African LGB&T activists return from three weeks training in Sweden armed with skills

After three weeks in Stockholm, Sweden 50 African LGBT activists are back home with knowledge and skills acquired from a human rights training programme.

During the training, organised by amongst others the Swedish National Association for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (RFSL) the activists were trained to advocate, protect and defend LGBTI rights in their respective countries.

It was also arranged for the activists to meet with their respective ambassadors or diplomatic representatives from their embassies in Stockholm. This was made possible at a dinner organized by RFSL. The aim of the dinner was to enable the building of networks between the activists and their ambassadors.

Also at the dinner was the Swedish Deputy speaker who gave opening speech and encouraged activists to continue the good job. He added that he would ensure he constantly raised the sexual orientation and gender identity issue at every UN meeting he attended in future.

The activists came from as far afield as Cameroon, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Malawi.

Three activists from Zimbabwe met with the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Sweden during the dinner. However activist Mojalefa Ndlovu said, “It would have been great to have the government representatives engage in these workshops/trainings so that they are also able to understand and appreciate the challenges we are faced with.”

Ndlovu added, “It is good to have dinner with the ambassador, but we really need to engage with them at another level as we do not have access to them.”

During the three week training period the activists were divided according to the themes of their projects which were health, legal, awareness raising and economic empowerment.

Ntlotleng Mabena an activist from South Africa, who is also a medical practitioner, explained that her project is about the health needs of lesbians in South Africa.

She said, “South African health care providers are not sensitized towards health needs of lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons, undergrad studies do not attempt to address these areas of health care”. She said that when she got back home, she intended to do research using questionnaires, focus group discussions and one on one interviews of lesbians women and health care providers.

Ntlotleng added, “With this project I would like to see a better understanding of health needs of lesbian women in South Africa, which will hopefully translate into better holistic services for lesbian women and LGBT persons in general.”

Each group has a mentor who will keep in contact with the participants through seven months and these projects are not budgeted for hence they will fall into the organization work plans.

The follow up programme will be in Africa in May 2012, however the country to host the programme has yet to be picked.

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