Building the Power of Local LGBT Advocacy Groups

September 30, 2015

Strengthening the local organizations and activists that promote LGBT human rights and social justice in Africa, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean is the aim of several multiyear grants in the Arcus Foundation fall 2015 portfolio. By making larger commitments to six key intermediary organizations throughout the world, the foundation supports partners that have close and authentic relationships with groups that identify and meet the needs of highly stigmatized, often-hidden, and persecuted populations.

The organization UHAI (The East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative), based in Nairobi, Kenya, aims to use funding to support both legal and cultural change in Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, by helping smaller groups in these countries to develop their LGBT movements. New multiyear funding will also support coalitions, particularly in their efforts to use the courts for human rights advocacy, as they have done successfully in Uganda and Kenya.

Stichting Hivos (the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries), based in The Hague, works closely with UHAI and also plans to focus on initiatives in Kenya, Lebanon, Iraq, and Tunisia, seeking primarily social acceptance for LGBT people and their community development. The group will also pursue public support for alternative, inclusive interpretations of holy scriptures among religious leaders in Indonesia.

Working in East and West Africa, the American Jewish World Service—which runs sexual health and rights programs in nine countries—will build on its recent successes, which included working with Catholic priests to apologize for past homophobic statements in Kenya, and in Liberia, where LGBT issues were included in a five-year national human rights plan.

Support for the Astraea Foundation, whose seed funding and technical assistance have boosted the capacity of grassroots LGBT groups throughout the world, will help advance policy- and cultural-change programs in 10 countries. Key among these programs is an effort to train health care professionals to be sensitive to the needs of LGBT patients and an intervention to hold the Indian government accountable for human rights abuses. This represents the first investment of the Arcus Foundation in India.

As a result of work which includes the grantees of the Fund for Global Human Rights, four municipalities in the Philippines included sexual orientation and gender identity in anti-discrimination provisions, and the national government supported a U.N. resolution condemning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender in September 2014. With a new grant, the fund will continue its work in the Philippines as well as in Sierra Leone and Thailand, on issues such as LGBT-focused improvements in health programs and legal recognition of gender identity.

Influencing the views of Turkish public officials and the public through positive media coverage of LGBT people is among the goals of a new grant to the Global Fund for Women for regranting within Turkey for regranting within Turkey. This work builds on recent court victories in several SOGI-related battles.

The Heartland Alliance plans to use funding to support its Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights in the Middle East–North African region, Central and West Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. This initiative aims to strengthen sub-grantees’ ability to build a more pluralistic civil society and to systematically address issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, including through advocacy at the Organization of American States, the African Commission and the United Nations.

Following from the publication of the influential report Transrespect vs. Transphobia, on worldwide transgender conditions, Transgender Europe plans to make its research more accessible through an interactive web database, to create new advocacy materials, and to help trans activists in the Global South and East document human rights violations and advocate for trans rights.

In the United States, several grants aim to promote the leadership and visibility of LGBT communities of color, particularly youth, as they seek reform of discriminatory policing. Building on its success in opposing stop-and-frisk policies, Streetwise and Safe plans to expand its national work challenging the criminalization of youth of color and influencing federal and state policies that are harmful to youth who are engaged (or perceived to engage) in the sex trade. The national Black Youth Project 100, based at the University of Chicago Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, will develop trainings and materials to build the visibility of young Black LGBT activists in mainstream LGBT and racial-justice organizations, along with increasing advocacy work on issues impacting LGBTQ youth of color and communities of color in general.

Leadership within the LGBT movement is the aim of the National LGBTQ Task Force, which plans to use funding to recruit and train people from diverse backgrounds to promote an inclusive, anti-discriminatory, cross-sector social agenda. Funding to the The Third Wave Fund will support the Mobilizing Power Fund, increasing awareness of transgender issues and helping transgender women of color to resist violence and advocate for safety and equality.