With support from African Women's Leadership Institute under Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), Transgender Equality Uganda (TEU) in partnership with Rella Women's Foundation concluded a two-day Queer Feminist Forum for LBQT women and female sex workers in Kampala. The space that aimed at growth, healing and togetherness focused on queer feminism, movement building, transformation healing and economic justice through interactive dialogues and group discussions.
However much we experience challenges differently, but we have something in common and that's our gender identity. We hope to reach out to several others with two main goals are growth and healing through this forum. That's what we seek to focus on. How can we hold each other accountable? How can we hold each other's hand and grow? Also, we have hurt so much and everyone needs healing. But how can we help each other on this healing journey?" one of the forum’s facilitators Winfred Mugambwa, remarked in her opening remarks.
In an interactive dialogue on queer feminism transgender activist, Monalisa highlighted feminism as an ideology that calls for both equality and equity of all genders regardless of their sexual orientation in different spheres of society and empowers all women to advocate better for themselves. "For LBQT women and female sex workers, feminism can be enhanced to find ways to break the patriarchy system within our homes and communities where men feel they are so entitled while women are left at a disadvantage," Monalisa noted.
Participants also shared misconceptions and challenges faced by queer feminists through group discussions and presentations. Some of the myths noted include; they are bitter, angry and miserable women that hate men. They are all lesbians. Queer feminism is exclusively for unmarried CIS gender heterosexual women who dwell in urban areas and are elite. They are anti culture and anti-8religion.
In addition to the widespread misconceptions and myths, other challenges faced by queer feminists were listed as discrimination both based on gender and sexual orientation, gagging of their voices in women spaces, limitations by legal system and the constitution, classism based on background, age, ethnicity, lack of information on what Feminism is and what it entails, limited resources, language, low self-esteem, some powerful women being gatekeepers of patriarchy, fighting for spaces, diversity, technical assisted violence, culture and religion.
The forum also listed some available opportunities to address the above mentioned challenges which included unstructured support systems from friends and family, psychosocial support by some membership organizations, collaborations and partnerships with allies like HRAPF and Chapter Four Uganda, shelters, some online friend and pseudonym accounts on social media to tackle online violence. One of the recommendations as a way forward is group therapy sessions for community and non-community LBQT/ FSWs which are more comfortable for experience sharing that help heal their traumas.
On movement building, participants addressed relationships among different power dynamics based on gender. It was stressed that through recognition of power within through self-awareness or reflection, an individual is able to define oneself and advocate for change for themselves and others without fear or manipulation based on their vulnerabilit(y)ies due to socially constructed gender norms.
The forum also had sessions on transformation healing and economic justice specially focusing on financial independence and freedom of all individuals without any form of discrimination. Patricia Anena, the facilitator of this session noted that it is a well-known fact that LGBTQ persons have been rated among the poorest communities in the entire world because they don't have enough resources to ensure their financial independence due to the highly manipulative system.
To conclude, participants brainstormed on strategies to ensure the attainment of economic justice such as; visibility and representation, documentation of data and evidence, support from international, regional and national allies, earn a living from personal talents and passions, continuous advocacy to change of draconian laws and policies that lead to discrimination, stigma and violence, change of mindset, more economic empowerment projects, financial literacy and management trainings, sharing of opportunities, SACCO saving groups together with more collaborations and partnerships with allies.