FREEDOM AND ROAM UGANDA on its 12 year Journey to Creating a Less Homophobic Uganda
By Ambrose Barigye
Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) was the first member based LBTI organization formed in Uganda and has been in existence since 2003.
FARUG was mainly established to fight as well as advocate for the rights of Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex women in a country where some people’s gender identity and sex orientation automatically stripped away their fundamental human rights. The organisiation’s core vision was to create a less homophobic society that ensures that sexual minorities in particular LBTI women lived peacefully in their own country, a dream they are still dedicated to.
Basing on the patriarchy that prevails in Africa,especially Uganda, which boosts of male dominance in all spheres leaving the women as a marginalized category in society, a group of determined lesbian and transgender men in Uganda came together to change this stereo type and saw the foundation of FARUG. At the time, there were several women’s organisations that also oppressed sexual minorities and the LGBTI community was focusing mainly on transgender and gay men, leaving out their female counterparts in the struggle.
It was therefore from this point of view that Freedom and Roam Uganda decided to direct all its efforts to advocating for the rights of these marginalized LBTI women since other sexual minorities already had voices.
In its 12 years of its existence, FARUG has had a great impact on the LBTI community, both locally and globally as it acts as a mouthpiece for this group of sexual minorities. It has spearheaded its struggle with sensitization of these women especially on matters of HIV/AIDS, safer sex dental derms, breast cancer screenings as well as equipping them with different ways of living a healthier lifestyle. At FARUG, like most if not all the LGBTIQ organisations, the struggle continues to eliminate the belief that homosexuality or a different sexual orientation from the norm is a one way ticket to contracting HIV.
Besides the health initiatives, FARUG continues to equip its members with different skills through capacity building trainings and programs in leadership, economic empowerment, advocacy and many more relevant skills all aimed at improving the living standards of the LBTI community.
Like all establishments, Freedom ad Roam Uganda has not been without its fair share of challenges. LGBTI persons and all that is done to help them are considered criminal in Uganda and it is no wonder that the community and organisations continue to face financial restraints. Lack of funds within the organisations restrains the programmes put in place to further enrich the community.
The country’s impunitive laws also obstruct operations because it is impossible to work in an environment that criminalises the community and whatever they do to improve their livelihood. With the passing of the Anti Homosexuality Bill in 2013 it became impossible to register organisations, open bank accounts or even get assistance from their partners in the health sector. The Bill caused a lot of panic and confusion that saw many openly and even suspected gay people terminated from their work places, some were evicted from their homes and the media started a witch hunt that left many outed. As if that wasn’t enough, donors suspended all funding, the straight community turned violent and several incidents of lynching gay people were reported.
Currently FARUG is carrying out various programs and activities in advocacy and institutional development focusing on capacity building of not only the staff but also the community as a whole. These initiatives equip the community with various organizational skills for example the ongoing SELF Project has passed on social media skills, safe activism tips as well as income generating ideas to the community.
All in all, FARUG is another organization that will not stop giving its all until the LGBTI community is given a fair chance at a normal life in Uganda.