The Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) are together hosting a conversation with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from all over Africa on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) work before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Present for the meeting are passionate activists from Burundi, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Uganda. This meeting is taking place on the 31st of October and the 1st of November somewhere in Africa.
This is important work that CAL, AMSHeR and the LRC have been engaging on in various advocacy spaces such as the African Commission (ACHPR) and the UNHRC. The LRC has previously been engaging on issues of education and extractive industries. CAL and AMSHeR have been engaging in these spaces on SOGI issues as well as work around Women Human Rights Defenders. In addition to various other ways that CAL has done its advocacy work-this too is a very important space, where various organisations working on SOGI issues in Africa commune to share local experiences and ways of working, and to strategize collective action.
This meeting was deliberately called a conversation, and the core intention of this meeting is to get the different organisations present to talk about what their knowledge of the various UNHRC processes, resolutions and other working documents are. There are various expectations by the different organisations present at this meeting. Many people present hope to learn from the two day meeting, and know more about what the SOGI work and process is, where it came from and how it links in with work back home. The activists present hope for a plan for the way forward-because very often many such meetings do not culminate in a plan being born, or a plan being put together that strategically plots the way forward in these varied movements. One participant said that we should not be like the governments that we represent-who pay a lot of lip service and do not carry out any actual work on the ground. The participants hope that this meeting turns that tide-and that actual WORK is developed around SOGI issues on the continent. It was said that a collective standpoint on SOGI work on the continent should be developed, and when presented to the UNHRC, we can clearly articulate what work we do, how we do this work and why this work is important. One participant hopes that such a unified standpoint is developed and agreed upon during this meeting. It’s expected that whatever strategy is developed is easy to follow and can actually be implemented by different organisations on the ground. It’s important that an African movement develops an African voice and standpoint on sexual orientation and gender diversity issues, and not forgetting issues around trans-diversity as well. Networking opportunities are also open in this space, as there are many organisations that work on the same issues that can see trans-national or trans-organisational avenues for collaborative work and action.
This will be a big learning process for all activists present. There different organisations present are all at different stages of activism and development in their different countries. A country like Tanzania has only been engaging on advocacy work around sexual diversity and gender identity work for about three years now, which is in all essence in its infancy. This is an exciting space for exchange and sharing and learning for these different organisations, and perhaps learning of best practices from different organisations and how Tanzania can perhaps go about their work differently.
As is the life of activists, everyone is tired, and some exhausted. But hopeful that this meeting will help them plan a way forward for work on the ground at their organisations back home.
Let the learning begin!