As the world celebrated pride month, LGBTIQ+ and Sex Work activists came together to reflect, share and convene under the auspices of the biennial Changing Faces, Changing Spaces (CFCS) conference in Kenya. The seventh iteration granted me the privilege of facilitating a dialogue on the use of the law to advance the rights of LGBTIQ+ and Sex Work Africans. As we delved into discussions on how strategies were changed to adopt unanticipated developments in Botswana, I found myself saying an internal prayer of power and celebration for the many pioneers that have stood against atrocities of intolerance and
hatred the world over. We delved into the intricacies of Sex Work, litigation in Uganda and Kenya and the need for other means of engaging with the government in Mauritius. As a member of African Queer Youth Initiative, birthed at the fifth CFCS – I never felt more at home as my nervousness gradually disappeared.

Enablers and actors alike were in a closed space, a few hours away from Nairobi, meaning that one was bound to speak to those outside their areas of work and politics. I had a moment of reflection from my early days within the domestic movement; finally getting closure and understanding from the pain and harm inflicted on an intelligent, challenging and naive young Dumi  This one chat made it clear that community care and shared accountability should become priorities within our resilience strategies [where existing]. I facilitated another dialogue on the significance of language in messaging, the institutionalisation of colonial framing and the need for adopting our own indigenous ways of community engagement in our work. It was an intellectually thrilling play at black consciousness within a very linear and predetermined ecosystem of frameworks that have
stifled how creative, African and deliberate our advocacy can be in fulfilling our variant mandates. My Zimbabwean panelists, the country of my birth, along with another from Rwanda, shared the importance of history, culture and identity within our work. The need to document our intellect, safeguard all voices and visibility from erasure and stimulate dialogue across the divides of geographic and thematic areas is critical to addressing the shortfalls inherent in our work.

AQYI focused on pleasure in all forms amidst issues of consent, morality, negotiations, all forms of safety and HIV criminalisation in a self-organised session was eye opening. It reflected the need for our activism to be multidisciplinary and not just intersecting. The challenges communities we serve today are complex and not limited to law, health or social norms. The world we are shifting towards is rapidly changing and requires of us to do the same. As we prepare for our first ever AGM, thanks to Wellspring Fund, I am keen to see how the collective is willing to break the boundaries and move away from business as usual. Thinking on issues of programming in systemic structures of impediment beyond 12-month M&E indicators. Or how our freedoms and liberties can be claimed or strengthened in more future-fit, comprehensive solutions building. The socioeconomic complexity of environments we operate in, duties of home care, non-existent social protections and misinformation are just some of the challenges we have to reflect on in view of sustainability in impact. Job markets are shifting and technology is changing ways of work; are we fully prepared for the future landscape of organising? Are we looking to occupy other spaces of development beyond the human rights and public health? Conversations around the ecosystem of visibility, efficacy and governance are critical to assuring younger generations to come can be supported and strengthened in their own right and efforts. These are the questions I anchored on the few bilateral conversations I had. There is so much more to be done, accepted and adopted across the stakeholder spectrum, Amnesty’s certainly open to it.

The challenges we face, unanticipated outcomes and fragmented approaches despite being enabled by shared/similar relationships and resources highlights the need to bridge perspectives and move from business as usual. My persistence in calls for action after each discussions I have is clear on everyone playing a role in their areas of influence. Resources
are a consistent need throughout the continent. As a a youth collective in country, we have managed to do amazing things on an average budget of less than USD 5000 a year. Working outside the margins of acceptability, morals, core funding, prevalent service provision, attempted suicides, gate keeping and unemployment in the spirit of not accepting normative ways of organising. The norms of a persistent need for financing before curating our own knowledge or taking on an initiative because it can compliment what is already there. The norms of repeated narratives, reconfigured projects with similar outcomes year on year. The norms of comfortable conversations without pushing for meaningful and equitable interventions driven by interest and creativity as opposed to predetermined need or Global North developed strategic frameworks. UHAI’s model for ensuring and reflecting the communities they serve safeguards the imperatives of serving. More importantly, I have observed their working culture and persistence in continuously having conversations that challenge the norm. This is a value system that encourages learning and eliminates power dynamics of money, position, privilege and what is considered ‘expertise’.

The CFCS space has taught me so much about myself and the movement. Particularly how we are presented socially in influencing how impactful you can be in organising. Also how kindness is deferred in how power can be exercised reflective of the intolerant societies we challenge and can even serve. More importantly, CFCS truly felt like home. A powerful leadership and a team, whenever I meet them in other spaces, that is continuously inspiring. There is a clear understanding of how all voices and visibility can participate within the contexts of democratic aspirations, climate crises, societal wellbeing, economic productivity and cultural practices. I have unravelled in the variant forms of contributions that big and small forms of organising have all played crucial roles in ensuring our Africanness and our Queerness. It is an ongoing story of change and connecting for generations to come. I am grateful for having met and engaged with so many beautiful souls and deep minds. It is a transformative form of becoming and belonging that can hopefully transcend beyond the panels, side chats and nature that surrounded us in those three days.



This was first published by UHAI EASHRI in their CFCS VII report, see the full report here:

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