by Alice Schyllander •
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) by celebrating the powerful impact of the third year of Global Partnership Program’s Global Small Grants Program. This year, the Global Small Grants program supported 20 initiatives with grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to advance LGBTQ+ equality in 18 countries.
IDAHOBIT marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Each year, advocates and allies around the world commemorate the day by focusing on efforts to end violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
“Each May 17, as we mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we shine a light on the amazing efforts of advocates around the world to raise up and protect LGBTQ+ people in their own communities. HRC is honored to support their inspiring work through our Small Grants Program. IDAHOBIT reminds us that around the world, millions of people still experience violence and discrimination simply for being who they are – but also that, when we work together, globally, we can fight back, save lives, and change hearts and minds to create a more equitable and inclusive world,"
- said Jean Freedberg, HRC Director of Global Partnerships.
HRC’s Global Small Grants Program builds upon the principles of IDAHOBIT and its 2023 theme “Together Always: United in Diversity,” by providing practical support to members of our Global Leadership Network, an ever-growing group of some 200 LGBTQ+ advocates from nearly 100 countries.
This year’s grant recipients included five from Africa, four from Asia/Central Asia, six from Europe, and five from Latin America and the Caribbean.
This year, our recipients conducted innovative movement-strengthening projects focused on engaging employers or people of faith as allies, strengthening racial equality for LGBTQ+ people, and building up trans leadership and advocacy.
The HRC Global Small Grants program is made possible with generous support from ADM and we are grateful for their partnership.
In Nigeria, HRC Global Innovator Bisi Alimi organized the first Nigerian LGBTQI Chamber of Commerce Summit through the Bisi Alimi Foundation. The summit brought together 15 LGBTQI small business owners and founders of start-up ventures for a two-day business development training program where the participants were trained on idealization, pitching, networking, branding, and digital marketing. "The training was an eye opener to so many things in terms of business structure, branding and identity, content marketing and other business tools,” said one participant.
In Ghana, HRC Global Innovator Bill, through her organization the Mediators Foundation, brought together faith and business leaders in Accra to strategize how to improve their allyship to the LGBTQ+ community. Bill said, "Thank you, HRC for your generous support for the community. This Grant broadened our fighting scope and brought attention to the need for respecting diversity."
In Zanzibar, HRC Global Innovator Salum through the Bridge Initiative Organization, conducted two roundtable discussions for business leaders to increase their awareness of the LGBTQ+ community. They then held joint work planning sessions with the participants to brainstorm opportunities to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in their business strategy, including investments in communities, communicating the Sustainable Development Goals, and business impact. These businesses were then invited to develop company-wide plans to increase their employees' awareness of LGBTQ+ rights issues and how they can become better allies.
In Uganda, HRC Global Innovator Tom Twongyeirwe through Universal Coalition of Affirming Africans (UCAA) Uganda engaged faith leaders and people and communities of faith as allies for equality through a workshop to change hearts and minds. During this thought-provoking dialogue, they discussed faith-related issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda. focusing on debunking the lies and the myths that are especially prevalent following the recent passage of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill. One of the faith leaders in the workshop said, “Thank you UCAA for the good work you are doing, keep doing it and pray for those who are not there yet, we shall all be there at some point. This is a spiritual warfare, and we are together in this.”
In Kyrgyzstan, a HRC Global Innovator through his organization Kyrgyz Indigo used his Global Small Grant to promote transgender rights and visibility by creating a class of 10 plaintiffs to challenge legal recognition for trans people. In addition, they developed an interactive media course about the trans community, and created a series of informational comics about trans people.
HRC Global Innovator Alina Kolosova through her organization NGO LighT organized a financial literacy training program to provide economic empowerment to 15 trans people in Central Asia.
In Thailand, HRC Global Innovator Ryan Figueredo organized one of the first roundtable discussions on the intersection of LGBTIQ+ identity, disability, and mental health through his organization Equal Asia Foundation. The event, held both in-person and online, reached more than 300 people from a wide range of organizations, and attendees were empowered with information about different forms of accessibility, vocabulary, and microaggressions to help support LGBTQ+ people.
In Albania, HRC Global Innovator Arbër Kodra organized a workshop for business leaders on how to be more effective allies for equality. The workshop, conducted by Arbër's organization Open Mind Spectrum Albania in collaboration with the Commissioner Against Discrimination, provided tools for employers to improve conditions for their LGBTQ+ employees and demonstrated how support from the business community can help promote equality.
In Montenegro, HRC Global Innovator John Barac, and his organization LGBT Forum Progress, conducted a pilot research study among leading businesses to measure levels of LGBTI acceptance and perception, as well as the existence of nondiscrimination policies in the workplace. This first-of-its-kind research report provided immensely valuable benchmarking data that point to the next steps needed to strengthen the role of businesses in promoting LGBTI equality in Montenegro. From the group of respondents, only a very small number include non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies, and most companies say they are unaware of having any out LGBTQ+ employees in their company.
Photo credit: Government of Montenegro.
In Slovenia, Petra Polanič, through her organization Legebitra, organized a program to promote inclusive workspaces for transgender employees. Building on their previous efforts supported by HRC to recognize inclusive companies, Legebitra developed innovative educational materials focussed on creating inclusive workplaces for transgender employees. They convened a workshop with 16 participants from eight companies to present these materials, and through the connections formed there they were able to identify further participants in this program. "The space for discussion exceeded our expectations as participants were not only eager to ask questions but also engaged with one another, sharing experiences and good practices."
In Albania, HRC Global Innovator Sidita Zaja through her organization Alliance Against Discrimination of LGBT developed a research report to assess the needs of the transgender community through focus groups, interviews, and online surveys. The report pulled together data that brought to light the challenges that the trans community faces when accessing education, health services, housing, and employment.
In Armenia, HRC Global Innovator Lilit Martirosyan, and her transgender-focused organization Right Side NGO, organized a three day training for 18 LGBTIQ+ activists across the country with the theme of “Advocating for our Rights.” The advocates gained human rights advocacy and strategic communication skills, which they are now using to initiate activities in their own communities. They have expanded their reach to almost 200 people across the country who now have new tools to promote their protection and well-being. "As a result of the training, LGBTIQ+ activists from all across Armenia have become aware of strategic communication, advocacy and campaigning and now they are more involved in social and civic life by cooperating with different CSOs and activists, participating in activism by multiplying their knowledge through peer-to-peer education on equality and inclusion in their own regions," says Lilit.
HRC Global Innovator Miles Tanhira through his organization Queer Media organized a Leadership and Wellbeing Bootcamp for Trans Black People of Colour (TBPoC) in Stockholm, Sweden. The 10 TBPoC refugee and migrant participants were empowered with the tools, skills, and knowledge in leadership and movement building, community organizing and building strategies, and self-care and collective care. Miles says, "The impact of the grant was evident in the positive feedback we received from the participants. They expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn and connect with other TBPoC individuals, and many said they felt empowered to create change within their communities."
In Colombia, HRC Global Innovator Alba Reyes brought together 32 young LGBTQ+ people in Quibdo to address issues around bullying and suicide prevention through art and photography. They conducted a training in "Psychological First Aid," which provided participants with tools to support those closest to them, including family members and caregivers with lessons learned. Alba said, "Creating [these] spaces is necessary to make it clear that no matter what your identity is, you have the right to live a fearless life and count on your support system and family, either blood or chosen."
In Panama, HRC Global Innovator Pau Gonzalez through his organization Hombres Trans Panamá in collaboration with PFLAG Panamá developed a project with six faith leaders to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in religion. Titled, "Faith Leaders and Families, Building Bridges of Love, Respect and Inclusion, for Discriminated People in Panama," the project developed a video campaign that featured faith leaders across different faiths emphasizing the values of love, respect, and inclusion. This video reached thousands of people on social media. They also conducted a workshop for lay advocates on how to engage people of faith as allies for equality. The participants came together at the end to present about their faiths and values of inclusion. Rabbi Gustavo Kraselnik said "From the perspective of faith, every human being is a divine creature and that is the premise from which one can meet the other...So, I celebrate this initiative that allows us to build bridges, that allows us to promote a culture of encounter, respect and inclusion. Congratulations to all those involved in it."
In Barbados, HRC Global Innovator Donnya "Zi " Piggot through their organization Pink Coconuts, developed an online web platform (pinkcoconuts.com) and a network of LGBTQ inclusive small businesses across the Caribbean for LGBTQ+ travelers. This innovative platform includes opportunities for the local LGBTQ+ community to sign up for events called "LGBTQ Hangouts" to develop connections and increase the visibility of LGBTQ inclusive small businesses in the islands. Zi's future plans include expanding into other Caribbean countries and Sub-Saharan Africa. Zi says "We’re thankful to the Human Rights Campaign for providing us with the small seed to get our engines going."
Alliance Against Discrimination of LGBT People (Albania)
Right Side Human Rights Defender NGO (Armenia)
Pink Coconuts (Barbados)
Fundación Sergio Urrego (Colombia)
Diálogo Diverso (Ecuador)
The Mediators Foundation (Ghana)
Kyrgyz Indigo (Kyrgyzstan)
LGBT Forum Progress (Montenegro)
Bisi Alimi Foundation (Nigeria)
Hombres Trans Panama/ PFLAG Panama (Panama)
ECADE (St. Lucia)
Queer Media (Sweden)
NGO "LighT" (Central Asia)
Equal Asia Foundation (Thailand)
Bridge Initiative Organization (Tanzania/Zanzibar)
Tanzania Trans Initiative (Tanzania)
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