A life-changing experience that broadened my world view
Participating in Influencing Unbound; 2nd Voice Knowledge Exchange
In September 2019, I got the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2nd Voice Knowledge Exchange. As a peer educator, I was recommended by my organisation focusing on the promotion of equity and equality in accessing human rights services to all in Tanzania. As a peer educator I provide knowledge and information concerning sexual health and rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, human rights, safety and security as well as providing HIV and AIDS referrals to the LGBTIQ community in the country. This was my first time in Uganda, especially the greater and beautiful Masaka region! I enjoyed every moment of my stay; with a venue so quiet, peaceful and comfortable and with people so kind and nice to me what was not to love? In addition, our security as participants in there was super satisfying, especially if I compared it to home.
This experience gave me the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people; the coordinators, facilitators and the participants. There was so much wealth in the ideas that came out when different people with diverse perspectives come together. I started seeing the possibilities of doing the same for my work back home. From the learning experience now I can purposely identify barriers and opportunities when it comes to being self-led and trying to influence change regardless of your fight. Being in a group that decided to focus on early marriages and pregnancies, as one of the group members works around those issues in real life, was really eye opening for me. This is because before I would never have taken the time to really reflect on other forms of discrimination in society because I was so focused on mine. Thanks to Voice, I can now understand how it feels to wear someone’s shoes (building empathy)
I must say I was struck by the positive reception and questions that people asked me as a transman from Tanzania. This was especially from the participants who do not work in or with the LGBTIQ community. It was my first experience of not feeling judged, accepted and at home with people who just formed a community! I never felt that I was different from them and I always felt like a human being. This came to me as a surprise but it also reassured me. The flexibility of facilitators, coordinators and everyone who worked in making sure that we get quality lessons affirmed that I was in the right place. The decompressing evenings that had the masquerade party, karaoke, dinners, were like sweet spice to the whole experience.
The community visit on the second day was the best for me. We visited a startup non-profit organisation that operates independently and works with LGBTIQ youth and sex workers. The visit inspired me because it proved that you don’t need to have so much or be in a smooth environment or context to work in tackling some of the challenges facing your community; you just need to be passionate, love what you do, accept criticism, be courageous and open to learning. This organisation did not have so much in terms of resources, but then they were still doing the work, successfully reaching out to their community members who are in hundreds, with health information and safety tips. Challenges like not being accepted by the local community, not having enough resources, being misunderstood, harassment from law enforcers have not stood in their way! The whole idea of being self-led was clearly shown by this organisation and that was the best lesson for me and others!
Lastly I had the chance to connect, network and create unbreakable bonds with some very amazing people in Masaka. My name is Kim Malcolm from Tanzania and this beautiful experience will forever live in my heart.