For the third time since its inception, RFSL is happy to present the Rainbow Advocacy Program. The programme aims at strengthening the capacity of LGBTQI activists to engage with the United Nations. This year, 15 activists from across the world have come together to participate in the programme.
The Rainbow Advocacy Program is a 13-month-long fellowship programme for LGBTQI activists. The programme is both visionary and unique in its approach to combining human rights frameworks with development frameworks, such as the Agenda 2030 in particular. The aim is that the participants will gain hands-on advocacy experience by engaging with UN processes, learning from experts and peers, and implementing an advocacy project.
To paint a more detailed picture of the programme and this year’s participants, we recently spoke to Shakhawat Hossain Rajeeb who is the Training Program Manager at RFSL and one of the key persons in the implementation of the programme.
Who are the participants in this year’s Rainbow Advocacy Program?
“We have an exceptional cohort of 15 LGBTQI activists from 14 different countries. The selection process was very competitive and we had to choose from more than 200 qualified applicants. This year, we have aimed to bring in slightly younger and less experienced activists with a focus on trans and intersex organising”.
What is the key focus of this year’s programme?
“Because of the exceptional situation of the pandemic, we have had to move the first phase of the programme online. However, the focus remains on strengthening the capacity of LGBTQI activists to engage with the United Nations. There will be both theoretical and practical sessions and, among other things, we plan to deliver statements at the UN Human Rights Council and meet with diplomats from various countries to highlight human rights violations targeted towards LGBTQI people”.
What are the key challenges of moving online?
“The challenge we have discussed the most is how we can best replicate the experience of being at the UN when we cannot be there physically. We are however very excited to try various approaches and methods to make the best out of the situation. Another huge challenge is the digital divide since several of our fellows come from countries where internet connectivity and electricity supply can be an issue”.
What do you hope that the programme will lead to?
“First of all, we have seen in the past that the programme has led to the immense personal growth of the activists. This is of course a key aim and very important. We are also looking forward to seeing how the programme can contribute to systemic and sustainable change at both national and international levels. Among other things, we hope that the programme will lead to increased engagement, visibility, and representation of LGBTQI actors from the Global South and East in international mechanisms, particularly when it comes to underrepresented communities”.
As an organiser of the programme, what are you personally looking forward to the most?
“There are so many things but I would say that one of the most exciting things is to see how the new cohorts utilise the knowledge and resources to implement their projects and bring about change. And we are also looking very much looking forward to forming and nurturing a lifelong camaraderie with the fellows”.