Dominique Menoga: Fighting for Change in Cameroon
With the announcement of the 2015 David Kato Vision and Voice Award winner coming up on February 13th at the renowned Teddy Awards in Berlin, we are honored to introduce you to the 5 incredible people who have been shortlisted for this year’s award.
Today, we are thrilled to present Dominque Menoga from Cameroon. Dominique has fearlessly campaigned for HIV advocacy among sexual minorities, putting his life on the line and founding multiple human rights organizations in his home of Cameroon. Dominique‘s activism has made him into a target for violence and harassment many times – after receiving numerous death threats he was forced to flee to France where he continues his activism to this day.
Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 1982, Dominique recognized the need for effective LGBTI advocacy after coming out to his parents as a teenager. His experience of severe alienation as well as physical and emotional abuse from his parents forced him to reflect on the ignorance surrounding LGBTI people. Dominique quickly realized the need for advocacy initiatives in Cameroon, and began mobilizing himself and his friends around efforts to increase awareness and fight homophobia.
In 2006, after a spate of homophobic attacks in Cameroon, Dominique and his friends galvanized to form Alternatives-Cameroon. Comprised of a team of doctors, lawyers, and other healthcare providers who are also activists, Alternatives-Cameroon aims to reduce the impact and spread of HIV among MSM, as well as fight widespread homophobia in Cameroon.
During his time with Alternatives-Cameroon, Dominque provided meaningful leadership as a peer educator, working with men who have sex with men (MSM) and other LGBTI people to raise awareness on STI/HIV/AIDS testing, treatment, and prevention. He also provided much-needed counseling for young sexual minorities who often face rejection and discrimination from their families and peers – something Dominique deeply identifies with. In this way Dominique shaped and established one of the most accessible safe spaces for the LGBTI people of Cameroon, allowing them to come together and find community in a country where sexual minorities face intense homophobia and hostility.
Between 2008 and 2009, Dominique and friends created ADEPEV Association (Action for Development and Fulfillment Vulnerable Persons). Dominique served as deputy head of ADEPEV, where he organized and supervised his team.
In addition to its work against AIDS, ADEPEV established a legal section, which deals primarily with conflicts within the gay community, and has launched lobbying efforts at the national level. ADEPEV is now 100 members strong and still growing.
In November 2010, Dominique was selected to participate in two different LGBTI human rights trainings. Informed and emboldened once these trainings came to a close, he resigned from his position with ADEPEV and joined forces with his best friend, the late activist Eric Lembembe, to form The Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS). Dominique acted as founding president of CAMFAIDS, an organization working to increase HIV awareness.
One of the achievements Dominique is most proud of is the Open Letter to the President of Cameroon on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the criminalization of sexual relations between persons of the same sex in Cameroon, which he wrote with Eric Lembembe. The letter documented cases of violations of the rights of LGBTI people. These violations were contrary to United Nations treaties that Cameroon had signed and ratified.
Another great accomplishment was his report sent to the United Nations for the UN Universal Periodic Review for Cameroon in 2013. This report was developed in partnership with organizations working on human rights in Cameroon and with the support of ILGA.
Dominique was forced to apply for asylum in 2013 after receiving death threats due to his high-profile activism in Cameroon. He was granted asylum in France, where he continues his HIV advocacy work with vulnerable populations. Despite putting his life at great risk, Dominique is an inspiring example of a change-maker providing profound leadership in the face of challenging, life-threatening circumstances.
The DKVVA is supported by a Secretariat based at the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF). The MSMGF advocates for equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services tailored to the needs of gay men and other MSM, including gay men and MSM living with HIV, while promoting their health and human rights worldwide. You can find more information about the MSMGF at www.mpactglobal.org.
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