I dare say due to ‘activism fatigue’ by 2016 the current crop of gay community leaders in Uganda need to be gone; what leaders can do and what needs to be discouraged in the meantime
A white friend of mine who is both a social worker and a lawyer picks my brain on social and health issues and I do likewise. This friend of mine brought to my attention various things that are characteristic of the gay community leaders which I want to share with you in this blog. I am writing about Ugandan Gay community leaders. It is assumed that being a very small community that has always been relegated to the back streets, any opportunity at the cockpit and celebrity should be used effectively. I got to understand that there is an expectation that gay leaders in all their capacities are accountable to those they represent and ‘fight’ for. Therefore, if for instance, a gay leader attended a conference there is an expectation that the attendee learns skills and comes across knowledge that would be useful and shared with those this leader represents. Right? It is also allowed that since travel is also a means to see the world, there needs to be a balance in duty and dabble. But what happens is that there seems to be more dabble than duty for many leaders.
There is need to create spaces for dialogue on very painful issues. These issues should inform planning and interventions. It is good to travel to South Africa, Kenya, France or Switzerland or Denmark for a conference and meet friends, many of whom are actually on boards of NGOs donating start up funds/resources and talk to them about what really is transpiring in Uganda. These should include issues that are so apparent among the LGBTI in Uganda. They are the ones that need addressing. But what happens could be hinged on the psyche and watered down drive many of the leaders had! There are those who are so comfortable, have been so pampered and may just be going through repeated ‘jet-lag’ from very recent truncated flights to a country outside Uganda ‘on behalf of themselves’ but all at the expense of the LGBTI they purport to represent. This in itself causes burn-out and activism fatigue and therefore inadequacies and renders leaders inefficient. The leaders’ mind frame is oriented towards what the next flight will be and which country it will be this time. Local issues are sadly not a priority and are set aside. They are even not bothered to report back to those they represent. They put on airs and adopt a surly self importance. Most leaders are so established in the donor-world that they feel they are untouchables and can make pronouncements with impunity. In Ugandan parlance, these leaders are actually heard to say ‘we have the donors in our pockets.’ They even claim that no donor or person in the western world can reach out to a desperate Uganda gay without going through them (the leaders). When they come back from, say, the conferences it is no wonder they can never share the reports of the outcome of their frequent flier opportunities. But they share something indeed! They share posts on facebook and photos of them toasting a red or brown chardonnay brand of drink!
This is what I meant by the term ‘leaders’; all those who have taken up time to commit their position to do various interventions that impact on life of a gay or lesbian or non-heterosexual person. In doing this they are doing a good job. But almost all ( mark my word) seem to be more concerned about their own salaries, rent, laptops, facebook, instagram, which bar has better beers and where to go over the weekend. Even when many (mark my word) convene a workshop or conference they invite a clique of those they are ‘friends’ with. The leaders have created cliques of sycophants. Those who are out of these circles are not allowed in.
The issues of LGBTI are numerous but these need to be addressed:
Balance public health, legal and security workshops held in Uganda. Ensure we have as many LGBTIQQ as participants as possible. Follow these up with planned interventions against the effects of hate which include: HIV response, bodily harm, injuries, acid burns, homelessness, expulsions, evictions and deaths. How are the existing NGO's and government positioned to address these issues?
During the workshops let there be zero tolerance for those who do facebook, instagram or such social networking activities. This mostly goes to those who now own ipads, laptops and other equipments.
We encourage ‘leaders’ to establish outreach opportunities; whereby they go out to the ground where the LGBTI persons are living. The culture of meeting in bars and restaurants should not be a 21st Century safe-space agenda. This is taxing I admit. But what is wrong with ‘leaders’ getting off their butts and meet people?
Encourage smaller groups to establish and eventually train the members in leadership skills.
Establish a facility where we can access reports (financial, mid-term, end-term and other documents-especially minutes). Many of the organizations are operating in shadows.