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Namibia's Rainbow Project votes for change

September 17, 2003

The Rainbow Project WINDHOEK — The Rainbow Project (TRP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the recognition and promotion of the equal human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Namibia, held it's 5th annual general meeting on Saturday, 6 September in Windhoek.

Attended by 42 members and 10 guests, the meeting unanimously supported the recommendations of a recent external review and planning process that will guide TRP into becoming more strategic and pro-active in working towards its vision of a society in which the human rights of all people are protected, affirmed and promoted, and the state fulfils its obligations to all citizens.

The meeting further endorsed the transformation of the organisation from a voluntary association to a trust, and appointed a committee to oversee this process, which will be finalised at an extra-ordinary general meeting to be held in 6 weeks' time.

The coordinator of The Rainbow Project, Ian Swartz, said that this transformation will enable TRP to establish a Board of Trustees whose members will be able to guide and promote the work of TRP. "We have come a long way as a voluntary association over the past six years, and despite being young and small we are currently the lead agency for the human rights sector of the Namibian NGO Forum (NANGOF)," said Swartz.

"This shows that we have been able to incorporate the promotion of sexual rights as human rights in the broader struggle by civil society for an inclusive and democratic human rights culture in Namibia. Our work has been supported by a large membership based mostly in Katutura, Windhoek, which has proved that homosexuality is indeed as African as it is human."

"In these six years we have learnt to work together constructively across the divides of race, ethnicity, class, gender, age, cultural background and sexual orientation, making us one of the most inclusive organisations in Namibia and a model for the Rainbow Nation that respects the dignity and values the worth and contribution of every individual regardless of their difference to any so-called biological or cultural norm. We now need to reach out to the broader lgbt community across the country through involving them as volunteers in our new national programmes. Through this we will build leadership capacity among the lgbt community while working for lasting democratic change."

The gay community was holding workshops to help gays and lesbians "come out of the closet" and had formed HIV-Aids support groups. –Behind The Mask

Photograph: Some of the members of The Rainbow Project who attended Saturday's Annual General Meeting. (Others had already left, while some were not comfortable to be photographed for fear of discrimination).

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