Raising money for YRF, an anti-AIDS group under attack

Youth on Rock Foundation logo
Youth on Rock Foundation logo

Ugandan activists who fight HIV/AIDS among LGBT youths are seeking international support for their efforts, which are being hampered by Ugandan authorities.

Police are continuing a probe of the leaders of the Youth on Rock Foundation, whom they accuse of promoting homosexuality and violating laws against homosexual activity.

Two leaders of the group — Joseph Kawesi, co-founder of the foundation, and Kabuye Najibu, the organization’s finance manager — were arrested just before and after New Year’s Day. Martin (Morgan) Kanyike, executive director of the foundation, was detained Jan. 29.  All three have been released without formal charges being brought against them.

But all three have been repeatedly called in for further questioning by police.  The latest round of questions was Tuesday, Feb. 5.  They were told to return for further questions on Feb. 21.

The foundation continues to serve LGBT youths, most of them HIV-positive, despite harassment by police.  They have established a safe house for their own protection and now are seeking financial support to reopen their office.

A fund drive through the Fundrazr website is available for contributing to this cause. Kanyike explains:

“We need a secure working space. Our office was closed by the local council and police in October 2012, so we don’t have an office where we can hold our monthly meetings as we used to do.

“Our members are now scattered. They don’t have any safe place to meet and share there personal problems and experiences. [Financial support] so we can get a safe place for members who are touched, beaten and abused because of their sexual identity would be highly appreciated.”

This is the background of the Youth on Rock Foundation as described by Kanyike:

YRF was started Nov. 24, 2010, after the death of our friend Kalanzi Sula, who died of HIV illnesses. The idea came from me after working with the AIDS Consortium in South Africa during 2005-2008 as an HIV educator and counselor.

YRF’s projects include:

  • HIV / AIDS program — voluntary testing and counseling, care and support, providing health information and distributing health materials such as condoms and lubricants.
  • Economic empowerment, including starting small income-generating activities like candle making, jam making and farming to sustain the group.
  • Advocacy and lobbying from a grass-root level.
  • Research and documentation.
  • Drug abuse prevention.

The organization has 126 registered members. They include law students, unemployed people, and LGBTs disowned by their families because of their sexual identity. Many are HIV-positive because they earn a living through selling sex.

In addition to its serious projects, Kanyike said, “For the last two years, we have managed to participate in many activities with other LGBTI organizations in Uganda. We are known for our creativity. We came up with a performing group called ROCK AGLES, which performs drama, music and dance.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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