Posted by Ben Clapham July 17, 2013
Three years ago, the three organizations in Togo that work with GMT were at odds. They competed against each other for the same funds from the same international donors and rarely worked together. However, they recognized that the lack of cooperation was weakening their efforts to address the strong societal and institutional stigma and discrimination against GMT in Togo. So they joined together for the first time to apply for funding to help foster their collaboration.
Members of MENS, Club de 7 Jours, and Afrique Arc-en-Ciel work together at the meeting room at their new center.
amfAR is currently funding this consortium of the three organizations—MENS, Club de 7 Jours, and Afrique Arc-en-Ciel. The project is a game-changing first step towards a more coordinated and organized approach for and by GMT in Togo. It includes a new center that houses all three organizations’ offices. The organizations are also co-hosting workshops to train GMT about advocacy and other workshops to educate the larger community about issues GMT face.
When I visited Togo last year, it was not even possible to have a meeting with a representative from each organization at the same table. When I arrived last week, the directors of each organization had just returned from a series of workshops held with prominent media houses and journalists to discuss ways to broker a more responsible and truthful media representation of GMT. To me, this change in one year represents a major shift in priorities, and a signal that there really is strength in numbers.
The three directors, Hugues, Georges, and Laurent, meet with two other members of the consortium at the center.
In the past, gratuitous, sensationalist media representations of GMT often occurred, including publishing photos of “supposed homosexuals” and writing articles about “homosexual parties” that were actually HIV prevention events that targeted GMT. The media workshops were an effort that could not have happened when the organizations were working separately, and all of the directors were optimistic that they served as a strong foundation for future collaboration with the Togolese media.
During my visit, I met with Hugues, Georges, and Laurent, the three directors, to assess both the successes and difficulties they had experienced thus far in the project. Admittedly, there are still many roadblocks to overcome for this network to succeed, including improving communication between each organization, which remains difficult at times. “A clear vision and strategy is needed for each individual organization going forward, so each has its special focus,” Hugues told me. “And together the individual strengths will add up to something much more powerful than any one organization alone.”
And regardless, they are now a network of GMT organizations working towards one goal—to improve the lives of GMT in Togo.