COALITION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS INITIATIVE
by Kay Kyohairwe
Organization and Project Description
Coalition For Human Rights Education (COHRE) is a registered non-governmental and non-profit organization comprised of members drawn from diverse backgrounds who have come together to promote human rights through advocacy, sensitization and capacity building to individuals and communities about basic human rights and help change the attitudes and welfare of those affected and marginalized, discriminated and stigmatized; LGBTI community, women and children.
It was formed in Uganda by Seven individuals to support people who have been victims of Human Rights violations in order to learn about their experiences and to help improve their well-being, while at the same time, teaching people how to work together to develop their knowledge and social understanding of the meaning and importance of Human Rights respect, and how to prevent abuse and live in harmony. We believe that awareness of one’s rights can help guard against excessive power of individuals exercising inappropriate control over other lives and would help an individual develop their well-being. This knowledge can positively create a fairer, more tolerant society hence giving everyone a chance to flourish as human beings.
In working towards United Nations goal of ending poverty and inequality we are gearing our efforts to helping LGBTI members channel their skills beyond stigma, discrimination and marginalization to become self-reliant and independent. The skill and talent improvement project is aimed at working with thirty members selected on merit to come together and develop their skills in guided and mentored entrepreneur skills like hairdressing, handcrafts, poetry and composition, and basic graphics. We believe this project can prepare them to compete in a wider community and help them become self-sustaining equipped with job creation art guided by successful volunteers, mentors, facilitators that will help develop their skills to a competitive level.
This is to empower LGBTI youth to make wiser choices and beat systematic and policy failures that have left them out through arrests, poor protection laws, school expulsion that affects them psychologically, and end up not being able to fit in their communities. Our aim is to work towards a “leave no one behind” initiative by equipping them with a purpose to grow to a level of desired individuals as opposed to personal waste due to frustrations and abandonment. Eventually they can channel their energies to working towards a progress in their career and hold a respected and accepted place in society admired by their talents, achievement and success rather than segregated by their sexuality.
The design of this project follows our experience in interacting with most members and realizing a need to change the status quo. There is a lot of joblessness due to stigma and discrimination. Without system support and with so much harassment it is hard for an LGBTI member to challenge unfair dismissal or school expulsion. Most live by chance and end up surviving harshly which makes even fighting for their rights even very hard. We want to give those that can put to use their skill a chance to make a life for themselves and get involved in boosting their control and self-esteem.
Objectives of the project
To increase expertise of LGBTI members through guided learning and counseling towards self-reliant.
To work towards reducing social and individual stigma through increased and improved knowledge, exposure, self-improvement and increase individuals social respect through individual improvement.
To understand causes of discrimination and demystify held wrong opinions about LGBTI members and help lift our standing in the community.
To encourage unbiased understanding of LGBTI individuals and help advance their place in society and make them desirable through their added service to work creation.
To train individuals that can help pull others from the abyss of frustration and help uplift LGBTI members’ well-being.
Project Review – Director’s Report
I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of the LGBTI skills project that has just concluded. I am privileged to have worked with you. I particularly thank Rainbow Support Network for having extended this call to me and linking COHRE the organization that I manage as a beneficially of their support towards bettering the Ugandan LGBTIQ youth. Thank you for your kindness. I thank all the participants who listened to me and responded to the call with eagerness and commitment. I sincerely thank all the volunteering team that worked hand in hand and sacrificed your time to see this initiative succeed. I hope and pray that I can lead you all into a brighter future.
COHRE, an organization that I founded and still direct, works guided by the principle to improve the well-being of the marginalized members of our society. It seeks to help develop wider knowledge and skills as an important contrivance to empower these individuals towards a life of freedom and dignity. I am delighted to see that one of the projects I have championed has been a skills empowerment project which fits well into COHRE’s mission.
The idea of this project started from issues of my experiences and was introduced to COHRE and immediately accepted by COHRE Team. It was therefore a dream come true when Rainbow Support Network agreed to support this Idea. I knew that such skills empowerment would not only boost the self-esteem of the beneficiaries but would also take a leap towards a position on fighting stigma and discrimination in the long run.
During the initial stage which was phase one; I started chairing plans, preparing for the take-off of the project. To select beneficiary participants, I wrote to different LGBTI organizations in the districts of Wakiso, Kampala and Kayunga/ Masaka to have a wider coverage and extend this chance to variety of LGBTI background. As COHRE, we agreed that we extend this call to organizations that didn’t have a clear running funding project at the time. The call was requesting for each organization to send in two participants. Then other participants were identified from the community on recommendation or personal interest responding to the call and also those that were committed to COHRE work either as volunteers or through partnership and collaboration.
As agreed we designed questionnaires and base line survey materials to capture background information. This was aimed to understand participants needs, interests and future plans so that we choose a person that would benefit from the training. Although the number was higher we had to agree to select 40 from over 100 participants that shown interest so that we could manage implementation within the limited budget.
When the number was selected, we invited mentors to motivate them and guide them through importance of life skills as participants asked questions. The mentors were part of COHRE team and other senior LGBTI activist whom we felt would benefit the participants.
I then called a meeting of the planning committee to review the needs of the participants as expressed in their questionnaire, prepare materials and identify possible willing trainers. After selecting the work team, we all then met to go through our project aims and objectives. We again called on participants to come together for the final orientation and also to communicate the skills chosen from their submission and selection. I must confirm here that that participants who didn’t seem to know why they needed the project or whose needs were not confirming to COHRE objectives were told to refer their interest to other befitting projects in future.
We then identified all the materials we would need to purchase like stationary to use, printing required and identified places that would host the different training sessions according to need. After these activities I knew that we were all set for phase two the implementation phase. At this point we needed an assessment from the monitoring and evaluation to verify our activities and that the program was running within the set objectives.
With timely funds, the project implementation (phase two) began on time. After receiving each trainers work plan and meeting all participants once again to make sure no one was absent or had changed mind we opened the training. The training was divided according to sessions and training schedules for effective delivery of service. This was to allow participants to feel free in case they wanted to learn different activities. This allowed them chance to attend both training especially for those that opted for more than one skill to train on.
The process ran smoothly, and we did not get any interruptions from the usual police or community harassment which was impressive. As we reviewed such issues with participants, no one expressed any disturbances from the locations we trained from or during training. It reminded me of the fact that focused activities and well benefitting were much required to commit our youth to issues that benefit them and improve their status quo in such homophobic community. All outdoor activities were done in places that had other members of the wider community, but no one questioned what we were doing at one time. This was encouraging and revealed to us that no body may want to interrupt any well-intentioned learning.
Finally, we concluded the project assessment with a set of questionnaires to help us identify participants’ views on the process before receiving submission from the audit and monitoring and evaluation teams. From the participants opinion they requested us to in future include the skills that were not included yet requested by them. These included design, modeling, catering and baking. After our explanation about limitations with the budget on financing working material everyone agreed that these can be worked on at a later stage. During this final meeting, it was clear that majority wanted the project as a continuous venture for many other youths in the LGBTI community who might have missed the training. There were also those that would like to be helped with project resources to carry forward learning even after the project had been concluded. These issues marked our resolution as COHRE to make the skills project as a continuously ran project whenever we can, and this is where I think a resource centre would be a perfect beginning.
All in all, I can simply say that working with the project beneficiaries has given me a sense of courage and a dedication to keep supporting LGBTIQ youth and to help them find their ground. It became so clear to me seeing how committed and wanting to get trained on skills the participants were. That’s when I knew this project was highly relevant. I didn’t have to dictate the accomplishments. Right from the word go participants knew what they wanted to do. It was clear that not only did they want this project but also a chance to develop themselves and push their existence to the level of ownership. By allowing each participant to choose what they wanted to learn, this project gave them confidence to determine their destiny without fear of being judged or intimidated. This was their making and I couldn’t have asked for more. Their dedication made training easy and smooth. It showed that participants were within their interests and their hobbies suited well with their needs and mental capacity. By this gesture, I realized that I was chairing a meeting that had purpose and independence.
Psychologically this was participants being guided to choosing their destiny. All I and my team needed to do was show them how. The many choices these participants made; the hair dresser, the public speaker, the actor, the video producer, the music maker, the crafts maker, the computer specialist all was their own choices, and this made me proud. Participation in this project gave participants a family and each belonged to a category that allowed them to share ideas on how to use their knowledge to making their mark in life for themselves. The isolation of ideas and the fear of being alone were erased from each participant’s mind as they worked as a team to develop their skills. During training, participants shared ideas and discussed challenges faced in a wider community and voiced their appreciation for having been chosen for this project.
Accomplishments can be described as follows: While the official project ended, each group has created an avenue where they can call on me and my team at COHRE anytime for advice and self improvement this was a result of the trust established during the project and a desire to shape own lives. To date project beneficiaries have formed a whatsapp group where ideas get exchanged and advice shared. They have created a dedicated teamwork that I believe would keep them optimistic as they follow each other’s achievements and knowledge improvement. Three of our participants have been very active in public addressing on functions and taking part in occasions that require their input as models and speakers thanks to the confidence gained throughout the project implementation. The shyness and internal stigma is history.
Generally speaking this project has given the participants a sense of hope and desire to do more. This is reflected in their continuous desire to call on me and ask for advice on a problem solving issue they encounter in their day to day life. The objective of empowering these youth through knowledge and skill improvement was largely achieved. For instance, to see a product film from this project get requested for review at an international festival makes me proud and it gives me a sense of wanting to keep going. To date the acting group and more youth keep calling asking me about when they can do another film or develop their short story further and more youth from the community desire to join us.
It should be noted that in the short term this seemed like an introductory project but the impact it is creating on participants and even those asking to be enlisted shows the need of these skills by our youth. To those that have taken part I see a will to learn more and turn their skills into self-employment and even help train others.
I believe that if we could work within a limited budget and get everyone interested and very eager to learn and yearn for more what can a higher budget achieve would help transform even more of our youth. The time spent doing a positive life changing act sways so many off digressions that would otherwise led them to more dangerous risky behaviors that might ruin their youthful lives. I believe that keeping a continuous commitment in the long run will help change many people’s lives and equip them with an everlasting attribute to making lives of today’s and future LGBTIQ youth well prepared to face cruelties of a homophobic community through an improved self-esteem.
The following short comings should be noted as well: There were two participants whose English is still so low. I realized that this does affect them somehow in expressing themselves to a wider audience. I am committing my time to at least expose them to simple Basic English and recommend more reading practice for them to learn to express themselves.
Many youths seemed challenged with daily income to get them to the training venues which challenged us most. But although we tried to find ways of supporting them so that no one missed training it showed us realities of the effect of joblessness on our LGBTIQ youth.
The limited budget meant that more demanding expressed needed skills were not accorded time. These included catering/ baking skills, professional dancing and modeling, make up and design. It created that desire in me to plan for more learning to develop these skills in those that expressed a desire.
Most participants wanted to keep learning to professionalize the acquired skills on a continuous schedule. Most of them were suggesting a carry-on resource / training centre to allow them develop more. I am in support of this idea should there be a means in future. I believe that beyond the project, skills acquisition can get better with continuous supported practice and guidance. There was also a challenge on lack of some basic materials for the video production. Participants’ time to practice was limited as they were all using one laptop that could edit video. I believe this kind of problem would not be an issue had COHRE had several computers designed to do video editing.
Conclusion: From my perspective the skills project is a much needed venture and works to holistically prepare an individual to learn. Apart from the skills chosen, participants learn a lot through coming together, sharing experiences and interacting on the need for a hopeful existence in a wider community. The eagerness and commitment expressed during the training and the questions paused towards the end of the training showed me that indeed the skills project was a much needed and long awaited for opportunity for LGBTI youth to fight redundancy and joblessness and self-wasting. I am pleased that we at COHRE have availed this prospect towards a life changing commitment.
Founder & Executive Director