African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights

LGBT Cameroonians cannot fully receive HIV/health services, so local and global organizations see the African Confer. on Sexual Health/Rights as an opportunity.

This campaign is raising funds on behalf of Saint Pauls Foundation For International Reconciliation Inc, a verified nonprofit. The campaign does not necessarily reflect the views of the nonprofit or have any formal association with it. All contributions are considered unrestricted gifts and can’t be specified for any particular purpose.

6th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights – Yaoundé, Cameroon February 2014

A golden opportunity for improving the lives of persecuted LGBT people will occur in February in one of the most homophobic countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation* – which has been working closely with several LGBT groups in Cameroon (and other countries around Africa) – has been invited by the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS) to be a part of the 6th Annual Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights Yaoundé, Cameroon

For four years, the St. Paul’s Foundation’s network has been building international partnerships where difficult religious and cultural issues can be addressed practically with specific health service outcomes.

Difficult issues are couched in “traditional values” or promulgated as a move for the “protection of the family”. As gender equality continues to be challenged by religious fundamentalism, many of the arguments used against LGBT inclusion are grounded in institutional sexism. Women’s health suffers because of discrimination, disempowerment and poverty — and these health risks are especially intense for African women who are lesbians.

At the conference, our proposed panel of four experts will discuss how these problems can be solved.

Maxensia Nakibuuka, an HIV-positive heterosexual woman from Uganda, will discuss her work creating a gay/straight alliance of home-based caregivers, a health clinic that welcomes LGBT people and sex workers, and most recently an AIDS program sponsored by the Catholic Church.

Berthe Marcelle Awoh Ngoume who founded a Cameroonian lesbian organization will discuss the largely unmet health needs of African lesbians.

Andy Kopsa, an American journalist, will discuss how to remove institutional barriers that prevent LGBT people receiving AIDS-related services funded by PEPFAR and USAID. Ms. Kopsa has reported on the ground in Uganda on LGBT rights, PEPFAR abuses and the ongoing deadly impact of criminalization in that country.

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, an Episcopal priest from Ireland and the United States, will tell how grassroots organizations working to improve women’s health have influenced larger organizations -the World Bank, the Catholic Church and World Vision.

For the past decade, the economic empowerment of women is becoming an important strategy in the war against HIV infection, so what about LGBT people? This discussion must continue to be brought to the table.

* St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation is a California-based non-profit that engages in dialogue and coalition-building between secular and religious organizations that share the same values and outcomes for marginalized people, particularly women and LGBT people.

What We Need & What You Get

  •  Airfare from the US to the conference in Cameroon and one ticket from Uganda to Cameroon: (prices as of December 16, 2013) Aprox. $4600 – $5200 total
  •  Registration for the 3-day NGO Forum before the session: $500 total
  •  Visa to enter Cameroon: $400 total
  •  7 nights in a hotel, plus food and ground transportation: $2000 – $3500
  •  The remaining funds are approximate fees for this online campaign paid to the site.

Any funds in excess of the $11,500 needed for this project will go toward sending a similar group and the human rights message to the Pan Africa ILGA Conference in Kenya in March, where plans are under way for to a Francophone LGBT rights network. The conference is specifically for LGBT persons living with HIV/AIDS. The more we raise, the more Francophone African LGBT organizations’ voices will be heard, and the more impact those voices will have – in and outside Africa.

Your donation will make a real difference on the ground in Africa. To show our appreciation, we also have some great gifts for you!

  •  For your donation of $25, you’ll receive a video called “Love Heals Homophobia,” featuring four important straight African American clergy talking about their journeys to full acceptance of LGBT people and how to create congregations that celebrate diversity.
  •  For your donation of $100, you’ll receive a copy of From Wrongs to Gay Rights: Cruelty and Change for LGBT People in an Uncertain World. This book includes chapters by Eric Ohena Lembembe (who was also a journalist), Erasing 76 Crimes blog editor Colin Stewart, Reverend Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Foundation, Miles Tanhira, Andy Kopsa, Rachel Adams, and Clare Byarugaba.
  •  For your donation of $1,000, you’ll receive a Granite Pillar Award from St. Paul’s Foundation. Emblazoned with St. Paul’s logo and your name, these table-size awards honor those pillars of our community who literally support others in their work for global justice.

The Impact
St. Paul’s Foundation and the panel members will present the following proposed discussion at the conference:

1. Introduction – Is the “rights based” approach working in communities largely influenced by religion and culture?

Although the dominant legal framework used to advocate for gender equality and the need for greater access to health services for women is a human rights-based approach, there has been significant “push back” in recent years from the challenges faced Commission on the Status of Women to a recent rejected report at the European Union

Although there has been some reluctance on the part of secular human rights advocates to engage many of the religious arguments used against women and LGBT rights, there is need to engage the vocabulary and theological framework of these powerful political and cultural obstacles, rather than simply wish it would go away. Given most human beings derive their moral framework from religious texts like the Bible or Koran rather than from the UN Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to create dialogue with religious leaders on issues of gender and LGBT equality and access to health services. The World Bank has had some success in the past decade in translating gender inequality as a major barrier to economic development and there is much the LGBT community can learn about this important policy shift as we consider LGBT issues as a poverty issue and not only a human rights or moral issue.

The recent anti LGBT laws in Russia is an example of how “traditional values” and “protection of the family” are reasons cited to create barriers to health services, particularly HIV related because of stigma and discrimination. Not all traditional cultures treat women or LGBT people as second class citizens and there are many examples in holy texts of the valuable role played by women in leadership. As a manifestation of Patriarchal privilege, the growing opposition to the LGBT movement in Africa reinforces the belief that the root of homophobia is sexism. Gender inequality is at the heart of the issues of LGBT human rights and access to HIV prevention and care.

Recent statistics are showing the alarming consequences experienced by millions of women who are either lesbian, transgender or engaged in commercial sex work, who are showing disproportionate numbers of HIV infections because of the fusion of gender inequality and the criminalization of homosexuality and prostitution. In many African countries these key populations are two or three times more likely to be infected than mainstream society. We also known from records from PEPFAR and USAID there are enormous hurdles for organizations working with these populations to access resources to serve their client populations.

A recent study by the American Foundation for AIDS Research carried out by partners in six South African countries should minimal amounts of USAID and PEPFAR funds was made to organizations serving key populations over the last decade. With a significant number of faith based organizations receiving large contracts, there is also a challenge in getting these organizations to reach out and serve vulnerable populations. Many religious groups have made some progress overcoming traditional attitudes to girls and young women in their service delivery systems and we believe with some sensitivity training and sharing of best practices through local regional coalitions, gender and LGBT inequality can be eradicated more effectively.

With 40% of health services provided by the religious community, it is imperative that the rights based approach to LGBT advocacy be supplemented with a more focused conversation on religious principles of compassion, universal access to healthcare and information to prevent HIV infection, and extending faith based services to the most marginalized as a “religious” value. The work of the Good Samaritan Consortium in Uganda will be discussed as a model where religious and secular organizations can begin this dialogue, offer specific sensitization training to clinic staff and volunteers and train LGBT and straight allies on the principles of home-based care and early testing, treatment and prevention.

2. Action – Religious Conservatives are using the same arguments and values to exclude vital services to women and key populations i.e. MSM, LGBT, Sex Workers and IV Drug Users. How can we challenge them?

Utilizing a combination of research, and education and training interventions that have been proven to bring about change in organizational and personal response to key populations, the proposed panel will present data describing the current institutional barriers to service and solutions to change this behavior. Andy Kopsa, as a researcher and journalist has been covering PEPFAR and USAID funding issues as they relate to key populations and will draw connections between the need for greater collaboration between women’s programs and LGBT outreach and advocacy.

Maxensia Nakikuuka has also created important coalition partnerships between religious HIV services, women’s health issues and the LGBT issue. As the newly appointed coordinator for the Catholic Church’s HIV National response, there is greater opportunity to develop these linkages of practical service delivery best practices with inclusive gender and LGBT equality policy changes.

Canon Albert Ogle can also describe some of the linkages and sharing of resources with the World Bank, the Anglican Communion and how faith based health services can play a more important role to engage in deeper dialogue on religious and cultural differences for gender specific services. A lesbian from Cameroon, who is closely associated with HIV prevention and services and the challenges faced by her network of organizations will also share a more personal view of the difficulties faced by lesbians in Africa around health and safety issues. There will be numerous examples of cross cutting themes combining the work of gender and LGBT equality from an African context..

3. Funding issues

PEPFAR has made it a priority to target gender equity in the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, disparity remains high in funding and access between men and women (and girls), MARPs (especially female sex-workers) and MSM. I hope to shed some light on how to hold US funded groups accountable if there is disparity in services, discrimination against a person based on gender or sexual identity and the avenues available to PEPFAR beneficiaries to ensure equal treatment.

Andy Kopsa is a freelance investigative reporter based in New York City. Her work has published with The Atlantic, Village Voice Media, Ms., Al Jazeera, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation among many others. She is a 2013 recipient of The Knights Grant for Reporting on Religion in American Public Life through USC Annenberg and the winner of a 2013 Best Investigative Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Her presentation in Cameroon will include discussion of her published articles that revealed waste, discrimination and in some cases gross misuse of PEPFAR funds. Some of her work on this subject can be read at Al Jazeera English and Policy Mic. Her photo essay of women living with HIV can be seen at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and an extended interview with Ms. Kopsa on the US program radio program State of Belief revealing misuse of funds in Uganda.

She will also make recommendations and provide a worksheet for marginalized populations to make complaints against US funded NGOs in a safe manner. Beneficiaries of funding from the US taxpayer are afforded certain rights that many outside the United State’s border may not be aware of. Of those rights are the rights specifically of women and girls and all persons – regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

4. Lesbian health issues with Berthe Marcelle AWOH NGOUME
Berthe is an active member of the following organizations in Cameroon: Cooperation, Affirmative Action, CAMFAIDS, the CAMNAFAW Youth Center, Horizon Femme, Alternatives-Cameroon, ADHEFO , CAMNAFAW, CLAP, GVFI, Humanity Cameroon , She also work with inmates at the Central Prison in Yaounde to keep track of and reintegrate young girls, etc.

Berthe is President and founder of Lady’s Cooperation, created in 2006 for the advancement of women, particularly football players who are at a disadvantage mostly because of their sexual orientation.

“Since 2006 and before, I have worked to protect lesbians, especially those in Cameroon. I have often met with them privately to discuss their problems. I have also been a victim of violence and been detained by police. I live in worry of being attacked, especially as a person who speaks on behalf of lesbians. I am involved in several human rights movements and have been trained at several workshops about discrimination in health services, about providing legal aid, etc.” – Berthe Ngoume

NOTE: It will be important to build linkages to the LGBT issues as well as the Francophone community. Post conference a learnings report will be issued as well as a the beginning phases of developing a more deeply connected LGBT rights consortium in Francophone Africa.

Other Ways You Can Help

You can help even if you cannot contribute!

Your donation will make a tangible contribution to promoting gender and LGBT equity in healthcare service in Africa. Even if you can’t contribute financially, there are real ways you can help. First, learn about what’s going on in Cameroon. Second, spread the word about this campaign — use the handy Indiegogo share tools! Third, encourage the bloggers and media you read to devote more attention to LGBT rights in Africa.

Source – indiegogo