In March, I had an opportunity to participate in a SADC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Activists Forum in Johannesburg South Africa. The SADC LGBTIQ+ Activists Forum sought to strengthen regional collaboration both at in-country, regional and at international level to foster positive change, and brought together LGBTIQ+ Human Rights Defenders, representatives of LGBTIQ+ organisations, and regional networks to collectively draw up a regional advocacy agenda for the next years. As we discussed what change looks like, it became apparent that a lot of work still needs to be done in changing systems because they set the foundation on which we interact and engage with each other. One interesting concept that came up was interrogating violence as a system of oppression. This was interesting to me because a lot of the time when we think about violence, we imagine physical violence and totally disregard how systems can be violent to us as well. With that in mind, perhaps the conversation we should be having, is how we dismantle these systems to ensure human equity. Choya Adkison-Stevens describes oppression as a system or worldview based in and placing value on hierarchy, domination, exploitation, violence, degradation, control and power over others. It involves the systematic and pervasive mistreatment of individuals on the basis of their membership in a group disadvantaged by this system. Oppression occurs at each level of society – internal, interpersonal, cultural, institutional, and structural. Colonialism, patriarchy, ableism, heteronormativity, racism, religious persecution, LGBT phobia are just some of the systems that intersect to create power imbalances that then benefit a few and marginalise everyone else. In the case of Botswana, we pride ourselves in being inclusive and having a secular system for example, but the reality on the ground is that we are a very Christian nation. When we have a community gathering, we open it by praying to the Christian God, as a nation we celebrate and observe Christian holidays and even have them as national holidays, if that does not scream Christian nation then I do not know what will. When I speak of religious persecution, I mean the systematic mistreatment of an individual or a group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations or their lack thereof. As a queer person living in Botswana, religious leaders constantly tell me that I am an anomaly, that I do not deserve my humanity for the simple fact that I am queer. I have experienced first-hand, how hostile society can be when it comes to issues around sexual and gender diversity, and this is directly linked to the religious beliefs, practises and norms that put me below everyone else. We further see religious persecution being directly linked to other systems of oppression like colonialism and patriarchy. In these systems, we see a white, able bodied, cis gendered and heterosexual man creating a hierarchy that places him at the top, and everyone else below him. It is that figure who decides how society should run; who gets natural resources, who gets high paying jobs, what women can and cannot do with their bodies, who can be intimate with who, what faith people should align themselves with and so on. While the systems mentioned above may seem to be stand alone systems, in actual fact, they back each other up to create inequities that affect each of us individually, and collectively, we all suffer the consequences. Think of it this way; if a cis gendered, able bodied, heterosexual man sits in a position of power, and gathers others like him to sit with him, and make decisions about your life without having you or anyone like you on that table, and contributing to that decision, will their decision have your best interest at heart? How would they even know what your best interests are if you or anyone like you do not get the opportunity to speak for yourself? What impact would that have on your life as an individual, and how will that play out in the larger community? So, when I speak of violence as a system I speak of those things that we do not pay attention to, and think that they do not really make a difference, while in actual fact they are the root cause of the problem. I think, what would benefit us, is working together as a community to challenge these systems because you may not be a queer person but you are also subjected to violence, you are underpaid and your autonomy is only and idea, not your lived reality.