Rihana is a transgender female who depends on sex work and sometimes handouts from friends for survival. Before then, she had a stable job through which she was able to meet all her needs until she was outed by the tabloids. Her days at work on her previous job became uneasy for her when her employer and collegues started to avoid her. The verbal insults forced her to quit. After attacks by neighbours and three months in prison on grounds of homosexuality, coming back in to society to start from scratch was terrifying. Barely with a roof over her head, she desperately searched for formal employment but her efforts were all in vain. That was when she turned to sex work as a way to make ends meet. Her dream is to raise some capital to start up a small business that would contribute to the sustainability of her basic needs over time (Bombastic Magazine, 2015). This is one of the several real life stories that tell how plenty of LGBT youths hussle in Uganda on a daily basis.
While Uganda brags of a boost in her economic growth over the years with a population estimated to be more than 41 million people currently, there is a high rise of unemployment which is responsible for the increased poverty rates and the LGBTI community is no exception to these impacts. It is double jeopardy considering the stigma that revolves around us in the homophobic society we exist. With stringent laws in the constitution that governs our land and threats by the Ugandan Parliament to retable the Anti Homosexuality Act, the criminalization and discrimination based on gender identity/ sexual orientation restricts LGBTI persons from taking full advantage of society’s opportunities because of the fright. The threats on our safety and wellbeing particularly for those that are living out of the closet is a limitation for us to get work.
Fortunately, some employers have a non- discrimination policy that makes sexual minorities acceptable for employment without any regard to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. All a potential candidate requires are the skills and qualifications to perform well on the given job. Let’s not also ignore the prevalence of most key population organizations that implement economic empowerment projects. These opportunities availed to community members help them acquire a fresh set of skills that they can use to explore manageable small business ventures which will enable them to become self-employed and hence combat unemployment. Consequently, this will reduce on the rate of poverty within our community. Everyone is born with a God given talent. We are all naturally gifted and nurturing one’s own craft or skill can be a great source of survival.
There is a ridiculous myth widely among young LGBT persons that claim that being ‘kuchu’ is some sort of occupation. The gruesome reality escapes them as they grasp a demeanour that being gay puts food on the table or contributes to one’s rent at the end of the month which is false. The LGBTI community must recognize that we are part of the Ugandan population that is generally challenged with issues of unemployment and poverty.
“It is understandable that the economy is difficult at the moment, but what are we doing to make this better? This Diva mentality must stop immediately. People who are not openly kuchu are refusing to take up jobs because they deem themselves better off ‘slaying/ swagging’ instead of making their lives more functional,” said Kasha Nabagesera, a human rights defender (Bombastic Magazine, 2016).
Photo credit: OGERA Uganda’s economic empowerment projects to impart entrepreneurship skills on her members.

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