I am a social justice activist advocating for sustainable development at the intersection of gender, technology and human rights. Appointed as African Youth Charter Hustler for Mauritius by the African Union Office of the Youth Envoy, I foster the active appropriation by LGBTQI+ youth of their rights by taking a decolonial perspective on sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression. In parallel, I advocate for diversity and inclusion at the Youth Sounding Board of the European Commission for International Partnerships, YouthLead Youth Advisory Group and Global Schools Program of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. As Advocacy Coordinator at the Young African Leaders Initiative Mauritius Chapter Committee, I amplify the voices of LGBTQI+ youth to ensure that their interests are taken into
account in planning and decision-making processes. I have just completed my tenure as country lead of the local chapters of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network, Youth Advocacy Council, International Youth Council, International Youth Society, International Youth Development Society, Thought for Food, Grand Africa Initiative and African Network of Youth Policy Experts. I have previously volunteered as mentor for the Mentoring Women in Business Programme at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the Impact Challenge at Opportunity Desk. I now sit on the advisory board of the Steering for Greatness Foundation, Agents of Peace Kenya, Inspirit Creatives, CIVICUS Solidarity Fund and Global Peace Chain.
I am a fellow at Future Africa, African ChangeMakers Initiative, TEDx Johannesburg, African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative and World Youth Alliance. My awards include the Mauritius National Youth Excellence Award, Promising Indian African Award, Panache Woman of Wonder Award, The International Alliance for Women World of Difference Award, National Youth Awardees Federation of India International Youth Award, India’s Youth Development Board Shining Star Award, Mauritius Woman of the Year Award and Noble Citizen Award. I am the first ever United Nations Religion Fellow from Mauritius at OutRight Action International, through which I harness the international law system to protect LGBTQI+ people from religiously-motivated violence. I represented the LBTI Caucus at the 2021 Virtual Townhall Meeting with the UN Secretary-General at the 65th Commission on the Status of Women. I was a speaker at the 2021 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on behalf of the LGBTI Stakeholder Group at the official thematic session on SDGs 1, 2, 8 and 17. In July 2021, I entered the 2021 Global Online Edition of the Activist Academy and won one of the three Supreme Activist Academy Trophies. This competition, intended for young LGBTQI+ activists worldwide, is organized by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organisation (IGLYO) with the support of the Council of Europe, European Youth Foundation, Government of Netherlands and the Rights Equality and Citizenship (REC) programme 2014-2020 of the European Union. I also won the video contest organized by the World Bank Group at the 2021 Virtual International Finance Corporation Sustainability Exchange for my submission on LGBTQI+ inclusion in the workplace and challenging gender stereotypes in STEM fields. I was selected to advocate in favour of social inclusion of young people from marginalized groups at the roundtable of the 2021 Youth2030 Forum for the United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly. Additionally, my activism story was featured in a queer anthology published by Taboom Media and GALA Queer Archive entitled “Hopes and Dreams That Sound Like Yours: Stories of Queer Activism in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
As legal lead of the #Reform53 campaign at the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network (CYGEN), I challenge current conceptions of sexism that privilege the experiences of cisgender men, with stale and superficial approaches to diversity, leaving LGBTQI+ groups ambling along without meaningful improvement. Although these are vestiges of the British
Empire’s rule, a shared problem lends itself to shared solutions. Similar legal and political systems, and the use of English as a common language, enable knowledge-sharing and collective work to challenge discrimination. Ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in late 2021, I lead the lobbying for the reform of laws discriminating against LGBTQI+ people in Commonwealth countries. During our campaign launch week in January 2020, three High Commissioners and two Commonwealth Secretariat divisions vowed their support. In February, we presented the campaign at the Equality and Justice Alliance Forum in Seychelles and the She Decides festival in Uganda. In March, we obtained the United Nations Secretary- General’s Envoy on Youth’s endorsement. Unfortunately, in April 2020, our work came to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, undeterred, I managed to keep our campaign alive online. I publicized the campaign in Mauritius and across Africa, resulting in us being featured by 15 print and 27 online media houses. I am the linchpin of a webinar series designed to map out what is at stake for LGBTQI+ people in the virtual world. Through simple explanations that demystify the technical jargon, I endeavour to empower LGBTQI+ people to safeguard their fundamental freedoms while upholding the rule of law and principles of democracy. So far, our webinars have garnered more than 100,000 views and engaged more than 300,000 people. In the wake of the pandemic where historical inequalities have been exacerbated, I strive to leverage the power of social media to advocate for learning, dialogue and development spaces that are respectful, inclusive and
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?
When I started my activism at grassroots level, I was unaware that prejudices that manifest online can lead to physical harm, and that marginalized communities, such as LGBTQI+ people are especially vulnerable. When the COVID-19 outbreak pushed most activities online, I was prompted to dig deeper into the intersection of human rights and technology. I learned that online surveillance and censorship impact everyone’s rights, predominantly those who are excluded in the society. The use of new technology often reinforces cultural and customary biases, making those people particularly prone to discrimination and security threats. As steering committee member of the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network, I now educate activists on the means to protect their rights to information, privacy and security. As Community Leader for Internet Health at Digital Grassroots, I co-authored a report on LGBT Rights in the Digital Space. The recommendations therein stemmed from the panel discussion I hosted as part of the Paradigm Initiative Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum to provide LGBTQI+
people and civil society members with practical techniques on social accountability and monitoring.
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
I encourage young activists working on the same cause to present a united front as a coalition to boost their chances of success. I welcome requests from allies to join our campaign calls to action, participate in our events and exchange advocacy resources. I invite collaborators to share our #Reform53 promotional campaign videos and infographics. I ask supporters to share a selfie with our campaign logo drawn on their palm via social media and tag CYGEN.
• CYGEN campaign videos
• CYGEN social media accounts:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CYGENetwork
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/CYGENetwork
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cygenetwork/
• Tanya's social media profiles:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NandiniTanya/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nandini_Tanya
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nandini_tanya/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nandinitanya/