Making Access Real : The Lesbians, Intersex, Transgender and other Extensions (LITE) Association

Who are we?

The Lesbians, Intersex, Transgender and other Extensions (LITE) Association is the first truly community-based lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) organisation in Malawi. It was founded in 2016 by an open trans man to fill the gap in health service provision and human rights advocacy in Malawi. Most health programming for key populations is built around the MSM community, sidelining the other extensions despite the fact that they are equally at risk. LITE aims to remove inequalities in access to HIV prevention services, social justice and human rights. Through high and medium level lobbying and advocacy, the organisation intends to make safe spaces for LITE persons. We are hosted by Innovations for Change in Lilongwe, and work in both urban and rural areas of Malawi. The organisation, which serves about 500 lesbian, intersex and transgender persons, has four volunteers – a Director, Programmes and Communications Officers and an Advocacy Officer. LITE Association is currently self-funded, and is still looking for donors.

What was the issue?

Given the nature of the work and the homophobic and transphobic context of Malawi, there are not many funds available for LGBTI organisations, while some groups in the sector – notably lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons – are excluded from existing funding opportunities. We have faced difficulties in getting funding for our programmes as we are not yet registered, and have experienced challenges in identifying fiscal sponsors to host funds for us, due to money politics and donor priorities. This lack of funding has led to limited programming of psycho-social support activities, which are sorely needed in light of the high rates of violence in the LGBTI community.

What was the change we wanted to see?

We wanted to find an alternative way of sourcing funds that would sustain the organisation’s activities in the absence of traditional donor funding. We wanted to create balance in LGBTI programming, without depending on donors and being limited by their requirements and conditions. We also desired that, in the long run, individuals are considering and ensuring personal safety and HIV/AIDS prevention. Further, we wanted to equip informal groups to safely hold psycho-social support meetings. What did we do? LITE is currently in the process of registering with the Registrar General in Malawi. To address the funding issues, the leadership of the organisation engages in income generating activities. Three of the organisation’s executive members lecture part time for the Gender and Sexuality Class of the Human Ecology Department at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The revenue from the part time lecturing is used for the organisation’s programme activities, and allows us to fulfill our objectives.

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