On the 17th of December Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) held its first gala where 5 health champions were awarded for their dedicated support towards the organization.
According to the SMUG Executive Director, Dr. Frank Mugisha this event is organized to showcase SMUG work for over a decade.
He adds that the event will also recognize supporters of our work especially health services providers with the theme “Honouring our Health Champions” and five organizations or individuals will get awards for outstanding performance.
“Health is important and to achieve health rights no one should be left out, we have and need more policies that create an environment where all Ugandans have a right to health services regardless of who they are.” said Dr. Mugisha.
He said “We want to partner with you and the government of Uganda to reach 90-90-90 an -ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic.”
Pepe Julian Onziema, the Programs Director SMUG says “This recognition of supporters is significant. Over a decade ago it was impossible to stand up for anyone who identified as sexual or gender minority. Being proactive and involved with other causes has incredibly complimented our efforts hence the honors.”
Dennis Wamala the Vice Chairperson Board of Directors – SMUG said “Tonight we honor heroes in the work of access to health for LGBTI persons in Uganda and humbly request that we rebuild the partnerships where no Ugandan is left behind, to fight discrimination and stigma.
Guest speaker Dr. Uchenna Emelonye the UN OHCHR Special Representative to Uganda said introduction of the anti-homosexuality act led to an increase in LGBTI persecution. “As men and women we reject discrimination, more so discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. All human beings are equal and should be treated equal.” Dr. Emelonye emphasized.
He added “I pledge to continue our commitment to work with civil organizations working on human rights of LGBTI persons.”
The Guest of Honor Dr Specioza Wandera Kazibwe former Ugandan Vice President and current presidential advisor on health and population said, “As sexual minorities the work you are doing in fighting HIV/AIDS is phenomenal. If you continue to stand in your youth as who you are, the world will honor you.”
Dr Wandira-Kazibwe also pledged to continue to do work concerning HIV/AIDs. She thanked SMUG for being strong and for exposing weaknesses that exist in policy making. She congratulated SMUG for taking on threats and turning them into opportunities to advocate for better lives for LGBTI identifying Ugandans.
The event supported by HIV/AIDs alliance and Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation was attended by over 160 guests including members of the civil society, lawyers, activists, religious leader’s, activists, international diplomats, officials from the Ugandan Government and LGBTI identifying Ugandans.
The winners of the SMUG Equality awards in five categories:
- Equality Award for Advocacy and Policy Change: Mrs. Alice Kayongo-Mutebi (AIDS Health Foundation/Uganda Cares)
- Equality Award for Capacity Development: Ms. Lillian Mworekho – (International Community of Women Living with HIV in East Africa)
- Equality Award for Solidarity for Health: Dr. Lydia Mungherera (Mama’s Club), and The AIDS Support Organization (TASO)
- Equality Award for Research and Documentation: Most at Risk Populations Initiative – (MARPI)
- Equality Award for Outreach – Most at Risk Populations Initiative – (MARPI)
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) was formed in March 2004 as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) non-government network to address Human Rights emerging issues based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression with the main aim of advocating for the protection and promotion of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.
Today the network comprises 18 LGBTI organizations all working to advocate for rights of LGBTI.
The umbrella entity SMUG is entrusted the responsibility of advocacy for policy reforms as Member Organizations offer services on economic empowerment, health, counseling and guidance and other services to the LGBT community. in that, SMUG works closely with indigenous, regional and international human rights organizations and persons to end discrimination and injustices towards LGBTI persons in Uganda.