Ugandan LGBT Group Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Important Reminders

 

The anti homosexuality Bill is still in parliament and on the order paper of business to follow. We urge that you continue consulting activists on the ground as we chose to take on a more subtle way of lobbying as spontaneous actions from our partners especially those not from Africa is always met with severe backlash.

Posted by Melanie Nathan, July 04, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 2.51.27 PMStatement from FARUG, Uganda,

FREEDOM AND ROAM UGANDA MARKS TEN YEARS IN EXISTANCE

Today 4th, July is a very special day for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG). It’s the day that we attain ten (10) mature years since inception in 2003. FARUG was founded by three lesbian identifying individuals; Kasha Jacqueline, Victor Juliet Mukasa and Taz Musisi, as the first exclusively Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LBTI) organization in Uganda.

                                “We are born”

The Gay (LGBTI) Movement in Uganda started as early as 1999, but it wasn’t until 2003 that FARUG was founded. At the time, a group of about 15 individuals would meet in bars and internet cafes for informal meetings to discuss different issues concerning sexual minorities living in Uganda and to just have fun and meet people.

At the time, there were media outings of gay people in the newspaper with photos and their addresses, so the community was contacted by a group of men who claimed they were gay and were coming from a lesbian organization at Makerere University. Research into these allegations made us realize there was no such organization and the men were actually heterosexual men. This fuelled our passion to start formal organizing thus FARUG was born.

                                   “We belong to families”

Many people ask; “Amidst all the challenges, what has kept FARUG in existence for this long and going strong?” Besides the leadership, it is the strategic partnerships that we formed and maintained right from the start. It is the Coalitions we joined, the networks and allies we partnered with.

From the beginning FARUG has relied on individuals, organizations and movements that have mentored, trained, supported (financially, morally and technically) and played a huge part in the growth of FARUG. We have been a part of the sex work, women’s rights, human rights and the gay rights movements in Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Cameroon, South Africa and Liberia.

  “We grew strong”

Freedom and Roam Uganda has grown by leaps and bounds. We have moved from matters being discussed in bars to the board room. From dating/social groups to fully fledged professional organization. From no governing documents to constitution.  To a five year strategic plan, human and financial policies, a streamlined organizational structure and a functioning Board of Directors.

All these achievements have not been without challenges. Right from the start, there were disagreements leading to the suspension of two of the founders only two weeks after the organization was formed. The two wanted to go fully political whereas the majority of the members wanted FARUG to remain as a social group. The conflicts over the years did not tear the organization apart, instead they made FARUG stronger as these issues were always addressed and lasting solutions found.

                                      “We fended off bullies”

The very fist struggle was media outing of gay people in news papers which incited violence directed towards sexual minorities in bars, public places and in their homes. There were arrest of members at different forums we engaged in and office raids. Four of all the office premises have been broken into and important data, computers and furniture taken.

In the recent past, there has been rampant closure of workshops including the PAL project workshop that was closed down last year by ethics minster Hon. Simon Lokodo. But as a community we always fought back.

We have gone to court, sued and won some cases like the “Victor/Oyo VS attorney general case” which we won in 2008, “The rolling stone case”, “The Scott Lively case” and most recently “The Lokodo case.”

 “We influenced others”

FARUG has contributed to nurturing other LGBTI organizations. We have from time to time given skills, technical and financial support to individuals when we could. In March 2012 FARUG donated computers to the Youth on Rock Foundation, an LGBTI organization.

Most of our projects have always rapidly turned into community projects, until early this year at the Annual General Meeting when the general assembly resolved that we should focus more on membership and organization development which we laid out in the 5year strategic plan. We shall at the same time continue partnering with and taking part in some of the community projects.

Our awareness campaigns have informed, educated and contributed to a shift in attitudes towards sexual minorities. Some of our members have bravely faced off politicians and religious leaders on national and international televisions and radio talk shows, in an attempt to educate and give answers to myths concerning homosexuality.

                               “We choose to thrive”

In the coming years we would like to see a FARUG where; more young leaders are involved in the work of FARUG, members taking up leadership roles in other LBTI and mainstream organizations, where members are mentored and represent FARUG at different platforms.

Years ago we started a campaign to purchase a vehicle to transport the staff and members safely, when executing organizational duties; we would like to re-embark on that fundraising drive.

We envision a FARUG with office premises of our own where we won’t be thrown out and better salaries for our staff who risk their lives on a daily basis to serve the organization.

We commit to transparency and accountability to our funders, timely and accurate information and communication and nothing will deviate us from the struggle to achieve a society in which the rights and equality of LBTI people are guaranteed.

                                         Call to action

The anti homosexuality Bill is still in parliament and on the order paper of business to follow. We urge that you continue consulting activists on the ground as we chose to take on a more subtle way of lobbying as spontaneous actions from our partners especially those not from Africa is always met with severe backlash.

We have a new Executive Director and we request that she be accorded the same support as given to the former executive director.

We remain forever grateful for all the support to FARUG over the years and request that you continue partnering with us for the common goal of advocating for the respect, protection and fulfillment of rights of LBTI persons in Uganda.


5 thoughts on “Ugandan LGBT Group Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Important Reminders

  1. It is wonderful to see liberal-activists’ organizations starting to celebrate anniversaries in dividends of jubillees. These are organizations that were committed to causing change, they had interventions in place and showed visible impact. Those which targeted gay persons on the African continent have done wonders. It is such organizations that have improved on how planned interventions reach the grass-roots. There are less and lesser inequalities being overcome. These inequalities may be such as; knowing a friend/friends who are gay, who may be in trouble or in prison and the leaders are on a jet-plane to a conference in a hotel on an ocean shore.

    The leaders end up sending pictures of themselves taking booze and liqueur. After the conference there is no feed-back at all to the communities represented. It is these discrepancies in response to needs that need to be improved. The needs that require highlighting are: homelessness, lack of employable skills, injustices, vulnerability to HIV/STDs, lack of formal planned interventions, viable groups and establishing a culture of fixed obligation organization development (FOOD).

    Such inequalities are not the same from one African country to another. There are a few inter-Africa groups and in almost all of these the leaders seem so removed from what is the reality. The leaders are not really bothered about country based issues. After Uganda and Nigeria which have got exposure due to the Anti-Homosexuality Bills, there are numerous countries in Africa that are facing anti-homosexuality-related lynchings, abuses and hate campaigns.

    These inter-Africa organizations have not addressed this as part of their interventions. Or they are ignoring trends. Even within countries some organizations are well funded that the leaders seem to be ever on the plane going somewhere to be vested with awards, accolades, or to give speeches or some leaders are always posting about the trappings in exotic cities (Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Oslo, London, Belfast, Reykjavic..) but they know nothing of interventions that help save a gay person at the grass-roots. Brave activists have fled out of Africa with wounds, many have not been helped by the very organizations found in Africa.

    Now that we are seeing organizations celebrating decades or more there is need for a debate on commitments, interventions and impact. Let there be a meeting of all organizations at a given venue in Africa to set things right. There is a long list of organizations in all countries in Africa ( from Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania..). There is need to make all organizations accountable and by 2020. There is need to promote universal transparency and a common agenda.

    1. Excellent idea. At one point I tried to connect the South African organizations to the Ugandan groups – hoping that they could strategize together – one country has equality and the other criminalized. I dont think either group followed up – but I believe dealing with internal struggles for both was all consuming and so hard to connect. It would be great to form a coalition of African LGBT organizations. Funding always an issue.

      1. Hi Mel,which organisations did you from both countries did you contact.because the first organisations that we contacted when the movement was born 10yrs were SAs.and todate the coperations are still very strong.I dont know if you are aware but we have continental networks which meet and strategies for the whole continent.CAL,AMSHER and PAI and we also have reginal networks plus country networks.Maybe you need to do some more research on this.thanks for the article.

        1. Thanks Kasha – I was really responding to the one comment and the newer orgs from SA seemed not be included in any alliances. However I did not research the earlier alliances tyou are right. Rather just commented from my own experience of having made some connections that were not followed through from the South African side. I am gald to hear there are these alliances though, so thats good. Thanks for commenting.

  2. My heart and my prayers are with all of you… and so is the message of this song. You are not forgotten, and you are not alone. You have ‘family’ all over this world…remember that! Love, Sherri Gray

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