Activists in Focus: Solange Musanganya of Maison de la Culture des Diversités Humaines

Solange A. Musanganya is programs director in Maison de la Culture des Diversités Humaines; a non-profit organization that uses culture, art and sports to address the homophobia  and transphobia in West Africa. As a TEACH technical advisor, Solange is working with MSMGF and IRGT to deliver high-quality  trainings to trans-led organizations in her region.

Learn more about the TEACH Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Learning Lab

MSMGF: Tell us about yourself.

Solange: I was born in Rwanda and grew up there. I left the country during the genocide in 1994 and went to Canada where I started my activism, first as a gay man, now as a trans woman.

During my activism as a gay man, I started the organization Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique (African Rainbow) to address the issues of LGBT people from Africa and Caribbean living in Canada. Refugee asylum seekers, issues around HIV in the MSM Black population in Canada, integration and adaptation were part of topics we were working on. During the same period I started Massimadi, an LGBT film festival for afro-Caribbean people during Black history month activity that aimed to address the issue of homophobia in black communities in Canada.

It was only in 2012 that I fully accepted myself as a trans woman and started my transition. Three years after, I left Canada to settle in Ivory Coast, Abidjan. This was my return back to the African continent to be among people who never witnessed my past as a man. I have worked since at Maison de la Culture des Diversités Humaines to do global work on trans issues.

MSMGF: What attracted you to become a TEACH Technical Advisor?

Solange: I love teaching. I love doing conferences. I love presenting.  I am a passionate person that likes to transfer my passion to other people, especially about my values and what I believe in.

As a trans woman, I had to work hard on myself, my self-esteem, and to be comfortable with who I am. So many people helped me to reach that level of comfort. So many organizations, stories of others, discussion, and listening helped me being fully me. I believe now it is my time to give it back to people questioning about their identity, to start organizations in my region, to strengthen their knowledge, and to help my fellows trans people be comfortable with whom they are.

The trans movement is a part of LGBT movement although we are often seen as a minority within a minority. I believe my work can help in strengthening the T in LGBT.

MSMGF: In your experience, what is the biggest challenge facing trans-led organizations in your country or region?

Solange: Leadership is the biggest challenge facing trans-led organizations in my region. First of all, so many trans organizations are weaker compared to LGBT organizations in my region. Trans-led organizationsdo not have the same opportunities for funding that larger LGBT organizations do.

On the other side, many trans people in my region are not yet ready to come out as trans. They are still facing fear of stigma. Trans organizations are not able to grow if no one is ready to stand strong and represent other trans people who are still in the closet. Stigma in health care, accessing hormones, surgical operations, facing society, religion, culture are all weakening these organizations and making barriers for trans leaders. For these reasons, many potential trans leaders are leaving the country which makes it difficult to build a strong and steady movement

MSMGF: What are you hoping to achieve at the upcoming TEACH Regional Lab – Africa?

Solange: I am hoping to:

  • Meet other trans-led organizations
  • Have a better idea of the work that has been done in Africa on trans issues by trans-led organizations
  • Be more aware of challenges that these organizations are facing
  • Strengthen the trans-led organization African network
  • Train fellow trans-led organizations in areas that I am more comfortable and experienced
  • Increase my knowledge by learning others
  • Facilitate exchanges

Learn more and about the TEACH Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Learning Lab

Deadline for applications is 8 December 2017