Member Spotlight with Freedom and Roam Uganda
Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) is a Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (LBT/WsW) organization established in 2003 by a group of lesbians who were constantly being harassed, insulted and discriminated by a misinformed society and who were touched by the plight of their sisters and brothers of the same sexual orientation.
One of the oldest organizations in Uganda with Secretariat based in Kampala, FARUG works on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression through lobbying, dialogue, visibility and voice. A membership-based organization that is legally registered under the laws of Uganda.
FARUG’s work spans beyond Kampala through collaboration with other organizations that work in various parts of the country to advance the rights of all LGBTI persons in Uganda. Where feasible, FARUG also avails its health services to other marginalized women, who may not necessarily be part of the LGBTI community. Regardless of the fact that FARUG’s direct constituency is lesbian and bisexual women and transgender people, the member based organization works broadly with the women’s (especially women minorities) and LGBTI communities. FARUG envisions a society in which the rights, freedom and equality of LBTI people are guaranteed and there is no discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity.
In a world where Feminism is often frowned upon and misunderstood, what feminist ways of working does FARUG apply?
We are a feminist organization and promote equality of women as stipulated in Uganda’s Constitution, and ratified in international human rights instruments. We take pride in being a part of the women’s movement, the sexual and reproductive rights movement, the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex movement. FARUG recognizes diversity, challenges male chauvinism, patriarchy and cultures that aim at oppressing women.
We are members of the Uganda feminist forum, a platform which we use to advocate for change against policies, cultures and structures that are used to oppress women in our country. We are also proud to say that we have actively and diligently participated in the African feminist forum.
As a member of the Coalition of African Lesbians, there is a great focus on Autonomy, Freedom of Thoughts and Ideas and the need to use an intersectionality approach in work done, how does FARUG incorporate these strategies in its work?
Female oppression is not one universal block experienced the same way by all women, to which other forms of exploitation are then added as separate pieces. Rather, various oppressions interact to shape the particulars of each woman’s life. For example, an aging black lesbian who is poor does not experience sexism as separate packages – one sexism, one poverty, one homophobia, one racism, and one ageism. She experiences these as interacting and shaping each other. Seeing this interaction is vital for coalitions around these issues. It is against this background therefore that FARUG though exclusively known as an LBTI organization embraces diversity right from its secretariat where all compositions under the LBT acronym are presented. We make sure that each of these individual groups are represented and administration of these different groups is done aided by the different desks in our organization for instance:
• The bisexual desk addresses issues to deal with bisexual women as well as single parents. It’s also used as a source of information, counsel, and solidarity for our bisexual sisters.
• The health desk is diverse because it provides help information, treatment and counsel to all the members of our organization and also LBTI persons outside our organization with concerns.
• The sports and culture desk is used both as a solidarity and an advocacy tool. Here we identity, monitor and nurture talent of LBTI persons in sports, culture and arts. Among its activities include music, dance, drama and sports. We have a football sports team called Candies sports club which is comprised of LBTI persons.
Uganda is consistently in the spotlight as one of the most homophobic countries within the continent, how does FARUG continue to resist this and how have you managed to operate within these hostile conditions?
FARUG leverages its long experience as one of the first LGBTI organizations in Uganda, and the first Lesbian led organizations in Uganda, FARUG has over the years attracted a number of members and associates/well-wishers who are committed to the mission of the organization. Drawing on its membership, experience and wide network at national, regional and international level, FARUG continues to re-assert its position as a key champion advocate, lobbyist and activist of LBTI rights in Uganda.
FARUGs specific role is to realize a society in which the rights, freedoms and equality of LBTI persons are guaranteed and there is no discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity by empowering LBTI persons in Uganda to challenge all forms of discrimination and jointly advocate for the realization of their human rights.
What are the biggest obstacles to organizing and movement building for FARUG both in Uganda and regionally?
• LBTI persons are often referred to as rebellious and the black sheep in families, chased out of schools, homes and often discriminated against in public institutions and work places thus reducing their chances of attaining reasonable education and employment opportunities leaving the majority socially and economically vulnerable thus FARUG wants to enhance capacity of LGBTI persons by socially and economically empowering such persons.
• Punitive laws criminalizing homosexuality and work around homosexual issues are still a very big challenge too. Last year, the government passed too laws that are going to be a very big hindrance to our work that is the REGISTRATION OF PERSONS ACT which deters transgender persons from registering and the NGO ACT which gives power to the head of the NGO board to close any organization without warning that it deems is doing work that is considered contrary to the public ethics (homosexuality being the top of the list)
What does an ideal world look like for FARUG?
A healthy and vibrant LBTI community that is respected, well informed and committed to individual and community development.
How can one be involved in the work FARUG is doing?
• Exchange programs and Internship
• Good will and fundraising
More Details feel free to write to:
Freedom and roam Uganda.