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Unlike many other Central and East African countries, Rwanda has never criminalised same-sex relationships. However, LGBT+ Rwandans enjoy few legal protections and are still largely invisible in the country. Rwanda is a deeply religious country, with most people identifying as Christian, where LGBTI+ issues are often considered taboo and many churches teach that being LGBT+ is sinful.

It’s therefore perhaps not surprising that many LGBT+ Rwandans experience negative reactions from family members who learn of their identity, and may even face rejection or violence. Yet, research shows that LGBT+ people who are supported by their families experience significantly lower levels of psychological distress and better mental and physical health outcomes. And LGBT+ activists have long understood that supportive parents and family members can be some of our staunchest allies and advocates. 

With the dual objectives of both improving the family lives of individual LGBT+ Rwandans and raising public awareness to create more allies in Rwandan society, we supported local LGBT+ charity My Right Alliance to engage with and educate parents and family members of LGBT+ people as part of our commitment to better the lives of LGBT+ people everywhere.

Through a two-day workshop, My Right Alliance created a space for parents and other family members to speak openly about their emotions when they found out that their child or relative was LGBT+, to learn more about the LGBT+ community and to hear directly from healthcare and human rights experts on why inclusion rather than rejection of LGBT+ people is essential. These sessions succeeded in creating a non-judgmental space for discussion, reconciliation and understanding between individuals and their families.

Watch participants speak about the workshop

One of the participants commented:

“I have a child with such nature, he does not behave like men actually. It has been confusing me most of the time. This training was so helpful, since I realised that my child’s behaviour is natural; I am going to do the follow up and help him. Not only to him, but even neighbours, because there are some I know. I will also visit them and share what I got here with their parents.”  

Following the workshops, several participants expressed a desire to help educate others about LGBT+ rights. My Right Alliance then worked with the radio station Voice of America, which broadcasts across Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to create talk shows which could explore LGBT+ issues. Three parents of LGBT+ people who had attended the workshops were joined by healthcare workers and human rights experts for these discussions, which were aimed at dispelling myths about LGBTI+ people and promoting inclusivity. 

Reflecting on the impact of the LGBT+ families project, Gustave Ndekwe from My Right Alliance said, “My Right Alliance thank Kaleidoscope Trust for their support through this project funding, which enabled us to have a fruitful workshop and conversations with parents and family members, as well as hosting efficient radio talk shows to raise awareness to the general population concerning the LGBTQ+ community’s reality and challenges. We will continue doing our best to sustain that impact and to strive for increasing the initiatives with parents as it was recommended by every participant in our workshop. We can’t end without saying that it would be our great pleasure for us to continue working with you in the future to extend this program and make it more successful.”

Our support for My Right Alliance to deliver the LGBT+ families project was made possible thanks to funding from the UK Government through the Fighting the Reversing Tide programme and to support from our generous donors. Your support can enable more programmes like this.

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