LGBT+ youth face a myriad of challenges on the African continent from punitive laws and conservative cultures, to limited access to healthcare and educational services. The African Queer Youth Initiative supports and mobilizes LGBT+ youth activists tackling these and other issues with resources and programs aimed at raising visibility, supporting youth organisations, and building strategic networks.
As a first step towards creating change, we have worked with our partners and community to map out challenges and issues facing LGBT+ youth and youth-led organizations in Africa. While this is an ongoing effort, these are a few of the areas we are seeking to impact:
In many African states, same-sex sexuality and gender diversity is criminalized. These laws are often rooted in colonial era laws and are used to police LGBT+ organisations and activists. LGBT+ youth are particular vulnerable to legislative violence.
Many young people in Africa consider culture and tradition important parts of their social lives, but these cultures and traditions are often interpreted in a manner that reinforces patriarchy and heteronormativity. LGBT+ youth are left in a precarious position when cultural norms such as marriage, circumcision rituals, or others exclude same-sex loving, or gender non-conforming youth. These conservative interpretations often exclude and punish those who act different from the norm, especially women and gender non-conforming people.
Anti-LGBT+ Interpretations of Religion
Religion is an important part of the lives of LGBT+ youth in Africa, however they are often used to reinforce transphobia and homophobia by conservative preachers. Christianity and Islam are the biggest religions on the continent, and “homosexuality is un-christian” or “homosexuality is un-Islamic” are the biggest arguments used to justify homophobia and transphobia. These conservative interpretations of religion are not just bad for LGBT+ youth but for young women, sex-workers, HIV positive people and other vulnerable groups.
Community Violence and Prejudice
People experience their lives through the communities they live in. Unfortunately, these communities often have limited knowledge of sexual orientation and gender identity, or LGBT+ identities and expressions. Research tells us that acts of prejudice-motivated violence and discriminatory actions often come from community members, family members or other known individuals in a young LGBT+ person’s life. This leads LGBT+ youth to feeling harassed and excluded, and put them in a risky situation.
Limited Access to Social Systems
Whilst many countries on the African continent have made great strides in providing health care, education and other social services to their citizens, there systems often still have limited resources, human capacity, and infrastructure. These systems often are either not designed to cater to the needs of LGBT+ youth (for example HIV care at healthcare facilities) or may actually include discriminatory practices (for example the treatment of gender non-conforming youth at schools).
Lack of Youth Representation
Within the LGBT+ movement, many interventions aimed at LGBT+ youth do not include young people in the formulation of the action. As a result, these are note aligned with the goals, interests, or needs of LGBT+ youth. LGBT+ activist also receive limited resources and have limited capabilities to implement successful national and transnational campaigns. These leads to an environment where interventions react to the (above listed) “bad” but are not proactive.
How We Help LGBT+ Activists Tackle the Challenges in Their Communities
LGBT+ youth, youth activist, and organisations have always found inspired and innovative ways to resist injustice. Our interventions harness and support the creative energy of these groups so that change can be led by groups who best understand their context.
We are currently focusing on four initiatives:
Build a Stronger Network Among the LGBT+ Youth Movement
Good networks will encourage coordinated and collaborative action to give queer youth visibility. The African Queer Youth Initiative will provide platforms and events for LGBT+ youth to connect and share knowledge, to develop a common agenda, and propose collaborative action.
Develop a More Capable Cohort of LGBT+ Youth Leaders
Good leaders will encourage sustained work combating homophobia and transphobia in a context appropriate manner. The African Queer Youth Initiative will do targeted development of leadership teams and individuals and expand the capacity of organizations to implement national and transnational campaigns.
Generate a Strong Knowledge Base on the Lived Experience of LGBT+ Youth
Good data will enable LGBT+ youth and organisations to develop recommendations for future actions. The African Queer Youth Initiative will document best practices for interventions with LGBT+ youth, and develop strong baseline data.
Grants will support interventions in under-resources geographies and build organisational capacity to manage resources. The African Queer Youth Initiative will create a small grant mechanism to channels resources to LGBT+ youth organisations.
We also run events and conferences, and maintain a list of resources outside of the African Queer Youth Initiative that might benefit LGBT+ youth organizations. To find out more, visit our Resources page.