Catching Up With Botswana’s Swedish Trained Activists

Four months after attending a three week human rights training programme organized by Sweden`s National Association for Sexuality Education, three activists from Botswana are putting lessons learned into practice.

The training equipped programme participants with knowledge in human rights for LGBTI community, they were then asked to develop projects of change in their respected countries.

Two of the three participants from Botswana are working on changing their community using the Health Lens programme, while the third is practising awareness-raising.

Health Lens is an innovative program that provides services to primary care practices and gives independent physicians an opportunity to engage in meaningful change. It has been described as a movement of change, helping to reshape the role of primary care, and to sustain the cognitive art of medicine.

Health in Botswana is not considered as constitutional right, and as such there are many loopholes in the health sector. The services from the state hospital are general and on the whole do not meet the specific needs of the LGBTI community.

Christina Mavuma, a self identifying trans woman reports that her project is looking into transgender women and health care system. She was motivated by the fact that most trans women here cannot get formal jobs and therefore cannot afford private health care.

She said, “So many trans women find it difficult to access health care from the state clinics or hospitals, as the doctors and nurses there are discriminatory and very judgemental, most painful thing is there are not knowledgeable to trans issues.”

However, the Ministry of Health reports that the services are available for everyone irrespective of their colour, sex or gender and therefore they cannot understand why trans and intersex need special services.

Mavuma said, “Even though the services are available they are not user-friendly to the LGBTI community and matters worse for the transgender community as the medical cards are genderised blue card for boys and pink card for girls and this card is given to you after you produce identity card.”

The intended outcome of this project is to have doctors and nurses to treat all people with respect including trans or intersex people. It is meant to start dialogues between the doctors and the trans community.

Meanwhile, Caine Youngman, the third of the Swedish programme participants is working on LGBTI peer education training focal people in different districts. His project intends to develop psychosocial skills and empower others to represent their issues.

Many LGBTI are reluctant to participate in public human rights campaigns, education and awareness and leadership workshops.

Caine said, “Many LGBTI here consider themselves as victims of their sexualities hence giving up on everything including taking responsibility of their life’s path.”

The next leg of the training will be held in May 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa, where all the participants will come together for a week to share their projects of change.

Source – Behind The Mask