Projects supported by Rainbow Kick-Off


In this series we will present projects supported by Rainbow Kick-off, the most recent programmatic undertaking by RFSL’s international department in co-operation with Rainbow Foundation. 

Rainbow Kick-off is a small-grants funding mechanism born out of a strong need to support LGBTQI groups, organizations and individuals that are often underrepresented and underfunded even within the LGBTQI communities. For its first call in 2019 Rainbow Kick-off focused on supporting trans and intersex groups and organizations in Southern and East Africa as well as Southeast Asia.  

Read more about Rainbow Kick-off here.

To support projects within Rainbow Kick-off, Swish to: 123 900 40 86

Project: Miss Trans Ambassador
Organization: Wings to Transcend Namibia 
Country: Namibia

This summer marked the first Miss Trans Ambassador pageant in Namibia, set to celebrate trans communities and identities in the country. 

The historic event, organized by a Namibian trans rights organization Wings to Transcend Namibia brought together hundreds of LGBTQ community and cisgender heterosexual allies in Windhoek to share in the celebration of trans identities. 

First in its kind in the country, Miss Trans Ambassador put transgender rights and communities front and center. Along with the light-hearted talent pageant that featured 11 trans women from around the country, the event also shed light on the lived realities of transgender people in Namibia.  

’’We hardly have spaces and places to be our true selves and affirm each other. We need to celebrate our existence as transgender persons.’’

’’This pageant is a celebration of Transgender communities resilience, strength and perseverance despite the transphobia that exists, said Jholerina Brina Timbo, the director of WTTN. ’’We hardly have spaces and places to be our true selves and affirm each other. We need to celebrate our existence as transgender persons.’’

The organization was founded in 2015 to address the challenges of lived realities of transgender people in Namibia and advocate for their rights. Since then, WTTN has worked on creating awareness, building confidence of transgender communities and providing safe meeting spaces for transgender individuals This creative approach to the traditional awareness-raising information campaigns is crucial for the confidence of trans communities in Namibia. 

’’Visibility is important but it comes at a cost. Many transgender people take on this cost without even realizing that being visible gives hope, inspires and motivates so many to be true to themselves,’’

’’Visibility is important but it comes at a cost. Many transgender people take on this cost without even realizing that being visible gives hope, inspires and motivates so many to be true to themselves,’’ Timbo continued. ’’The support by our partner organizations, allies and the LGBTIQ family shows their love and affirmation of the transgender community as the face of the LGBTIQ community.’’

PROJECT: TransActive
ORGANIZATION: S.H.E, Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective
COUNTRY: South Africa

TransActive is a South African project that strengthens and mobilises women with a trans experience through sports. It’s about promoting health and well-being but mainly about creating a safe psychosocial space.

The project TransActive finances two netball teams that have been started by local trans activists. But the women don’t only play netball, they also train automatically in organising and get practical experiences of leadership, which is important to the community.

L. Leigh Ann van der Merwe is a well-known activist that works for women with trans experiences in South Africa. She has founded S.H.E, Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective, the organisation behind the project.

Netball is a team sport with its roots in basketball and is a big sport for spectators as well as participants in South Africa, Jamaica, Barbados, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zeeland and Great Britain.

-The sport not only mobilises the women who participate but society as a whole. In South Africa there’s a strong connection between sports and the political sphere. Sports has always been a place for those who have fought for social justice and, most importantly, in the fight for equality between blacks and whites. We started this project on the initiative of trans women from our community. Sports is a terrific platform for organising, L. Leigh Ann van der Merwe concludes.

The team that TransActive supports is in East london, a province in South Africa where the risk of being subject to hatecrime is three times higher compared to the rest of the country. One of the teams are organised at Walter Sisulu Univeristy and one in Grahamstown. The teams practice every week and the team members get a place to meet and have fun together. TransActive also counts on playing a positive educative role in society as a whole.

– Many of those who never would participate in an educational initiative would be happy to come and see a good netball game. Sports gives us a unique possibility in that way, says L. Leigh Ann van der Merwe.

Nelson Mandela was an amateur boxer himself and during his time in prison he saw how football helped his fellow prisoners to survive. After the prison time he used big sports events to create opinion. When he was elected president he looked for things that could unite the divided country. Sports was, according to many, the motor that united people.

Now trans activists use sports in the same way, in a South African tradition, to unite and drive the fight for trans rights forward.

On March 22 2019 the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution that expressed concern over discriminatory regulations and practices in sport. The resolution was put forward by South Africa that requested a report ”on the intersections between race and gender discrimination in sports.

Read more about the UN’s goals about sustainable development.

S.H.E 2019 Netball tournament

In East London the sun is shining and hundreds of excited athletes and a sizable cheering section take the netball field before the first tournament of the year. Three whole days are dedicated to sports, and the spirits are high.

The Friday morning in the end of April was started with a march through the town. The purpose was to raise awareness of the issue of inclusion of trans people in South African sports. A good-sized group walked from the university campus to the city hall where mainstream media met up. During the afternoon there was also a panel discussion in S.H.E’s premises.

But the main attraction of the weekend was the playing itself. During the Saturday morning cars are loaded with team clothes, umbrellas for shade, balls and of course bananas and water for the players.

S.H.E has arranged the tournament, and apart for the teams that are supported by the organisation university teams, college teams and a semi-professional team also take part in the tournament.

Athenkosi Fani is 22 and has just left the field after her team winning their match. She has played since she was seven, and talks lovingly about her sport.

-My passion is netball, I love netball! Sports make me strong and allows me t express who I am, says Athenkosi Fani.

Athenkosi Fani says that sports is for everyone and Noxolo Sojola, from Buffalo City Netball Federation agrees. She has her own team that participates and laughs when she gets the question about how Netball Federation views the inclusion of trans people:

-On the court netball rules apply, we don’t care about anything else.

Athenkosi Fani adds:

-Sports is for everybody, everybody can partake. Through sports people are united, but not only that. It’s a way of communicating and sports itself plays a preventative role when it comes to different socioeconomic challenges. There are risks for young people, including abuse of alcohol and drugs, but sports is a form of protection.

Noxolo Sojolas team dominated the first day’s games and the other participants were visibly nervous when the professional girls took the court. But day two Athenkosi Fani’s team won the cup and the glory.

The tournament didn’t just draw an LGBTQI audience, passers by stopped, cheered and clapped their hands. Friends and friends of friends came with kids and picnic chairs to cheer for their team or their player. It’s obvious that the tournament touched more than those on the field.

TransActive is financed by RFSL and Regnbågsfonden in cooperation with S.H.E, Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective. The project is a part of Rainbow Kick-Off – Småskaliga stöd till hbtqi-grupper i Asien och Afrika.

PROJECT: Safer Alternatives
ORGANIZATION: Al-Fatah Islamic Boarding School for Trans Women
COUNTRY: Indonesia

As LGBTQI communities in Indonesia are facing several waves of crackdown by the government in recent years, making a living has become increasingly difficult for LGBTQI persons. 

In Yogyakarta the local government recently outlawed street singing – a source of income for many older trans women – thus making it challenging to make a living. 

Al-Fatah, a unique Islamic boarding school for trans women in Yogyakarta, wants to counter this and provide trans women with more and better alternatives to make a living.  

In May, the school organized a two-week training for 40 trans women – street singers and sex workers – in trans rights and alternative income-generating activities as massage and makeup skills. The training was supported by Rainbow Kick-off. 

“To support income-generating activities is crucial, as an issue of livelihood for many LGBTQ persons around the world,’’ said a, international program manager working with Rainbow Kick-off. ’’Discrimination is strong in the labor market, and the community needs flexible funding mechanisms to develop alternative and sustainable solutions for income-generation.”

The boarding school itself has been under threat and persecution for its work, and had to close down for some time. It was created in 2008 by trans women and for trans women as a response to discrimination faced by trans communities, and currently houses over 50 trans women between the ages of 40 and 70. 

The school itself has been under a lot of pressure and persecution, and had to close down briefly a few years ago. 

To support similar projects within Rainbow Kick-off, Swish to: 123 900 40 86

PROJECT: Trans Educational Convening
ORGANIZATION: Rwanda Gender Pride

Despite the fact that homosexuality is decriminalized in Rwanda, there are few – if any – legal protections in the country for LGBTQI communities. Especially vulnerable are trans communities in Rwanda, where Rwanda Gender Pride, an emerging trans-feminist and gender-non-conforming group, wants to change that. 

At the end of March the group organized a 3-day trans educational convening, supported by Rainbow Kick-off. The first of its kind in Rwanda, trans activists and community members came together to strategize about a future with stronger rights and stronger trans communities. 

On the first day of the meeting, once the nature of the meeting became apparent to the hotel where the convening was being held, the group was denied the meeting space.

’’We tried to negotiate and even inquire what harm or wrongdoing we had caused, but all this fell on deaf ears and the owner of the hotel insisted that we will have to find another venue for the next two days,’’ said Carter Honoree, the head of Rwanda Gender Pride. ’’ He (the owner) refused to hear us out and continued (saying)’your kind of group, I can’t have it here. We won’t speak to anybody so go to court if you want and if you think you have a voice in this country.” 

The group secured another venue for the second day, but the owners at the second venue also told them to leave after only a few hours. When a friendly NGO provided them with space to finish the meeting, they received a call from local administration to immediately shut down the activities. Police was called and came to make sure the group had exited the premises. 

While all participants of the convening are safe, the Rwanda Gender Pride group and participants are deeply shaken. 

“We have worked tirelessly to make this day finally arrive however we couldn’t have it in peace,’’ Honorée said. ’’We carried out most of the discussion. But this just shows how much discrimination is done against trans people in Rwanda and more there is to be done.’’ 

RFSL has been following the developments and supporting Rwanda Gender Pride in the process. The group is planning a security training with support from Rainbow Kick-off.  

To support similar projects within Rainbow Kick-off, Swish to: 123 900 40 86