Today 4th, July is a very special day for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG). It’s the day that we attain ten (10) mature years since inception in 2003. FARUG was founded by three lesbian identifying individuals; Kasha Jacqueline, Victor Juliet Mukasa and Taz Musisi, as the first exclusively Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LBTI) organization in Uganda.
“We are born”
The Gay (LGBTI) Movement in Uganda started as early as 1999, but it wasn’t until 2003 that FARUG was founded. At the time, a group of about 15 individuals would meet in bars and internet cafes for informal meetings to discuss different issues concerning sexual minorities living in Uganda and to just have fun and meet people.
At the time, there were media outings of gay people in the newspaper with photos and their addresses, so the community was contacted by a group of men who claimed they were gay and were coming from a lesbian organization at Makerere University. Research into these allegations made us realize there was no such organization and the men were actually heterosexual men. This fuelled our passion to start formal organizing thus FARUG was born.
“We belong to families”
Many people ask; “Amidst all the challenges, what has kept FARUG in existence for this long and going strong?” Besides the leadership, it is the strategic partnerships that we formed and maintained right from the start. It is the Coalitions we joined, the networks and allies we partnered with.
From the beginning FARUG has relied on individuals, organizations and movements that have mentored, trained, supported (financially, morally and technically) and played a huge part in the growth of FARUG. We have been a part of the sex work, women’s rights, human rights and the gay rights movements in Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Cameroon, South Africa and Liberia.
“We grew strong”
Freedom and Roam Uganda has grown by leaps and bounds. We have moved from matters being discussed in bars to the board room. From dating/social groups to fully fledged professional organization. From no governing documents to constitution. To a five year strategic plan, human and financial policies, a streamlined organizational structure and a functioning Board of Directors.
All these achievements have not been without challenges. Right from the start, there were disagreements leading to the suspension of two of the founders only two weeks after the organization was formed. The two wanted to go fully political whereas the majority of the members wanted FARUG to remain as a social group. The conflicts over the years did not tear the organization apart, instead they made FARUG stronger as these issues were always addressed and lasting solutions found.
“We fended off bullies”
The very fist struggle was media outing of gay people in news papers which incited violence directed towards sexual minorities in bars, public places and in their homes. There were arrest of members at different forums we engaged in and office raids. Four of all the office premises have been broken into and important data, computers and furniture taken.
In the recent past, there has been rampant closure of workshops including the PAL project workshop that was closed down last year by ethics minster Hon. Simon Lokodo. But as a community we always fought back.
We have gone to court, sued and won some cases like the “Victor/Oyo VS attorney general case” which we won in 2008, “The rolling stone case”, “The Scott Lively case” and most recently “The Lokodo case.”
“We influenced others”
FARUG has contributed to nurturing other LGBTI organizations. We have from time to time given skills, technical and financial support to individuals when we could. In March 2012 FARUG donated computers to the Youth on Rock Foundation, an LGBTI organization.
Most of our projects have always rapidly turned into community projects, until early this year at the Annual General Meeting when the general assembly resolved that we should focus more on membership and organization development which we laid out in the 5year strategic plan. We shall at the same time continue partnering with and taking part in some of the community projects.
Our awareness campaigns have informed, educated and contributed to a shift in attitudes towards sexual minorities. Some of our members have bravely faced off politicians and religious leaders on national and international televisions and radio talk shows, in an attempt to educate and give answers to myths concerning homosexuality.
“We choose to thrive”
In the coming years we would like to see a FARUG where; more young leaders are involved in the work of FARUG, members taking up leadership roles in other LBTI and mainstream organizations, where members are mentored and represent FARUG at different platforms.
Years ago we started a campaign to purchase a vehicle to transport the staff and members safely, when executing organizational duties; we would like to re-embark on that fundraising drive.
We envision a FARUG with office premises of our own where we won’t be thrown out and better salaries for our staff who risk their lives on a daily basis to serve the organization.
We commit to transparency and accountability to our funders, timely and accurate information and communication and nothing will deviate us from the struggle to achieve a society in which the rights and equality of LBTI people are guaranteed.
Call to action
The anti homosexuality Bill is still in parliament and on the order paper of business to follow. We urge that you continue consulting activists on the ground as we chose to take on a more subtle way of lobbying as Spontaneous actions from our partners especially those not from Africa is always met with severe backlash.
We have a new Executive Director and we request that she be accorded the same support as given to the former executive director.
We remain forever grateful for all the support to FARUG over the years and request that you continue partnering with us for the common goal of advocating for the respect, protection and fulfillment of rights of LBTI persons in Uganda.
Fore more information follow the link below.
Victor/Oyo case: http://www.iglhrc.org/content/uganda-victory-human-rights
Rolling stone case: http://www.afronline.org/?p=11687
For more about FARUG contact: The Communications manager ;