​The Global North has to stop telling LGBTI people in the Global South what to do, and start listening

Southern Africa regional director Nicolette Naylor compares the horror of the Orlando massacre with the reality faced by LGBTI people across the African continent every day.

Published in Bhekisisa | July 4, 2016
​The Global North has to stop telling LGBTI people in the Global South what to do, and start listening
By Nicolette Naylor 

The horrific shootings targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) community in the United States sent a chilling message that was heard with crystal clear clarity around the world. The murders triggered a fresh and passionate debate about gun laws in the US and shone a light on the ever-present challenges the LGBTI community faces worldwide.

The events in the US are no more terrifying than the reality of the LGBTI community in South Africa and throughout the continent.

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For one thing, the Global North has to do a whole lot less preaching and talking and a whole lot more listening and learning. We're so busy giving advice and implementing solutions that come from New York, Geneva and Brussels that we've lost touch with the needs and realities of the LGBTI community.

At their core, the problems of the LGBTI community centre on inequality and injustice. Looked at through that prism, you start to see how the discrimination, violation and oppression faced by people who do not conform to social expectations of gender and sexual orientation are inextricably linked to the struggles of people who are oppressed on the basis of race, class, disability and geography.

If we treat these challenges as isolated issues, we'll get partial solutions. If we design solutions without real engagement with those we seek to support, we'll head down a lot of dead ends. And if we focus on quick fixes, we won't get lasting change. That's why the Ford Foundation is making some bold bets that are relevant to this discussion.

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The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.