Redefining Advocacy to Strengthen Community Tactics – ACT Program Kick-Off

MPact convened a meeting with leaders from Affirmative Action (Cameroon), Alternative Cote d’Ivoire, Amigos Siempre Amigos (Dominican Republic), CEPEHRG (Ghana), Equality for All Foundation (Jamaica), MOLI (Burundi), and Sexual Rights Center (Zimbabwe) for this three-day workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia

What is advocacy? What tools are available to broaden the scope of our work while staying focused on real targets? How do we know when advocacy has been effective? How can advocates facing similar challenges regarding access to HIV services for gay men and transgender women, including criminalization, stigma, discrimination, and violence, work together to support one another to achieve common goals? These are just a few of the questions that fourteen activists from seven African and Caribbean countries discussed during MPact’s workshop last week in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

MPact convened this meeting to kick-off the Advocacy and other Community Tactics (ACT) program, which supports activists in utilizing human rights advocacy to strengthen the response to HIV among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender women. Funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) LGBT Fund, the ACT program will leverage the wisdom and expertise of seasoned activists in Africa and the Caribbean to develop and implement strategic initiatives to address barriers to HIV services. At the workshop, representatives from participating  organizations were invited to share their unique challenges, common ambitions, and ambitious visions for implementing advocacy projects to increase quality HIV services for gay men and trans women in their regions.

“We believe that this work we are doing now will influence, in the long run, policies that will create an enabling environment that will allow key population groups like MSM to access HIV services in a non-discriminatory environment and also help to instill in them good health seeking behaviors which will improve the quality of life for all persons.” – Mojalife Mokoele Ndlovu, Programs Manager, Sexual Rights Center (SRC), Zimbabwe

Topics discussed ranged from how to document stigma and discrimination to how to use social media as a tool for advocacy. Projects include interventions that will strengthen redress mechanisms for LGBT people who experience harassment and threats to their safety and security, develop standard protocols for stigma-free services in healthcare settings, train journalists and monitor reporting on LGBTQ issues, among others. Participants were encouraged to openly share their advocacy successes and failures and to rethink their organization’s goals as participants in the ACT program.

“As LGBTQ activists concerned about health equity, we know that the HIV response will continue to leave us behind if our human rights are not promoted, protected, and fulfilled. Achieving this takes intentional planning and strategy, and the ACT advocacy workshop was a powerful display of the benefits from shared learning and feedback across country contexts and issues. We are so excited to see these projects evolve over the course of the workshop with inputs and support from participants.” – Stephen Leonelli, Senior Policy Advisor, MPact   

ACT participants may have begun the week with different ideas of how to integrate advocacy into their HIV programming, but they left with a clear vision for how to move forward in their work. Amidst ongoing challenges and deteriorating human rights situations in an increasingly conservative world, we must celebrate every level of achievement – from the global to the individual. We must ensure that as we push for progress, our interventions are not just effective but sustainable in the way that they address and empower communities. And ultimately, in order to see real change in the human rights of LGBTQ people, we must lean on and learn from each other along the way.

About MPact
MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights (formerly known as MSMGF or The Global Forum on MSM & HIV) was founded in 2006 by a group of activists concerned about the disproportionate HIV disease burden shouldered by men who have sex with men. MPact works at the intersection of sexual health and human rights, and is linked to more than 120 community-based organizations in 62 countries who are fighting for the sexual health and human rights of gay and bisexual men around the world.

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