Report of the SEE Q Network: Supporting LGBTIQ Organizing in post-Yugoslav Region and Beyond

Posted: máj 28, 2007 in ! english, politika & aktivizmus

Report of the SEE Q Network Supporting LGBTIQ Organizing in post-Yugoslav Region and Beyond was drafted after the 13th regional meeting in Zagreb with activist from the region and donor representatives. It maps out the regional and local context as well as needs and recommendations for further LGBTIQ organizing in the region.
 
You can view the Report at http://diskriminacia.altera.sk/download.php – download section of DISKRIMINACIA.altera.sk. or download it directly from www.seequeer.net. Below, there is an Executive SUMMARY of the report.

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY[1]

Supporting LGBTIQ organizing in post-Yugoslav region and Beyond

To:  Donors supporting work in the area of human rights of LGBTIQ persons

On September 30, 2006, LGBTIQ activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, and Slovakia got together with the representatives of the Global Fund for Women, Mama Cash, and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice in order to exchange ideas and information pertaining to LGBTIQ organizing and donor support. One of the outcomes of this meeting was compiling report which might enable both donors and activists to successfully address LGBTIQ issues in these countries, using strategies appropriate to local contexts and aiming for long-term sustainability of the movement and improvements in the recognition of human rights of LGBTIQ persons.

This document offers some context of the needs of the LGBTIQ organizing in the States mentioned above. It also demonstrates the strategies used and preferred by the activists. And finally, it suggests clear recommendations to donor community to consider when planning grant making or operational programs in this region.

Regional Context

Activists who were present at the meeting in Zagreb come from States which have all been affected in major ways in the early 1990s. Before that period, they existed within other States as well as within power blocks of Warsaw Pact and the Non-aligned Movement, in contrast to the NATO Alliance. In the beginning of the 1990s that system collapsed and all States have been transitioning to democracies, dealing with newly reached independence status, membership changes (NATO Alliance, Council of Europe, European Union, etc.), national issues and various priorities which overshadowed the social status and human rights development.

Ever since gaining independence, new States within the European part of the region have been striving (and/or have been pressured) to follow the State models of the European Union (EU) and other western States. In less than a decade, national parliaments of the newly formed States passed many laws in order to respond to a single tendency to design their political and economic systems compatible to the ones of the western States. Adopting and passing laws also included laws which were to regulate, secure and protect human rights and freedoms of all citizens and residents guaranteed by International Conventions of which these States are signatories. However, approval of any law on the State level does not mean that there has been general approval by the public of what this Law implies nor that these laws have been implemented. 

Further east, newly established States of Central Asia and the Caucasus transformed into authoritarian democracies with previously communist parties renaming themselves into democratic parties and creating nominal opposition parties while banning and illegalizing real opposition movements. Each country adopted new westernized constitution with respect for human rights and freedoms, however, in praxis these countries do not respects those rights and additionally proactively negate personal freedoms.

Religion has played a major role in shaping public opinion about human rights and LGBTIQ persons and issues in general, as it has been filtered in the transition process as a very powerful actor. As such it serves or can serve in certain States as a power barrier toward full respect, promotion and implementation of human rights of LGBTIQ persons.

All of these processes have been empowered by the patriarchal power dynamics which further generated reinforcement of traditional values and roles of “women” and men”. With deterioration of women’s rights, sexism and heterosexism prevailed in private and public spheres. Discrimination and oppression related to sex/gender and sexuality in these environments are present in various forms and in all societal spheres. High levels of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and genderphobia lead to social exclusion as well as fear of violence and self-exlusion from the society. Gender/sex equality and LGBTIQ rights have not recieved deserved attention and systems in place are permeated with gender/sexual stereotypes and heteronormativity and are not based on personal rights and freedoms.

Although some States have been adopting legal provisions towards protection of human rights in a form of antidiscrimination laws, sex/gender equality laws, same-sex partnership laws, approval of these laws on the State level does not mean that there has been general approval by the public of what this Law implies nor that these laws have been implemented or rights ensured. Many issues remain unregulated such as sex change/classification, documentation change, discrimination overall allowing for hate speech and violence to happen without any legal consequences.

LGBTIQ organizing has been strengthening as the number of LGBTIQ organizations increased since 1990s along with the number of activists who became publicly out. Such organizing contributed to greater visibility and stronger activism. LGBTIQ organizing in the region has been developing across different issues and borders, and although it varies from place to place, it holds similarities of importance regardless if the activism can be identified as solely lesbian, gay, LGBT, queer, etc. and regardless if it overlaps and stems from different forms of activism such as feminist, peace, human rights, and other. Generally, issues regarding transgenderism and intersexuality lack visibility and proper attention. In the post-Yugoslav region, LGBTIQ movement deals not only with the issue of sexual orientation but sex, gender, identity and expression outside of the binary normative system[2]. 

Needs and recommendations

Zagreb meeting brought up numerous issues that queer activists are dealing with on internal and external levels. Following are the major priority categories of strategic areas defined by the activists, which, when properly addressed, will directly impact the positive change in the situation on LGBTIQ populations in the region. Each strategy has a set of needs defined by the activists that currently serve as obstacles in achieving positive results. Finally, participants of the meeting suggest recommendations for both activists and donors to consider when addressing issues of queer population within this region.

Defined priority strategies:

•·         Capacity Building

•·         Community Outreach and Networking

•·         Monitoring and Advocacy

•·         Arts/Culture and Visibility

CAPACITY BUILDING

Concerns/problems: Many LGBTIQ organizations and groups face problems regarding capacity of their volunteers, activists, and employees. In this region, overall there are not that many activists. Turnaround is obvious within working organizations due to activist burn-out and low to no income among other reasons. All persons within organizations need additional professional education, and different level capacity trainings have to be made available. Financial sustainability, among other issues, is a challenge leading to difficulties in hiring new staff members and ensuring continuity and sustainability of the work. Each project/activity benefits if organizations and activists are capacitated to work on projects and activities in a transparent, consistent, credible, continuous, and professional manner.

Activists’/Organizations’ needs:

  • Education of activists
  • Employment of professional staff
  • Professional development of current staff members and activists
  • Building further capacities according to needs of organizations/activists
  • Financial resources
  • Financial/fundraising strategies
  • Retreat for activists
  • Involve more women, lesbians and trans-identified persons in activities and activism

Recommendations to activists/organizations:

  • Create positive working experience for activists, staff, volunteers
  • Build positive, constructive, and professional relations
  • Build clear status and structure of the organization
  • Develop clear values and professional ethics that guide the work
  • Develop financial/fundraising strategies
  • Develop systematic knowledge and experience transfer

Recommendations to the donors:

•·         When reviewing organizations for funding, donors should check references and ask for recommendation letters from other activists/organizations to make sure organizations are in line with professional ethics and values

•·         Track information regarding capacity growth of activists and organizations

•·         Encourage existence of internal policies (rules and regulations), strategic plans, evaluation practices, internal financial revisions, etc.

•·         Provide general support grants that include salaries, capacity building, organizational development, strategy making, and activist retreats

COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND NETWORKING

Concerns/problems: Issues stemming from community outreach are of great concern to organizations and activists in the region. Many groups are very experienced and have tried using different models in regard to outreach to the LGBTIQ community and outreach with other LGBTIQ NGOs. However, doing outreach toward population requires skills, information and capacity and not only during the outreach campaigns, but afterwards specifically. One of the problems is that public activism deters people from contacting organizations because of the fear of exposure.

Activists’/Organizations’ needs:

  • Obtain and maintain capacity, skills and resources to assist people who experience violence who turn to organizations for help and support
  • Develop mechanisms to work with the multiethnic LGBTIQ community that has specific needs
  • Build trust and respect of the larger community
  • Enable access to national media

Recommendations to activists/organizations:

  • Use different outreach methods: workshops, support to people who experience violence, parties, going out and talking to people, counseling, distribute materials to other NGOs, have information centers, do needs assessment research, provide the community with books and other informative materials, organizing movie nights (film screenings), give people the opportunity to get involved in different activities (sport clubs, tourist clubs), organize discussions, initiate radio shows, include people’s ideas in projects, organize different cultural events and festivals
  • Create a platform which includes human rights based approach and use definitions which are corresponding with people and their needs
  • Create national network/coordination
  • Improve communication with other LGBTIQ organizations
  • Establish and strengthen cooperation with other NGOs and larger civil society movements
  • Improve cooperation with local institutions and officials
  • Exchange experiences with different activists among different regions
  • Create a system of support and protection

Recommendations to the donors:

  • Provide information and funding for exchanges among activists from different regions
  • Assist in connecting activists and professionals who come from a similar context and have dealt with same issues in the past
  • Provide funding for innovative and “hard to measure” outreach methods
  • Provide funding for projects which address progressive human rights (such as education, health) and encourage continuity

ADVOCACY AND MONITORING

Concerns/problems: Queer organizations and activists working in the region have identified needs in terms of advocacy and human rights monitoring that pertain to legal changes, discrimination cases, Pride Parades and other public events.  Each state produces Shadow Reports and/or some form of report regarding human rights violations. LGBTIQ rights need to be integrated into these human rights reports.  These issues cannot be stressed adequately unless there is proper documentation of cases of violence and discrimination. For some the obstacles are connections, identities, and for others obstacles are funds, inclusion, efficiency, sustainability, and professionalism.

Activists’/Organizations’ needs:

  • Documentation
  • Monitoring
  • Unified reporting
  • Drafting of laws and advocating for their change/adoption/implementation
  • Have women’s, intersex and transgender questions properly regulated in their countries (or have an initiative to do so)
  • Have gender/sex discrimination and trans and intersex issues well integrated into LGBTIQ issues in their countries

Recommendations to activists/organizations:

  • Create national network/coordination for outreach and documenting violence against LGBTIQ persons and publishing human right reports
  • Document and monitor activities that are carried out by individuals, organizations, and networks who are trained to collect and consolidate such data
  • Involve more expertise of various profiles such as psychologists, lawyers, sociologists
  • Ensure systematic and methodological ways of monitoring and advocating
  • Participate in Shadow Reporting and other similar reports

Recommendations to the donors:

  • Ensure continuity of such activities by providing long-term support rather then switching priorities annually
  • Although various States have different laws, contexts are somewhat similar and activists can learn about different models, tactics and strategies, and can exchange lessons learned if such space for sharing is provided, therefore donors should support more activist exchanges and coalitions building beyond traditional coalitions and geography bounding.

ARTS/CULTURE AND VISIBILITY

Concerns/problems: Cultural rights are usually pushed aside in the light of social and economic rights, and it is very often the case that activities related to arts/culture do not receive necessary support. There is a lack of access to information regarding LGBTIQ topics overall and there are very few places and public events available for the communities in the region. Art/culture oriented projects and initiatives implemented so far have been very successful in providing spaces for empowerment, generating support as well as raising awareness about LGBTIQ rights in the society.

Activists’/Organizations’ needs:

  • Organizing more activities pertaining to arts, culture, and visibility
  • Including art and culture aspects in overall programs of the organizations

Recommendations to activists/organizations:

  • Buying and translating LGBTIQ movies
  • Producing documentary films
  • Producing various publications
  • Creating and showing art works (photos, paintings)
  • Organizing of queer studies centers
  • Projects focused on improving visibility
  • Exhibits
  • Public campaigns
  • Queer festivals
  • Pride Parades 

Recommendations to the donors:

  • Strongly consider supporting projects/activities in the spheres of culture/arts
  • Strongly consider supporting visibility projects, public campaigns and events
  • Encourage fulfillment, protection, and implementation of cultural rights in the region
  • Encourage that public events in the filed of culture/arts also contain strong activist messages and actively make visible and work on decreasing multiple oppressions and various levels of discrimination in the society

Besides specific recommendations to the donors, all of the recommendations listed for the activists and organizations should be taken into considerations by donors when making decisions on funding. Additionally, strongly suggested are the following recommendations as such method of work and approach on behalf of both donors and organizations/activists can tremendously benefit current and future work being done regarding human rights of LGBTIQ persons.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DONORS:

•·         Engage in open and honest exchanges also through meetings with grantees and potential grantees as such exchanges increase motivation; communicate information, policies, and values; and improve work and activities on both sides

•·         Have more pro-active approach in learning about and understanding LGBTIQ definitions and platforms as they might be core basis when making decisions and creating change regarding human rights of LGBTIQ persons

•·         Include and involve activists directly in creating and structuring the programs that affect them

List of all participating organizations

Organization

State

Web address

 


[1] This report is written based on the work and results of the 13th South Eastern European Queer Network’s meeting, hosted in cooperation with the Global Fund for Women, Mama Cash and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. SEE Q Network is a regional network of queer activists and organizations which promotes and protects human rights of LGBTIQ persons, and also works on prevention of discrimination and violence on the grounds of sex, gender, sexual and gender identity, gender expression, (inter)sexual characteristics and sexual orientation. SEE Q Network was founded in September 2003, and is made out of 23 organizations working on LGBTIQ rights from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosova/o, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Serbia. This is a Summary of the report which can be accessed at http://www.seequeer.net/

[2] See SEE Q Network’s Platform of Action (available online at http://www.seequeer.net/?page_id=13).

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