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The Rainbow Project: a lesson in pride.

The Rainbow Project (TRP) is a human rights organisation committed to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Namibia. TRP was launched in 1997 in response to former President Sam Nujoma's and other government leaders' verbal attacks on gays and lesbians in our country.

Based in Windhoek, TRP works closely with other human rights organisations to incorporate the rights of sexual minorities into a human rights framework, to defend LGBT people against state officials' hate speech, and to promote the protection of the human rights of all Namibians.

Currently, TRP is focusing its energy on several projects. First, the organisation is building the capacity of members of civil society and TRP staff, trustees, volunteers and beneficiaries through intensive training and workshops. Such training includes speaking skills; understanding different forms of oppression, such as classism, homophobia, sexism and racism; and education about sexual health and safer-sex practices for same-sex-loving people to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Second, the LGBT human rights and advocacy programme features religious, education, health and law reform components. The religious component helps LGBT Christians discover how they can integrate their spirituality and sexuality, instead of treating them as incompatible. In the education component, TRP has devised a pilot programme for secondary students to learn about democracy, human rights and diverse sexualities. Later this year, the health programme will hire a new staff member knowledgeable about LGBT-specific health concerns. In 2007, the law reform project will review existing laws relating to sexual minorities and determine whether and how TRP can seek changes to discriminatory laws without upsetting the fragile tolerance of LGBT people that now exists.


Third, in the leadership programme, TRP is working on formulating a strategy for the LGBT movement in Namibia and throughout Africa. TRP provides skills training to leaders and members of other African LGBT organisations to develop their capacity for organising. Further, TRP is the current secretariat for the Coalition of African Lesbians, and serves as caretaker for the All-Africa Rights Initiative, which helps new LGBT organisations specify their goals and apply for funding.

Fourth, the outreach programme has blossomed in its efforts to create safe spaces for LGBT people in Namibia. One such safe space is TRP's resource centre, where visitors and members of the LGBT community can access information and conduct research on LGBT issues. Each year TRP hosts an LGBT Awareness Week with diverse activities such as film screenings, discussions on topical issues and poetry readings, which all showcase the complexity and achievements of the Namibian LGBT community.

Katutura Community Radio carries TRP's award-winning weekly radio show, "Talking Pink," which is currently the only show in Africa that deals with LGBT issues. TRP's video project brings a variety of films to different Namibian communities to initiate dialogue around LGBT issues and to ensure that LGBT people living in rural communities connect with a larger sexual minority community in Namibia.

While TRP has fiercely and publicly supported "all human rights for all," the staff, volunteers and members of the organisation have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for almost a decade on addressing LGBT people's diverse needs. Many feel isolated in their communities because schools, churches and families do not frankly discuss sexuality, and treat them as outcasts. This leads to lives lived in fear and social isolation, with many LGBT people remaining hidden "in the closet".

Through its different projects, TRP is striving to change the hearts and minds of all Namibians so that all our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens can proudly and publicly express their diverse gender and sexual identities instead of suffering in silence.
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sexual minorities laws
Author:Swartz, Ian
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Previous Article:The time to promote the human rights of African women is now!
Next Article:Protecting the rights of sexual minorities in Africa.

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