You can boost health of African lesbians, trans women

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Location of Douala in Cameroon (Map courtesy of
Map of Cameroon (Courtesy of

One of sub-Saharan Africa’s most homophobic countries will be the setting for renewed focus on the health and human-rights challenges facing African lesbians and trans women, if a partnership of African and American LGBT rights activists has its way.

The activists from Cameroon, Uganda and the United States plan to offer  solutions to problems of HIV infection and the denial of health services to sexual minorities, based on their experiences in Africa and internationally. They will analyze past approaches that have worked, and those that have failed, during a women’s health conference next month in Cameroon. They will follow that up with strategic meetings with religious and community leaders in Cameroon.

Eric Lembembe (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
LGBT rights activist and Journalist Eric Lembembe of Cameroon was murdered in July.

This international activist partnership is sponsored by the anti-AIDS, pro-rights advocacy group Camfaids (the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS), co-founded in 2009 by journalist/activist Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was attacked, tortured and murdered at home last summer in the midst of his reporting on a wave of homophobic arrests, arson, and burglary.  Camfaids is working in partnership with the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports anti-AIDS and LGBT rights initiatives worldwide.

Journalist Andy Kopsa, one of the panelists, said of the trip:

We will work to expand the vital network of African LGBT rights activists in Cameroon, which is facing new, deadly threats. Additionally, we will reach out to and stress the importance of working with the faith community and women’s rights community to ensure all persons are respected, safe and have access to healthcare.

Even if you cannot donate, please take a read through this proposal and click through to the links for more information on Cameroon. Educating ourselves about what is going on is a beginning.

Logo of the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights
Logo of the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights

The first focus of the trip will be the Sixth Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, which will be held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on Feb. 3-7. The conference is  hosted by the Women in Alternative Action (WAA), Cameroon, and sponsored by an array of international supporters, led by Nigeria-based Health Action Inc.

These are the activist panelists:

Maxensia Nakibuuka
Maxensia Nakibuuka

Maxensia Nakibuuka, an HIV-positive heterosexual woman from Uganda, will discuss her work creating a gay/straight alliance of home-based caregivers, a health clinic that welcomes LGBT people and sex workers, and most recently an AIDS program sponsored by the Catholic Church.

Berthe Marcelle Awoh Ngoume, who founded a Cameroonian lesbian organization, will discuss the largely unmet health needs of African lesbians.

Andy Kopsa
Andy Kopsa

Andy Kopsa, an American journalist, will discuss how to remove institutional barriers that prevent LGBT people receiving AIDS-related services funded by PEPFAR and USAID.  Ms. Kopsa has reported on the ground in Uganda on LGBT rights, PEPFAR abuses and the ongoing deadly impact of criminalization in that country.

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, an Episcopal priest from Ireland and the United States, will tell how grassroots organizations working to improve women’s health have influenced larger organizations — the World Bank, the Catholic Church and World Vision.

“Women’s health suffers because of discrimination, disempowerment and poverty — and these health risks are especially intense for African women who are lesbians,” states the group’s appeal on Indiegogo for tax-deductible contributions to pay for the trip.

Conference organizers says that more than 500 delegates are expected at the conference, including policy makers, development partners, civil society organizations, academia, media, women, girls and young people.

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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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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