We Exist: Mapping LGBTQ Organizing in West Africa

Publication date: 
March, 2016
Source(s): 
Foundation for a Just Society
Across West Africa, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people live in an increasingly hostile environment, and a recent surge in homophobic laws, violence, and arrests have focused new attention on the struggles of LGBTQ people in the region. Historically, gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) have been the focus of philanthropic attention (particularly in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic), which has kept issues facing lesbians, bisexual women, trans* people, and other queer-identified and gender-nonconforming West Africans at the margins. 
 
In recent years, however, more broadly-based LGBTQ organizations are emerging, including many led by queer-identified or gender-nonconforming women. These organizations contend with multiple, overlapping challenges in establishing and sustaining their work – particularly in Francophone countries, where civil society infrastructure is comparatively weak.
 
In response to these challenges – and with donor interest in indigenous LGBTQ activism growing – a group of funders and activists came together in 2013 to propose a bilingual fund managed and led by West African LGBTQ activists. 
 
As a first step, they commissioned a scan of LGBTQ organizing in the region.
 
The research was conducted by six consultants, reaching a total of 50 groups and organizations and 180 activists from nine West African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo).
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