Rainbow Academy

InternationalRFSLPhoto: Miles Tanhira

Rainbow Academy is RFSL’s platform for international trainings – a space for LGBTQ activists to come together, and grow together. Rainbow Academy offers a variety of customized trainings to groups of leaders and persons with other instrumental roles within the global LGBTQ movement.

A unique training concept

The content of Rainbow Academy’s trainings vary and adjust according to the current needs of LGBTQ organizations across the globe. There are however some common elements that form the foundation of all trainings. Regardless of the subject of the training, RFSLs Rainbow Academy trainings share the following core principles:

  • Individual learning is a tool to reach organizational development and growth. RFSL sees LGBTQ people’s own ability to organize as a prerequisite for the advancement of LGBTQ people’s human rights.
  • Lasting networks between training participants are important. This is done through integrating spaces for sharing and socializing in the training curriculum. RFSL believes that the personal relationships that form throughout trainings are valuable in sustaining the global movement, as are the formal outputs of the curriculum.
  • Consciousness of work/life balance when planning trainings. Activists often experience high levels of stress and burn out. RFSL sees well-being as a key element to achieve successful advocacy and political change. Self-care and stress management is a crosscutting theme in every RFSL training, which is integrated into the schedule itself by being mindful of not “over programming”.
  • Learning processes are built on a strength based approach. This method identifies and enhances what individuals and organisations already do well, strengthening the qualities rather than focusing on eliminating what is not working. RFSL acknowledges that each individual and organisation knows their own strengths and how to build on them.
  • South/South/East exchange. RFSL sees the importance of trainings taking place in a South/East setting, rather only in the global North/West. Facilitating exchange between South/East activists, for example by hosting activities in a South/East setting, is an important tool in strengthening networks and contributing to building confidence and community.

Upcoming trainings

Call for Application
Global Rainbow Academy Training: Queering the SDGs
04 – 11 December, 2020

Deadline to apply: October 31, 2020

Please go through this document carefully and make sure to refer to the eligibility criteria and course requirements before applying.

Access the application form.


RFSL, the Swedish organization for LGBTIQ rights and ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association, are happy to share the call for applications for the online training “Queering the SDGs”. The training is part of RFSL’s capacity strengthening program Rainbow Academy. 

Through this week-long training, the participants will gain knowledge and tools, to understand the significance of and utilize the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in advancing the rights of LGBTIQ persons. This includes sessions on the history of sustainable development and the SDGs, how to engage with SDG mechanisms on national, regional, and global levels, how to navigate the processes to ensure LGBTIQ inclusion and how to develop initial steps or plans for LGBTIQ engagement in advancing the SDGs.

A Rainbow Academy training is usually held in-person in a specific region but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the training will take place online. While this limits the opportunity for in-person meeting, it opens up the possibility for a training where activists from various parts of the world can come together. RFSL and ERA will utilize various technological and pedagogical solutions to make sure the training is engaging and effective.


  • Deepen the knowledge of LGBTIQ activists on the development framework, especially to recognize opportunities for engagement, identify stakeholders, and increase ability to use development language;
  • Strengthen the capacity of LGBTIQ activists to engage with the Agenda 2030 and the SDG mechanisms – national, regional, and international;
  • Create a space for discussion on the inclusion of LGBTIQ people in development.


At the end of the training, the participants will be able to:

  • Understand the significance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in advancing the rights of LGBTIQ persons;
  • Navigate the processes to advocate for LGBTIQ inclusion in the implementation of the SDGs;
  • Develop initial steps or plans for engaging with the SDGs.

As the alumni of the Rainbow Academy, the participants will:

  • Have continued support and mentorship from RFSL and ERA;
  • Have access to the latest information and opportunities to engage with UN mechanisms;
  • Receive information on funding opportunities and support with applications;
  • Be a part of RFSL’s global network of activists.


The training will take place online and will have a mixture of live sessions, pre-readings, assignments, group exercises, and robust online discussion. We will utilize various digital tools such as Slack, Google Drive, Zoom, and Mentimeter etc. If this is your first time to online trainings or if you are not well acquainted with these digital tools, do not worry. We will run you through these tools and will do a technical check-in before the actual sessions start. 

The live sessions will be held between 3-6pm CEST while you will be able to do the pre-readings and assignments at your own pace. You should only sign up for this training if the time slot suits your time zone. Click on this link to check the time difference. Attending all the live sessions and finishing the assignments are required to successfully complete the training and receive the certificate.


Here is a draft content of the training. The actual content will vary based on the needs of the selected participants. The sessions will be led by global experts on the respective subject.


The training is free of any cost. All the expenses connected to materials, lectures, and technical solutions will be borne by RFSL. There is no per diem or any kind of financial compensation for the participants. However, limited support for accommodation can be provided on a need’s basis.


You are eligible to apply for the Rainbow Academy training if you:

  • Are from a country in Global South and East;
  • Self-identify as part of the LGBTIQ community;
  • Belong to an LGBTIQ organization;
  • Have minimum one (1) year of advocacy experience, locally, nationally, regionally, or internationally;
  • Have a role in the advocacy work of the organization;
  • Have basic knowledge about international advocacy work, especially the UN;
  • Can freely communicate in English, both in written and oral form;
  • Can allocate 3-5 hours each day from December 01 – 11.

Priority will be given to underrepresented groups, especially LBTI women and Gender Non-Conforming people of color, trans, and intersex individuals.


In order to successfully complete the training program and receive the certificate, you are required to:

  • Attend all the live sessions;
  • Complete all tasks and assignments;
  • Be active and responsive in communication;
  • Maintain the code of conduct;

Selection Process

Only 20 participants will be selected for this online course. The following non-exhaustive criteria will be considered while assessing the applications:

  • The quality of the application;
  • Existing advocacy experience, qualification, and knowledge;
  • Motivation to participate in the training;
  • Potential of continuous engagement with advocacy work;

In addition, geographical distribution and diverse SOGIESC representation will also be considered.. Finalists will be informed within November 13 and they must accept the offer for placement within November 20. The communication will be done via emails mentioned in the application form.


For any inquiry about this training program, please feel free to write to: 

Shakhawat Hossain Rajeeb
Training Program Manager, RFSL
E-mail: rainbow.academy@rfsl.se
Mobile/WhatsApp/Signal: +46 73 673 88 59


Jelena Vasiljevic
Capacity Development Manager, ERA
E-mail: jelena.vasiljevic@lgbti-era.org
Mobile: +381606118052

About the Organizers

RFSL, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer Rights, is a non-profit organization founded in 1950.

RFSL works locally, nationally and internationally and is an ever-growing organization with about 7000 members and 38 branches all over Sweden. Internationally, RFSL is recognized and respected as an experienced and accomplished organization. Our international work has been built upon more than 40 years of experience and lessons learned from our commitment to global LGBTIQ rights when RFSL joined ILGA in 1979.

RFSL, as one of the few UN accredited LGBTIQ organizations, has been advocating for LGBTIQ inclusion in Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey is a regional association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer organizations from Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. Twenty-five LGBTI organizations from the region founded the Association on 15 September 2015 and granted to ERA the mandate to function as an umbrella organization at the regional and international levels. The seat of the Association is in Belgrade, Serbia.

ERA’s mission is to inspire positive change in the society, promote and advocate for human rights of people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics, by facilitating cooperation and providing resources and capacity development for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI) movement across the Balkans and Turkey.

Previous Trainings

Rainbow Fundraising

During 2017, two regional Rainbow fundraising trainings were organised, one for organisations in South-and Southeast Asia, in Colombo, Sri Lanka  and one for organisations in the Balkans, which took place in Tetovo, Macedonia.

During the trainings, 20 participants met and shared experiences and best-practice in working with crowd-funding, institutional donors as well as other fundraising strategies.

As always in Rainbow Academy trainings, emphasis was put on creating a generous atmosphere with lots of opportunities for participants to exchange expertise. Conditions, laws, organising and context differ widely between countries within the two regions, and therefore no ready-made answers were presented during the training. The focus was to provide participants with a toolbox of different methods for resource mobilisation.

Expert facilitators contributed to the sharing of knowledge and a wide range of topics were covered including digital campaigning, proposal writing and tackling donor dependency.

Community Leaders Training

The Eastern Coalition for LGBT Equality is a project where LGBTQ organizations in Sweden the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine) and Russia collaborate, with the aim to counter homophobia and transphobia in the region and to build a strong transnational LGBTQ movement. The project is coordinated by RFSL and funded by Sida.

Together with seven organizations in the region RFSL organizes a Community Leadership Training for activists. The training aims at strengthening activists, staff, volunteers, and others that works with community and grass root organizations. The training is a course in learning to be an appreciative leader, with tools and knowledge to build and strengthen movements on a grass root level. The training includes participants from eight countries in the region, with the possibility to share experiences and get new contacts that can result in better networks and professional contacts with others working in the same field.

The training is for persons who are working with projects within the community. It can be as a project manger, volunteer coordinator, or persons that are already engaged in the work but who need new or better skills to work with volunteers, community groups, project planning, leadership methods etc.

Rainbow Leaders

Between 2013-2016, 120 activists from 30 different countries took part of Rainbow Leaders training, which is the most comprehensive training experience that has been offered so far. The program had a great impact on a vast majority of the participants; a diverse and impressive group of people tirelessly dedicated to LGBTQ rights in even the harshest environments. Rainbow Leaders is designed to enhance the skills and capacities of leaders in the dynamic and diverse global movement for LGBTQ rights, so that these leaders can excel in their work in advancing human rights for all.

The focus for the participants has been capacity training and finding tools and practices to manage, sustain and guide the organisations they represent. It has also been about increasing knowledge in securing LGBTQ rights in local, regional and international arenas and increasing access to sustainable networks of collaborators, allies and strategic support systems. A main curriculum component that is present throughout the training is Appreciative Inquiry – a strength-based perspective on leadership that focuses on motivating and empowering human resources. Other parts of the training include international law and SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression), Logical Framework Approach, Monitoring and Evaluation and fundraising.

Meet the Alumni

The Rainbow Leaders Alumni are tirelessly contributing to a better world for all. Meet three of them and get a first hand view of LGBTQ activism and what Rainbow Leaders has meant for them.

Kenji Terukina

Co-founder of Raiz Disidencia Sexual in Peru.

Kenji Terukina, co-founder of Raiz Disidencia Sexual in Peru.

I became a better leader through my experiences with the Rainbow Leaders program.

Most of all it helped me develop my confidence and empathy and strengthened my ability to work with a diversity of people and civil society activistsMy community work has led to me being elected as a young representative. I work both as a General Secretary of Lima´s Metropolitan Council of Youth Participation and as a member of the Directive Council of the National Youth Councils Assembly. The two platforms has lead to an involvement with the new government around the National Youth Agenda, The agenda includes public policy proposals for young LGBTI people, and laws for protecting gender identity as well as laws against discrimination and hate crimes directed at LGBTI people.

Latin America in general has a lot of conservative governments and Peru is no exception. Despite that, we still see progress. Over the last years, due to strong LGBTI movements, we see progress with law projects against hate crimes and civil unions. We see a lot of possibilities for continuing progress, both in laws and through public policies, because of our dynamic movements, which are full of new and powerful young activists and activisms.

Leigh Ann van der Merwe

Founder of and coordinator of social health and empowerment in South Africa.

Leigh-Ann, founder of and coordinator of social health and empowerment in South Africa.

When I went to the Rainbow Leaders training program in 2013 I saw the positive effects immediately. Back then we were still a small and new organisation. I learned so much around financial management by talking to other leaders and doing budgets; linking salaries to projects, monitoring and evaluating projects and identifying programs.

A break through was our first grant that we received after the training from a donor with whom we had had negotiations for almost two years.

It made a huge difference. Another equally important achievement was the networking with other leaders. For the first time were able to grow as an organisation. Today we are 22 staff members and we have created three big programs: arts and culture, the feminist program and health and well-being.

We are a feminist organisation and we make sure that is our cornerstone in organizational development. Even though we work with everyone; trans women, trans men and the whole LGBT community, we focus only on trans women when it comes to our advocacy and political work. There is a very strong general notion that trans women are supposed to only appear as participants in beauty pageant or as sex workers, whereas trans men are seen to work with funding. We want to change that. Our work is never done. But it’s constantly changing in a positive direction. During the time when we started mobilizing for our work there was only one organisation headed by trans women. Now we have six organisations on the African continent.

Aleks Gosto

Founder of a support group for transgender people in Bosnia.

Aleks Gosto, founder of a support group for transgender people in Bosnia.

The training was one of the best I have ever attended. It was very well structured, intense and I learned a lot of organizational and communicational techniques. Apart from the learning I also had an amazing experience with amazing people.

Right after the training we initiated a support group for transgender people in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Sarajevo Open Centre.

The group developed very well and we arranged a lot of activities. The most important thing was the gathering in itself; sharing our stories within a group where everybody felt safe. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the situation is very bad when it comes to transgender rights. We don’t have health services that provide LGBTI professional care, so we are often forced to go to a neighbouring country for help, which costs a lot. Far from everybody can afford it. Also, being transgender is a big taboo. It is very difficult for transgender people, especially the young ones, to be out to their families and friends.