The research provides an overview of LGBTQ organizing in a large and diverse region, drawing upon a wide range of perspectives and experiences of local activists and organizations. Though funding for LGBTQ activism in West Africa has historically focused on gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), the scan shows that more broad-based LGBTQ organizations are emerging. Several of these nascent groups are led by queer-identified women and gender non-conforming people.
Commissioned by a group of funders and activists, We Exist: Mapping LGBTQ Organizing in West Africa, is part of an exploratory and participatory process to shape the creation of a new, LGBTQ activist-led fund in West Africa. The research engaged a total of 50 groups and 180 activists from nine countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.
The scan is unique in bringing together viewpoints from Francophone and Anglophone countries and capturing the differences and commonalities for LGBTQ organizing among them. It outlines the supportive roles that local technical assistance providers and international organizations have been playing. The research also sheds light on the achievements of a growing movement that has received relatively little attention to date.
The report concludes with stakeholders’ recommendations for the priorities and management of a fund led by West African LGBTQ activists.
The report is available in English and French at: http://www.qayn.org/special-initiative/
Summary of key points:
Activists are working within a diversity of legal contexts, but trends of rising religious fundamentalism and state-sponsored homophobia cut across countries.
In the past five years, there has been a notable emergence of organizations led by queer-identified women and gender non-conforming people, and trans*-led activism is gaining momentum—indicating potential for building more inclusive movements.
Collaboration among groups is limited but growing, primarily through country-level and regional networks and coalitions. Cross-border work between Anglophone and Francophone countries is especially limited, but a culture of collaboration is developing.
Groups are using a variety of strategies to address the concerns of LGBTQ communities, including family mediation, working with media, documenting rights violations, engaging law enforcement, providing emergency shelter provision, and facilitating safety and security trainings. All 50 organizations surveyed identified human rights literacy and legal aid as critical needs in their communities.
Key areas for strengthening within organizations and communities are: understandings of trans* identities and issues, inclusion of youths’ concerns, support for queer women’s sexual and reproductive health, ways to address intimate partner violence, economic empowerment programs, and initiatives that speak to LGBTQ people’s faith and religious affiliation.
International donors and local organizations both identify weak institutional capacity as a major challenge for groups. Donors cite this as a reason for limited investment in the region, yet groups report difficulty accessing funds for institutional development.
Particularly in Francophone countries, organizations have limited knowledge of and access to international funders.
The report was commissioned by American Jewish World Service, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Foundation for a Just Society, UHAI-EASHRI (East Africa Sexual Health and Rights Initiative), and the Queer African Youth Network.
For more information, contact Mariam Armisen at email@example.com.