Grace Stone Mugobelezi, like many LGBTIQ activists has followed his passion and calling to advocate for a just and fair society for sexual and gender minorities. Two years ago, he founded the Jinja based organization Lived Realities with the aim of creating a safe space for LGBTIQ persons as well as to raise awareness and change societal perceptions.
Our field team caught up with Mugobelezi and he shared the experiences that compelled him to start Lived Realities and some of the challenges the organization has faced within its two years of operation.
Because Jinja is a highly homophobic area, many LGBTQ persons have experienced stigma especially within religious and cultural settings. Many have constantly suffered attack and Mugobelezi who is now the Executive Director of Lived Realities was a victim of this hate and homophobia.
“The first experience was in church and the pastor told the congregation that I was promoting homosexuality. Actually he said it at a crusade. I was a church boy and I was singing at that crusade. He got the microphone and told everyone present that I was a homosexual and just like that, I had been outed and the threats began. People started to tell me they didn’t want me in their community, ad on several occasions, I was beaten,” Mugobelezi narrates what led to his ex-communication from the community after his Pastor outed him.
He reveals several scars from the numerous incidents when he has been beaten up. These experiences got him wondering if there were other people in the Eastern district that were going through the same ordeal. Slowly, he started to learn about the community and before long, it became clear to him that many LGBTIQ persons could relate to what he had been through. Many had had similar experiences and some, even worse.
This realization kept him up late at night as he pondered what could be done to create a safe space for people like him. That was when the idea of an organization came to him. Initially, the organisation was called Comfort for Marginalized People and they set out on an advocacy agenda.
“We wanted to change attitudes of religious and cultural leaders and Ministry of Health officials in Jinja. Our first advocacy was at the district where met the District Health Officer and talked to him about the special health care needs of LGBTI persons,” Mugobelezi narrates.
The reception wasn’t what they had hoped for but the needs remained a reality that needed to be met. The organization decided to venture into provision of health care for LGBTI persons and sex workers. This birthed their peer educator program that has since grown to 20 personnel. They are also currently with a few health centres that are slowly becoming more tolerant and open minded.
They have also taken on the mantle of raising awareness at the cultural level; they have held consultative meetings with kingdom officials and are hopefully that these will yield fruits in the near future.
The organization like many other KP focused institutions now faces a challenge of resources to push its programs forward. With no funder to date, they continue to operate on volunteer basis.
Lived Realities is based in Mpumudde, Jinja and can be reached at email@example.com or through their Facebook page, Lived Realities Ug
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