Interview with Wanja Muguongo on UHA-EASHRI

Published: February 17, 2012

Q: What types of grants does UHAI EASHRI make and what is the process or guidelines that determine the grants? And can you share more on what the PGC does and how funding decisions are made.

UHAI EASHRI has 3 funding streams; the peer grants, opportunity grants and institutional grants. The peer grants stream is competitive and, as the name would suggest, is peer reviewed and we have 2 funding cycles per year. Opportunity and institutional grants on the other hand are made throughout the year and decisions are determined at secretariat level.

The peer grants process begins with a call for proposals that goes out in January and July each year. This call goes out through our networks and list serves and activists snowball the information to others. Groups then have six (6) weeks within which to apply. If they have any difficulty in writing the proposal, groups can ask for help from us.  Applications may be done in either English, French or Kiswahili.

A short-listing process begins after the deadline and applications that are within UHAI EASHRI’s funding mandate are forwarded to the PGC for review. At the PGC level, each proposal is reviewed by 3 people – a primary, secondary and tertiary reviewer. On average, we have 60 short-listed proposals every round and each PGC member reviews around 20-25 proposals within a period of between 3 weeks to a month. A review meeting is then held during which time all proposals are discussed, scored and funding recommendations are made.

UHAI EASHRI staff do not review these proposals and have no vote. The decisions on whom to fund and how much to give, is not made by the secretariat but made by the committee of activists who form the PGC. The entire process from application to grant disbursement may take upwards of 4 months.

Another form of grant is the opportunity grant that is purely secretariat determined and is rapid response. It’s for activities or projects that are not easy to plan around funding cycles; there are some things that won’t wait. Opportunity grants may include emergency funds to groups, travel grants, funds for activities such as World AIDS day celebrations etc. and the grant process ordinarily lasts no longer than a week. Institutional grants are targeted and solicited grants and are also secretariat determined and are made quarterly.

Q: Apart from grant making, you are an activist organization. Can you share what other advocacy areas UHAI engages in or takes part in?

We have three (3) programme areas and they are: grant making (which we have discussed above), capacity building and support, and organising convening and conferences.

Our convening mandate is based on our belief that people do not talk about sexuality enough and yet sexuality and sexual expression can be used to take away the rights of people. There is not enough discourse around identity, choice, body autonomy and the politics of sex and we try to facilitate this. One way is through our biennial  Changing Faces, Changing Spaces conference in which we bring together activists, allies, donors to discuss pertinent issues in the movement. We also facilitate public dialogue on issues of sexuality and human rights.

One of the ways in which we deliver capacity building is through our internship programme. It’s not your normal internship where you get someone fresh from college to come make coffee and answer phones and claim they have done an internship. The programme is intended to give activists within existing groups an opportunity to work within UHAI EASHRI for 3-6 months with a view to learn and take back the learnings to their organisations . At UHAI they receive mentorship and are involved in both programme and administrative work. Our internship programme is exclusively for LGBTI and sex worker identified activists who are already active in their own organisations.

The Ji-Sort! programme is an organisation development programme for groups and organisations that we piloted in 2011 in partnership with Hivos. The Movement Building Boot Camp is a leadership development programme for individual activists that we also launched in 2011 in partnership with Fahamu.

Q: During your time here, which have been the highs and lows?

The biggest high I think was becoming independent. UHAI EASHRI was set up in 2008 and until December 2010  we were hosted by Akiba Uhaki Foundation, the human rights and social justice fund. Receiving our certificate of registration and getting our office space in January 2011 was a high for us.

Lows are consistent. The continuous homophobia, transphobia and whorephobia in the region is draining. The continued criminalisation of people because of sexual orientation or because they engage in transactional sex is a constant low. The fact that people are denied jobs, denied justice, denied medical attention, evicted from houses, arrested on frivolous charges, harassed and even killed because of non-conforming sexualities and identities is a constant low.

While much of the world is progressing in increasing civil liberties, in the last 3 years East Africa has seen the anti homosexuality Bill in Uganda, Rwanda’s attempt to review its Penal code and criminalise homosexuality, Burundi’s successful criminalisation of homosexuality, among others. There is an almost constant feeling that things regress and not progress. People get arrested, David Kato was murdered in Jan 2011; all these are consistent lows.

Q: Who are your partners and donors?

The first funding we got was from Ford Foundation and an anonymous donor. We have gotten funding from Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA), African Women Development Fund (AWDF), Mama Cash, The Elton John Aids Foundation, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Arcus Foundation. Even as we source for funds from donors we would also like to grow East African philanthropy for sexual minority rights activism and play a part in ensuring that activism is supported financially  and in kind by East Africans.

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