WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com (WCWGM) was first funded by the Staying Alive Foundation in June 2010 and advocates for the sexual health rights of the LGBTQ community in Sierra Leone.
WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com received a grant for their project titled “Break the Chains of Stigmatization and Spread Awareness of HIV/AIDS Amongst LGBTQ Young People”.
We spoke to founder and director of the project, George Freeman…
How is homosexuality perceived in Sierra Leone?
Homosexuality is considered illegal in 37 African countries, Sierra Leone being one of them. We face violence and exploitation at home, in our schools, communities, clubs, churches, mosques and the street. For me, violence has become a way of life.
It is an issue which most African leaders do not like to address as LGBT people are considered ‘a waste to society and deader than the dead’. In fact, many African leaders do not want to even acknowledge that we exist.
My vision is to help other LGBT people like myself to become better individuals in society and also to create access to HIV treatment, care and support.
How has WhyCan’tWeGetMarried.com gained support from the community to fight HIV/AIDS?
WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com is currently working in partnership with some LGBTQ youth groups in schools and communities, locally based Civil Society Organizations, medical practitioners and journalist working on human rights and HIV&AIDS issues to foster the campaign on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
What has been one of the most successful programs you have implemented to date from your SAF grant?
WhyCantWeGetMarried.Com has written, published and launched the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) HIV and AIDS book in Sierra Leone titled “Tearing Down Walls, Building Up Hope” a youth empowerment toolkit. The LGBTQI HIV&AIDS Book has 36 pages with useful information, not only for LGBTQI young people, but also for heterosexuals.The book further gives readers insight about Sexuality, Sexual orientation & Gender Identity; Facts about HIV&AIDS; HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) Services; Antiretroviral Treatment; Homophobia & Trans-phobia; Live Testimonies & Statement of Hope from LGBTQI young people; Common HIV– Related Condition Pictures; Common Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs); Statement By President Barack Obama; Symbols of the LGBTQI Movement; HIV poem— You are Never Alone; Resources and Jargon Busters.
What inspires you to continue to fight against stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ young people?
As a human rights defender we are motivated by the level of tolerance shown by other human rights organizations and stakeholders in the fight of LGBTQ HIV/AIDS.
Most importantly, the level of tolerance from the heterosexual community is gradually improving, whilst some LGBTQ young people have improved their knowledge based on HIV&AIDS services.