Impact Stories & Blogs
Our team share their insights and perspectives on the impact our program is having on youth in East and Central Africa.
by Ayesiga Herbert, Cohort 30, Uganda
I am a Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) activist, researcher and social worker by profession. I am currently working at Icebreakers Uganda, a non-profit support organization for LGBT persons focused on sexual health rights and advocacy, community mobilization for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention for all LGBT persons. My career has progressed through a series of promotions leading up to my current position as a Program Director.
I pioneered the first research on mental health within the LGBT community in Uganda through the See the Invisible campaign whose main goal is to raise awareness on mental health. I ensure those at risk receive proper, timely and effective treatment through the NOT Alone Initiative. The initiative offers a safe space for sharing, therapy and learning for the LGBT youth who are going through mental health issues due to stigma, discrimination, and violence faced within and outside the LGBT community like inmate partner violence and gender based violence respectively.
At the time of joining the YALI RLC EA program, the initiative was in the inception stage. The Program gave me an opportunity to engage facilitators and fellow colleagues on my initiative while providing important feedback opening my mind to endless possibilities. Additionally, knowledge and skills gained from the Design Thinking and Seven Habits modules were helpful in evaluating the state of my initiative prototyping and test stage. As a result, I have empathized with and have a better understanding of the
LGBT community needs. I realized it is key to consult the community first in coming up with solutions.
The Initiative being the first of its kind in Uganda has brought people together from different fields to make this initiative a success. We are now witnessing members of the society such as immediate family members to those in the LGBT community and professionals such as psychiatrists and others tackling mental health have begun embracing the LGBT community as a more accommodating attitude is seen. They are now open to offering friendly mental health services for LGBT persons.
YALI RLC EA really changed my thought process on how to go about identifying problems and coming up with solutions to make impact in the community. I also appreciated the fact that they are socially inclusive. I learned about the leadership Center through Dr. Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and I applied several times for 4 years until I was accepted. Persistence pays! I now have good networks across 14 countries in East & Central Africa that I can collaborate with. While at the Center, I appreciated being in an environment where I was accepted.
In 5 years, through the NOT Alone Initiative, I aspire to start a mental health wellness center which will have different departments like yoga, art therapy, group therapy, one on one counseling among others. This will be beneficial in the healing process of LGBT persons who have been discriminated and violated against because of their sexuality. The Center will be inclusive of other persons like male and female sex workers, young people living with HIV, women who have gone through domestic violence and drug addicts.
If you want to be a change influencer, YALI RLC EA is for you. Do not apply if you are just going to go back to your community and sit on the knowledge and skills acquired from the program. Pay it forward! We need more change influencers within our communities and these can be within the LGBT community or non-LGBT. You will be doing Africa an injustice if you take the opportunity for granted.