LGBT communities from the Middle East and North Africa unite at NEDWA

Activists from more than 30 LGBT organisations from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are gathering in Lebanon for the 5th NEDWA conference this weekend.

Organised by the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, NEDWA is the only conference that focuses on gender and sexuality in the region. People who are LGBT in MENA are disproportionately affected by HIV, lack equitable access to HIV services, are criminalised, and face unrelenting stigma, discrimination and violence.

Rainbow flag

The Alliance has been working on community-led health initiatives designed by and for men who have sex with men (MSM) in MENA for 12 years, and is currently working on human rights and prevention programmes with MSM-led organisations in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon. These organisations will have a key presence at NEDWA as the Alliance presents the evolution of its work within the region.

The Alliance’s current work in the region stems from a groundbreaking, decade-long programme that enabled civil society organisations in Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia to set up MSM-specific prevention and treatment services, psychosocial support and legal advice where virtually none existed previously.

The programme, which finished in 2015, leaves behind many important legacies. Several of the organisations involved in this programme have become respected actors in MENA’s HIV response, and many of its MSM peer educators have become activists.

Learnings from the programme have informed a wealth of research, toolkits and programme guides, a compilation of learning that will be shared at NEDWA to inform those interested in starting or strengthening MSM programming in their countries.

Katarzyna Lalak, MENA Programmes Advisor at the Alliance and NEDWA delegate, said: “NEDWA brings to the forefront the latest knowledge on gender and sexuality within MENA. As such, it provides a key opportunity for LGBT groups working on HIV, health and human rights within the region to come together, discuss the important work they are doing, learn from one another and connect with donors.

By working with MSM-led groups in the region for the past 12 years, the Alliance has developed key insights that it will be sharing throughout the conference. Crucially, NEDWA will also allow us to meet with other LGBT activists who are working with people whose rights are being violated due to their sexual orientation or HIV status and deepen our understanding of the human rights initiatives in the region.

“In this way we hope to be able to contribute to advocacy efforts in MENA to assure that any future LGBT programming is inclusive and effectively responds to the needs of all key populations.”

Click here for a summary of the Alliance’s key MENA resources.

Read more about the Alliance’s approach to the HIV prevention, treatment and care continuum  and our human rights approach.

NEDWA takes place between 30 September and 1 October. For more information visit afemena.org/nedwa.