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£12m awarded to international consortium to secure LGBT+ inclusion in Africa

The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is one of eight partners in a new and ambitious programme of action and research to counter discrimination and economic equality against LGBT+ people in five major African cities.

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The LGBT+ movement is growing and gaining momentum worldwide

Funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), the £12 million ‘Strong in diversity, bold on inclusion’ project is a consortium led by Hivos, which also includes the universities of Glasgow and Pretoria, African LGBT+ networks, international NGOs and a range of organisations working with multinationals. 

Together they will implement a multi-year programme that will engage with religious, community and business leaders, politicians, the media, and other social influencers, to advance equality and achieve significant shifts in discriminatory attitudes. 

Part of the project’s strategy is to convince city leaders and businesses with evidence that exclusion of LGBT+ people has a negative economic impact on society.  

Dr Corinne Lennox, co-director and senior lecturer at the Human Rights Consortium at SAS, who is coordinating the multi-national research team, explained, ‘We aim to use research to demonstrate the economic consequences of exclusion and to show that respecting human rights can lead to positive change in the overall prospects of cities.’

‘The research will also support local activists by providing a stronger evidence base for their advocacy with society leaders and through the media,’ said Dr Lennox.

Dr Lennox has a strong track record in this area. With Dr Matthew Waites (senior lecturer with project partner School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow), she co-edited Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change, published in 2013, which has been downloaded 41,000 times in 176 countries. The open-access book features contributions from activists and scholars across the Commonwealth who have mobilised to challenge the legacies of British colonial-era laws that criminalise same-sex intimate relations. These same laws are still in place in many African states.  

Much progress has been made in building the strong and leading continental networks that are part of this consortium, and a growing LGBT+ movement in the cities targeted. The intention now is to strengthen and extend this support by engaging with broader civil society networks.

It is hoped that by 2022, societal leaders and media in these cities will have a better understanding of the daily lives and struggles of LGBT+ people, and increasingly use positive and respectful language when referring to sexual orientation and non-conforming gender identities and expressions. Ultimately, LGBT+ people should have equal opportunities to realise their full potential and to achieve a high standard of personal wellbeing.  

Tanja Lubbers, Hivos regional director for Southern Africa said:  

I would like to thank UK aid for the financial support. It will help us to achieve a shared vision of improving the lives of LGBT+ people. We also hope to create safe spaces for dialogue between LGBT people and different stakeholders so that they can play a key role in the development of societal and policy decisions that affect their daily lives.

The consortium: School of Advanced Study (University of London); Center for Human Rights (University of Pretoria); School of Social and Political Sciences (University of Glasgow); Coalition of African Lesbians; African Men for Sexual Health and Rights; Kaleidoscope Trust; Synergía; Workplace Pride; ARTICLE 19; Hivos.