Faith and religion

New W. African interfaith group fights anti-LGBTI bias

Anglo-Nigeria LGBTI activist Davis Mac-Iyalla discussed the harsh conditions in Nigeria and his work in West Africa in general during a visit on Aug. 30 to St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in West Hollywood, California. (Colin Stewart photo)

Anglo-Nigeria LGBTI activist Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa, discusses the harsh conditions in Nigeria and his work in West Africa in general during a 2015 visit to St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in West Hollywood, California. (Colin Stewart photo)

Progressive faith leaders and activists from West Africa have joined forces to work to end anti-LGBTI bias in the region and seek “a world governed by respect and dignity.”

The new Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa (IDNoWA) includes members from Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Liberia.

The network’s founder and co-chair is Anglo-Nigerian gay Christian activist Davis Mac-Iyalla, an Anglican who often travels internationally to speak about the plight of LGBTQI Christians in West Africa.

The other co-chair is Nigerian human rights activist Ngozi Nwosu-Juba, project director of Vision Spring Initiatives, who advocates for the rights of women, girls and other vulnerable groups.

“Guided by our belief in the respect for all humans, we are building bridges across all religions/faiths and changing attitudes towards LGBTQI people,” IDNoWA states.

This is the group’s introductory statement:

IDNOWA logo

Logo of the Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa

Brief background

Founded in 2016, Interfaith Diversity Network of West Africa is a regional network of activists, faith-based individuals, LGBTQI persons, advocates and individual activists working for inclusion of diverse persons to create a world governed by respect and dignity. We seek a day where all persons irrespective of religious beliefs become great allies in the quest for a safe and free society for all humans. The convener of the network strongly believe that humans are born free and equal and should enjoy their full human rights and achieve their full potentials in a safe and loving society. Irrespective of your background, belief, we hereby invite you to help connect and contribute to building this beautiful world we envision for all.

Through organizations that are members of the network (Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin) and duly registered, we implement initiatives on debates and dialogues on faith and rights of LGBTQI persons in West Africa seeking to clarify issues for community members. We will approach differences with compassion, dialogue, education and information sharing and learning.

Our vision

Our vision is a world in which everyone enjoys all human rights irrespective of class, religious belief, culture and sexual orientation.

Our mission

Guided by our belief in the respect for all humans, we are building bridges across all religions/faiths and changing attitudes towards LGBTQI people. We dialogue with faith-based groups, communities, influence institutions, foster self-acceptance through education, debates, advocacy and information dissemination.

Our thematic areas

  • Research and documentation
  • Human rights education
  • International, regional and national dialogues
  • Advocacy
  • Networking

Our objectives

  • To advocate for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of sexual minorities
  • To engage religious agencies through bridge building initiatives  aimed at creating understanding, peace and love
  • To build capacity of community members towards self-acceptance, debates with institutions and demand rights protection
  • To contribute to advocacy in implementing projects and programmes that support rights of LGBTQI communities
  • To collaborate with like-minded institutions towards addressing spiritual/psychological/emotional needs of sexual minorities

Our target beneficiaries

Communities, sexual minorities, individual activists

Our activities

>Research and documentation

Under this thematic area, our work is focused on advancing social justice and equality for LGBTQI persons through researching and documenting experiences, stories of struggles, promote research in human rights and analyse criminalisation of LGBTQI persons, engage members in the process of defining and developing research stories and co-produce knowledge aimed at enriching our strategies and evidence based interventions.

We will also share high quality research on lives of community members, transgender and intersex experience, documenting the struggle against penal codes and decriminalization struggles. We will offer creative intellectual space that provides a platform for developing new research on gender and sexualities as well as solidifying research agendas and sharing outputs.

Through production of documentaries and utilisation of existing documentaries we will tell our stories, learn new ways to advocate for rights and build public confidence and cooperation. We will document national, regional and international human rights treaties and policies and use them to challenge negative narratives and consistently work to advance rights.

>Human rights education

Our human rights intervention focuses on demanding for respect and ending hate crimes through implementation of rights as contained in treaties that our countries are signatories to. We will advocate for the integration of the protection and promotion of human rights into programmes and projects targeting the community.  Through human rights education we will support regional initiatives that demand institutionalisation of rights of LGBTQI persons as equal citizens.

We will create an understanding of issues around gender identity and sexual orientation and comprehensive human rights policies as a matter of right.  The interfaith network will seek to build stronger regional and global coalition in support of human rights of LGBTQI persons, celebrate important days such as human rights day, hold panel discussions, challenging stigma and discrimination and other barriers to health care for LGBTQI persons.

We will conduct specialised trainings on criminal justice for law enforcement agencies to enhance capacities for recognizing, understanding, and suppressing hate crimes.

>International, regional and national dialogues (central and core of our work)

Under this thematic area, the network will work with faith-based groups to establish the importance of religion as a positive force to advance the human rights and livelihoods of LGBTQI persons. Some of the activities we undertake include:

  • Community, national and regional dialogues on human rights
  • Values clarification and sessions on self-acceptance and self-identify to enable LGBTQI persons to understand the interconnections of faith and sexuality.
  • International panels to respond to and challenge bias motivated violence aimed at ending violence against LGBTQ persons
  • Hold on-line debates and dialogues, highlighting the role of religious leaders as agents of peace.
  • Promote anti-violence/bridge-building initiatives

>Advocacy

Through advocacy we will issue statements and push for inclusive policies aimed at reducing bias against LGBTQI persons.

We will address discriminatory laws, produce advocacy tools for use with law makers, using it to demand accountability and respect for rights towards reducing and preventing bias motivated violence.

Through the network we will celebrate and show case success stories and support affirmative steps in sister countries.

>Networking

We work collaboratively with networks, like-minded groups, civil society organisations, religious leaders and private sector actors, attend conferences on how to most effectively protect human rights of LGBTQI persons and promote their inclusion in development programs, participate at Pride events hosted by sister countries.

Our core values

  • Respect for diversity
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Mutual respect

Our Contact

Email:  interfaithdiversity@gmail.com / dmaciyalla@gmail.com
Website:  [not yet]
Phone numbers: +234 80 231 999 612 / 00447948237399

Meet our board members

Davis Mac-Iyalla — Co-Chair, UK/Nigeria: Davis is a well-known gay Christian activist public speaker, researcher and author and is often asked to speak on the plight of LGBTQI Christians in West Africa. Davis lives in London and also member of St. Thomas the Apostle Finsbury Park. Davis is the founder of the interfaith network. dmaciyalla@gmail.com

Ngozi Nwosu-Juba — Co-Chair, Nigeria: Ngozi is a human rights activist and the Project Director of Vision Spring Initiatives. She has been involved in research and advocacy both at national, regional and international levels all aimed at entrenching the rights of women, girls and vulnerable groups.  ngonwosu@yahoo.co.uk

Juliet Ulanmo — Secretary, Nigeria: Juliet Ulanmo Esq is a Legal Practitioner, Human Rights activist, Sexual Rights activist, Social Critic and Sexual Rights Advocate. Juliet belongs to many networks and sits on many boards. j.n.ulanmo@gmail.com

Mac-Darling Cobbinah — Treasurer, Ghana: Mac-darling is the Executive Director of Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana (CEPEHRG). He has since the inception of the organisation been involved in Human Rights advocacy for sexual minorities in society. He has for a decade been involved in MSM HIV and AIDS interventions and this has earned the organisation a Red Ribbon Award in Mexico during the International AIDS conference in August 2008. macdarlingc@googlemail.com

Stephen MacGill — Member, Liberia: Stephen is the Executive Director of Stop AIDS in Liberia (SAIL), a Liberian Non-governmental organization in which he was a founding member in 1998. Stephen holds a Bachelors of Arts (BA) degree in Psychology from Temple University, Pennsylvania, 2007. Stephen has been involved in many research works. Smcgill_sail@yahoo.com

Sheba K. Akpokli — Member, Togo: Sheba is Togolese residing in Lome. She studied Law and currently works with the Afrique Arc en ciel which is an LGBTQI association as Legal Assistant. lafleursheba@gmail.com

Grace Akpan-Member, Nigeria: Grace is an LGBTI activist from Nigeria, an educationist, a web designer and also a work in progress travel consultant. Geestud45@gmail.com

Danielle Loua — Member, Ivory Coast: Danielle is a trans activist and Program Officer for Qet Inclusion. Her organisation’s objective is to defend and protect rights of trans- persons.  Danielle.getinclusion@gmail.com


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