Ugandan LGBT activists warn against false fund raising

By Melanie Nathan, May 27, 2013.

uganda 223 27 12 2011The Ugandan LGBT community is expressing concerns about rogue organizations and individuals soliciting funds from the West through false or exaggerated stories presented on social media. What follows is a plea and announcement by LGBT human rights defender Kasha Jaqueline Nabagesera, Founder & Executive Director of the Ugandan organization Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG,) for people to exercise caution when providing funds to Ugandans, some of whom may be desperately seeking to make money on the backs of the LGBT community.

The Ugandan LGBT activist community is asking:  “Our dear friends, allies, partners, funders and strangers” to  “Please listen to us on the ground. We know you want to support, stand in solidarity with us and even just be there for us. Your inspiring emails, letters, and calls keep us going.” However, she notes, that  just like all other social justice movements people are likely to be taken advantage of  – by our very own community, anti-gay groups and perhaps even straight people seeking to make money from the situation of the perceived  LGBT  crisis in Uganda. Accordingly, the activists ask that anyone being asked to donate money, for any reason, especially with regard to specific in the moment incidents or for pleas relating to individuals, find a way to identify the source of the request and to verify the news or story they are being told.

“If indeed you want to help n support us don’t rush to act on alarms, VERIFY. I am making this call because I see a lot of of social media money soliciting from Uganda.We have credible channels you can use. Please stop this sending money to individuals without touching base.   Yes, SMUG, FARUG and the coalition cannot know all LGBTI people in Uganda, but Kuchu (gay)  issues sell like hot cakes”

And people are getting wind of the fact that these issues can be used to raise money.

Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 7.29.32 PMKasha  revealed that even members of the LGBT community are seeing the sympathy of westerners as a way to make money:

“We have our own that are creating scenarios to get quick money YES YES its happening, more so Ugandans will do anything to make a quick dime and now they have the gay issue that is hot fire even now straights are using it. Dear all, be very careful we have structures, policies and guidelines in place to deal with such.”

Then she revealed quite a shocking fact that although controversial, she told me she is willing to put out there, as a serious warning and so that all could see the added dangers in Ugandans not being upright amongst themselves when it comes to serious matters concerning the LGBT community. That sometimes in a very poor and desperate society, measures taken, even by one’s own can be seen as rogue and desperate:

“A member of my own community connived with police to get him arrested but the condition was to be arrested with a prominent activist (my name was 1st) that way he would be able to get money. This is truth and this is caused by the general situation Ugandans are living in. Now even heterosexuals are coming up with groups, seeking asylum etc. for money. IAM VERY serious the whole country is desperate to get out of poverty and get rich quick. Its ashaming, embarrassing, absurd and more so heartbreaking but its the naked truth”

Kasha pointed out that suddenly there is a new ‘lesbian parliamentary organization’ and a ‘Catholic LGBT organization’ – yet same are suspect because they refuse to meet with the well known open and out loud activists who have been on the ground for many years, such as Kasha, the members from FARUG and SMUG.

“Please esp international friends be very careful Please, she implores. I write this because I don’t want my community to miss out on great opportunities when indeed we are in serious NEED.”

Kasha informed me that she is sure some in the community may be angered by her statement and truth telling warning of these dangers, but she assures that her motives and intentions are to preserve the goodwill, integrity and sincerity of this young and imperative movement in Uganda. Already Kasha is feeling the criticism from fellow Ugandans in the community. But she remains steadfast in this warning and will not be derailed in her mission by misappropriation and phoney solicitations.

An an actvist Kasha  decided to use her opportunity  to advocate for freedom pf all LGBTI Ugandans because she was OUT and wanted to help others not have to live double lives through marriage, to be free to be gay, and have liberty to roam the streets, to have rights without restrictions and to live with dignity and to work toward having the law allow gays to be who they are.

To her critics she notes:

“I am doing this to create a HOME for you am sorry those I have hurt along the way but if my biggest fan couldnt shut me up then none of you will. Instead come we make forces. (If I could fight for my own rights where do you think I would be???) Thats why am here. I am sorry for the damages (this revelation) may have caused but trust me we shall OVERCOME one day, its not going to be easy but we shall. I might not even be around  to celebrate but am just glad to be part of this foundation. Pardon me those I have wronged BUT honestly we must do something to change the situation and stop burying our heads in the sand. I knw even as i write (she inspired to try writing) I have a young lesbian disowned and abused in my house. Its actually not safe for both of us.eishhhh”

As it happens some people may have been roped into going on video to plea for money – on behalf of certain groups. Such videos may not be authentic and may be the work of straight Ugandans, trying to make money. This could be extremely harmful to the Ugandan gay community and so people are urged to move forward with caution when donating money. The organizations can be verified through approaching SMUG, FARUG or the Coalition for information. Kasha ends her plea:

“So dear friends and all.  LISTEN/INVESTIGATE and I want to use this opportunity to communicate that we are against any random internet soliciting of funds. ………….Human Rights for all. Thank you for you attention.  Aluta Continua”

I think Kasha has shown great courage in coming out with the statement as I believe if anyone is trying to obtain money uder false pretenses in the name of the LGBT community and/or their issues, its best to flush it out now, rather than to have a scandal which could hurt all at a later point. Honesty can never hurt and so creating the awareness now, while such things are taking place is risky, courageous, but I do believe is the right thing to do.

It is critical to note that the LGBTI community in Uganda does indeed need help. Many people suffer when kicked out of home by parents who will not tolerate them being gay or lesbian. Others are brutalized and beaten for being gay. The country’s gay community lives under the cloud of the impending “Kill the Gays Bill” – many are poor, and some desperate to escape Uganda to live in a country where they are accepted and can live in dignity. The International community must continue to support the Ugandan LGBT community. However just because you see a GO FUND ME or Facebook solicitation or hear of a person in hospital, with malaria or on the street, does not mean it is legitimate and then again it may be.  You are encouraged to check things out for yourself – it is not always easy to do. However you can contact well known groups and they will certainly steer you in the right direction.

By Melanie Nathan

10 thoughts on “Ugandan LGBT activists warn against false fund raising

  1. This has a good principle of accountability. The meaning and cover of ‘those on the ground’ has to be given a wider definition. There is need to do extensive interventions beyond establishing bars and more bars as projects! Indeed there are newer LGBTIQQ-run grass-root organizations NOT under SMUG and the COALITION. These groups are genuine and they have done specific intervention work that is commendable. They do not need to be authenticated by SMUG or anyone. All they need to do is to make their reports open to scrutiny. Let them be held accountable to a larger audience. This will avoid bias. It is a fact, the newer groups will continue springing up because they are representative and characteristic of unique needs. Funding agencies have eligibility criteria for availing support. Hopefully this appeal is not appearing to abuse their intelligence.

    1. Agreed – All groups that form should be able to stand independently.And be accountable. However they cannot resort to unethical fundraising means. This article was prompted because one group was sending Facebook messages to individuals overseas using false videos claiming to be lesbians and videos that put people on the ground in Uganda at risk for exposing their identity. That is NOT the way to fund raise and it brings the group under suspicion even if the group is legitimate and has done good work. As desperate as people are, one cannot use these ways to raise money and not expect a backlash. All fund raisers will suffer because of one who uses the wrong way to get money.

      1. Thanks. This is one way of being vigilant. The other way is to contact the specific persons and show them how to do things right. Newer groups in Uganda still lack that leadership and resource mobilization skill. Hope all concerned do indeed learn that accountability is spreading its net.This should not happen again:

  2. so sad that straight people are taking advantage of a rather difficult situation lgbt community is in
    The international community should verify individuals and organisations first before helping.the real lgbt people r languishing without any real help but people out there r cashing out on the one may knw how it feels to be persecuted,rejected by relatives,family and friends.please dont take advantage,please!

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