ Director Chesterfield Samba expressed joy and pride saying, “We are proud of Martha’s recognition of the tremendous work she does with diverse communities. Her recognition is testimony to where her roots are anchored; she brings a whole new meaning to community.”

Diana Mailosi, GALZ Advocacy Officer praised Martha for this achievement saying, “Martha has not only been instrumental to the LGBTI and HIV movement and mentoring of upcoming activists.” Mailosi continued to express her admiration of Martha’s work saying, “She has given a lot of expertise to the movement that is befitting her effort be recognised and her contribution celebrated.”

Receiving her award, Martha went forward holding a Zimbabwean flag in her hand. In accepting the award, Tholanah said she was “one of millions of civil society activists” whom governments were “using discriminatory legal structures, smear campaigns and violent attacks. The Elizabeth Taylor award is Tholanah’s second award. In 2015 she won the David Kato Vision and Voice award in recognition of her courageous leadership in advocating for the rights of LGBTI person in Zimbabwe.
GALZ is a membership organisation providing services to the Zimbabwean LGBTI community in areas such as counselling, health, legal assistance and the provision of information on LGBTI issues. //ends