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Seizing Opportunities – A blog by Voice grantee MCNV

IDAHOT marks the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on 17th May. IDAHOT celebrates gender and sexual diversity and tackles stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) around the world. Exclusion of these groups in areas such as family relations, education, employment and health services can cause harm to individuals and incur great costs to society, as shown in the ‘Price of Exclusion

In May, Anan Bouapha, the founder of Proud To Be Us, an LGBTI movement in Laos, contacted MCNV about the IDAHOT event: “I am so excited! It seems the Australian Embassy is willing to host IDAHOT day with us at their premises in Vientiane!” My MCNV colleagues and I congratulated Anan and went on with our business as usual. We heard that not only the Australian Embassy, but also the Office of the Embassy of Canada, the British Embassy, the Delegation of the European Union, and the U.S. Embassy in partnership with Proud To Be Us, were happy to host the reception together.

That evening while dozing away (new ideas always come at such unexpected times), I wondered why we had not looked into the possibility of providing some assistance for organising the day through the resources obtained through Voice. Wasn’t this an advocacy opportunity for Proud To Be Us that Voice could support? Voice aims at supporting vulnerable youth, including LGBTI, to help ensure their voices heard through the use of creative communication methods such as shadow drama. Supporting IDAHOT was not in our original plans. But our plans are not carved in stone. So we went ahead.

Anan called a meeting and discussed the idea of developing a production with his peers. Together they decided to develop a shadow drama. MCNV’s Technical Adviser from Vietnam, Tung, booked a flight ticket and developed a shadow drama with six LGTBI young people who were willing and able to act. When he arrived in Vientiane he got the pleasant surprise that the team of LGBTI movement of Proud to be us Laos had already prepared a story board and had already rehearsed. They had been able to do this as they had already followed a training course on the development of shadow drama as part of the VOICE project.

The shadow drama entitled the “Story of Kham” shows the issues that are often faced by a young transgender people in areas such as schooling, employment and sexual relations. More than fifty visitors attended the event. The guests included members of the Lao government, the diplomatic community, civil society and the business community. They all watched the shadow drama that had been recorded on video. They liked it a lot and some said it was the first time they had seen a shadow drama in Lao PDR. They also liked the messages and the creative way in which the messages were conveyed by the community actors.

It was an honour for MCNV and Voice to support IDAHOT 2017 and the LGBTI movement of Proud To Be Us. We are very much looking forward to further fruitful cooperation and we will not hesitate seizing opportunities when they arise again.

Inspired by the above, Proud To Be Us also wanted to develop a video to show the perspective of young lesbians in Laos, an even more invisible group. To this end Forbidden Love was developed featuring the young Chichang who for IDAHOT 2018 wrote a story to share her experiences.


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