At the start of the year, GRET launched a project to strengthen civil society associations in Rwanda, for more comprehensive application of human rights for all.
The Baho project – a term which in Kinyarwanda means “capacity for resilience and resistance to move forward” – began in early 2018 in Rwanda. It is led by Health Development Initiative (HDI), a Rwandan NGO based in Kigali, in collaboration with GRET. This project aims to strengthen civil society organisations, so that their voices can be heard by public authorities, as well as within civil society, for more comprehensive application of human rights for all.
Rwanda is one of the rare African States that did not criminalise homosexuality and decriminalised sex workers. However, despite progress in legislation, the societal context remains stigmatising for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) and for sex workers, who are frequently victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, particularly in terms of the right to healthcare. Numerous legal texts are not applied, in particular those concerning patients’ rights to access healthcare, despite a very favourable law that highlights non-discrimination.
To respond to these issues, the project – supported by the European Union and the German international cooperation agency (GIZ) – is supporting approximately twenty local associations working in favour of LGBTI people and sex workers. It aims to enable the latter to gain greater knowledge and become more aware of their rights and of the principle of non-discrimination pertaining to these*: the right to healthcare, the right to work, the right to set up associations, the right to housing, the right to not be subjected to violent acts, etc. Discussion groups will be organised regularly to enable these communities to talk to their peers about these subjects in complete confidence. A series of training courses and continuous coaching will also be organised.
A platform shared by all these civil society organisations (CSOs) will be set up to speak with one voice and to be heard. CSOs will be able to use this to highlight initiatives aimed at promoting non-discrimination and a tolerant society, and to document cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to organise citizens’ watch. These cases of discrimination will be analysed, which will enable CSOs to compile two reports.
These reports will provide a basis for discussion to contribute to existing human rights CSO initiatives, and will make it possible to participate in national consultation processes that will review achievements in terms of human rights in Rwanda between now and 2020. They will also lay the groundwork for revision of the national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.
The Baho project is part of a development approach to rights and an evidence-based advocacy strategy, with a view to greater respect, protection and accomplishment of human rights for all and for stronger civil society.
This article was produced with financial support from the European Union. Its content falls under the sole responsibility of GRET and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the European Union.
* Rwanda ratified the two United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political rights and on Economic, Social and cultural rights. It also ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights.