[Olumide is a special guest of IRMA this week]

My name is Olumide Makanjuola and I work with The Independent Project for Equal Rights (TIP) in Lagos Nigeria.

TIP is a non Governmental organization which work to facilitate a non-discriminatory Nigeria society through empowerment education and advocacy over the last 5 years. In 2006 the federal government sponsored a bill banning the same sex marriage and all association of same-sex-loving people in Nigeria. Through the bill did not pass into law, it violates the right to freedom of LGBT life choices and heath. TIP envisions a Nigeria society that respects the right of all it citizens ensuring that everyone can fully attain their fundamental human right for a stronger and healthier nation.

Challenges we face being an LGBT organization in Nigeria:

Over the last few years TIP has faced different challenge from the Nigerian government and the society that may not be directly to the organization but it affects the organization. TIP as an LGBT organization is not acceptable in the community and the Nigeria government does not recognize it as an organization that is approved, which make us have less support from government and the society in terms of moral and physical support that totally make us stand. But with the support of other organizations like Heartland Alliance, American Jewish World Service, to mention a few, we have been able to have our leg standing on the floor, which means that with their support some changes have taken place.

Objectives of TIP are:

Enhance the universal access to sexual heath care of sexual minorities with special focus on HIV and other sexually transmitted infection emphasizing HIV/STI prevention and treatment services.

Build the vocational skills of sexual minorities in the Lagos state, recognizing the economic dependence and poverty are major issue impeding the growth and well being of many young sexual minorities

Meet the social needs of sexual minorities by offering them a safe space for people to be themselves. Advocate and defend the fundamental human right for sexual minorities as well as providing them with legal support for who is persecuted by legal entities.

Current programs

Legal Aid: TIP provides support to ensure legal representation for the individual whose human right has been violated on the grounds of their perceived sexual orientation.

HIV prevention and education campaign: TIP visits cruising spot of sexual minorities for our prevention campaign, and we organize focus group meetings for sexual minorities to discuss health issue relating to their sexual behaviors.

Advocacy for human rights: TIP advocates for the human rights of sexual minority person in Nigeria through a coalition with mainstream local and international human rights organization for policy change.

Heartland Alliance’s Global Equality Network program:

Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights established the Global Equality Network to help LGBT organizations working in dangerous environments. The Global Equality Network strengthens the capacity of these organizations to advocate and work for LGBT rights and protections in their regions. Last year HA receive a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to train all activists under the Global Equality Network in Chicago for a period of one month on leadership development through which each person will get more knowledge and experience during different placements with other organizations in Chicago that work on HIV/AIDS and LGBTI people.

While here in Chicago, I will be working with different people and organizations to gain more experience on their work and see how we can make use of it back in Nigeria to support MSM and the HIV/AIDS program of TIP and our community work. Part of the thing I hope to gain while in Chicago is the way most organization here are able to stand on their feet, and the way they go about their work and programs in the community.

TIP feels that there is a need for us to have new prevention technologies in Nigeria but also more access to condoms in every possible place that are common for meeting and sex. Because people tend to engage in quick sex at different places – like e.g. clubs and parties, to mention a few – and they often do so without condom or water based lubrican, making them more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other sexual diseases. So if we have free condoms and lubricant for people at most meeting points this will reduces the high rate of the HIV/AIDS virus among MSM people.

[Read more on the Global Equality Network and a press conference scheduled for March 17 in Chicago below:

March 17 —- Global Activists to Speak Out on International LGBT Rights]