Faith and religion / Middle East / North Africa

African LGBTI activists unite at Nairobi conference

Pan Africa ILGA conference site, March 2014.

Pan Africa ILGA conference site, March 2014. (Colin Stewart photo)

About 150 activists from throughout Africa  revived the continent’s LGBTI rights organization last month at a conference held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The conference of Pan Africa ILGA (PAI) provided a regional platform to discuss issues affecting LGBTI people in Africa, develop strategies to combat violence and discrimination of people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, adopt a constitution for PAI and elect officers who will carry the work forward.

Delegates at the Pan Africa ILGA conference in Kenya in March 2014. (Colin Stewart photo)

Delegates at the Pan Africa ILGA conference in Kenya in March 2014. (Colin Stewart photo)

“The conference brought together Africa’s diversity in race, gender, regional representation, language and politics, resulting in rich conversations on how to move Africa’s sexual orientation and gender identity politics forward,” organizers said.

Conference sessions were conducted in English and in French, with simultaneous translation.

Workshops during the conference focused on topics including LGBTIQ refugees, media strategies in the quest for recognition of human rights, organizing on behalf of LGBTI people in rural communities, online advocacy and emotional support for LGBT people in the Middle East and North Africa, and the needs of French-speaking activists.

The Rev. Jide Macaulay, founder of the House of Rainbow Fellowship in Nigeria. (Colin Stewart photo)

The Rev. Jide Macaulay, founder of the House of Rainbow Fellowship in Nigeria. (Colin Stewart photo)

Many Christian and Muslim activists at the conference represented  religious organizations that welcome LGBTI people. An interfaith pre-conference focused on the work of the House of Rainbows in Nigeria, Ghana and London and of the new Global Interfaith Network (GIN), which held its first conference in South Africa in January. Workshops were also scheduled on “Islam: With or Against LGBTI,” Islamic fundamentalism, and “Reconciling  Spirituality with Sexuality,” including activist faith leaders from Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Security was a concern, especially since some Kenya politicians had recently proposed that the country follow Uganda and Nigeria in passing harsh new anti-homosexuality laws, but conference organizers reported no  security breaches. For the conference’s security plan, they expressed appreciation  to UHAI  (the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative) and to the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), as well as to the local host organization, Ishtar MSM, which provides HIV/AIDS outreach to men who have sex with men.

The following PAI board members were elected:

Co Chair (Male): Yahia Zaidi (Algeria, Belgium)
Co Chair (Female): Monica Tabengwa (Botswana, Kenya)
Co Chair Alternate (Male): Richard Lusimbo (Uganda)
Co Chair Alternate (Female): Akudo Oguaghamba (Nigeria)
Secretary: Anthony Oluoch (Kenya)
Treasurer: Caine Youngman (Botswana)
Supporting Board Member: Kholoud Bidak (Egypt)
Supporting Board Member: Bachir Ali Toudert (Algeria, South Africa)
Supporting Board Member: Samuel Opio (Uganda)
Supporting Board Member: Jabulani Pereira (South Africa)

For more information, see a statement about the PAI conference on the website of ILGA (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association).

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