MIT Public Service Center

Create an Interactive Online Learning Platform to Train Queer West African Youth to Use Technologies as Advocacy Tools

The Queer African Youth Networking Center (QAYN)/Le Réseau des Jeunes LGBTQI d’Afrique
Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso
www.gayn-center.org

Background

The Queer African Youth Networking Center is a lesbian-led and US-based international organization working to establish a wide network of support to promote the safety and well-being of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning West African youth. QAYN officially launched in July 2010 and has active projects in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso, with new projects in the planning stages in Ghana. Projects and personnel are interactively networked and supported by the Center’s on-line hub (see “QAYN website” below). QAYN has already begun breaking new ground in human rights efforts in West and Central Africa.

We are the first

QAYN’s website: Our network website includes

QAYN falls within the LGBTQI movement in West Africa and collaborates with several underground groups in Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Our aspiration is to become the hub for LGBTQI West African youth activists and youth-led movement building. Our strategy has been to both provide direct services to queer youth and to develop structures and training to cultivate the capacities of young activists and grassroots organizations to assess and provide for their own needs.

Currently, we are working with several grassroots organizations including Queer Alliance Nigeria, Sisters to Sisters for Social Justice and Empowerment, a new grassroots organization in Accra, Ghana, and Health Initiatives for Youth (HIFY), a nonprofit based in San Francisco, CA. Through Queer Alliance Nigeria, whose Founder is our Regional Coordinator, QAYN was able to engage queer young women, especially in Northern Nigeria, which is the most dangerous place in the country to be queer. In collaboration with Sisters to Sisters for Social Justice and Empowerment, QAYN is hosting its first queer young women’s forum under the theme, Uncovering Queer Women’s Voices in West Africa: Challenges and Opportunities. The event is to take place on March 11, 2011 in Accra and 15 young women are expected at the forum. At the international level, our partnership with HIFY enabled us to develop the curriculum for our peer counselor-training program.

The Challenge

Like most international LGBTI organizations working in developing countries, we are operating with no funding. In addition, the West African region is vast with 16 countries and our organization does not have the financial resources to provide direct services to youth in all these countries. Security is another big challenge while conducting LGBTQI work in the region. With an online learning center, we aim to address these issues by providing a safe access to information to any youth with a cellular phone.

African youth, ages 15-25 represent 60% of the total population. By 2015, the number will be 75% (AEO, 2009). The most marginalized, voiceless and invisible sub-groups within the general youth population are young lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex Africans. The lack of information on these groups, coupled with the homophobic laws across the continent make it challenging to assess and address their needs, especially the needs of girls and young women. Out of the sixteen West African countries, nine have criminal laws against same-sex relationships, ranging from six months in prison to the death penalty. In Nigeria, where QAYN conducts most of it projects, Chapter 21, articles 214 and 217 of the penal code prohibit same sex relationships. The punishment is up to 14 years of imprisonment, and in the Northern states with Sharia law, death sentences are possible.

This repressive climate contributes to arbitrary arrests, verbal and physical abuses and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people. Living in such an intolerant society often leads young LGBTQI to engage in destructive and dangerous behaviors, which can lead to mental as well as physical health problems, including sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse.

By helping to create this online interacting learning platform, the student will support QAYN to enable youth to safely access information and discuss culturally sensitive issues across West Africa. The first in its kind, this project will be an integral part of our advocacy tools; using Internet and other technologies to strengthen the knowledge and skills of young activists to become active agents in protecting their rights. We will collect existing documents on human rights and present them in ways that are accessible and culturally relevant to our members. We will engage in human right education through critical interpretations of existing international laws protecting sexual minority groups, their relevance within African societies, and enable activists to design simple call of actions to promote tolerance and respect of sexualorientationand gender expressions.

The organization does not have the financial resources to hire an expert nor the technical know how to create this interactive learning platform itself. Therefore, having a student step in will be an enormous help. The student will gain skills in developing an interactive online learning platform using the most up to date software available; learn about issues of marginalized and vulnerable youth and develop understanding of how activists in West Africa are using technologies to advocate for their basic human rights.

How can we tackle this problem? We are looking at developing or adapting an online learning platform that will enable us to provide interactive training including the ability to offer quizzes after each module.

We are looking at creating modules on the following topics:

  1. Legal framework: International Human Rights Laws and Local Laws
  2. Health and Wellness: Peer educators and counselors training
  3. Leadership: Capacity and Movement Building

We did research online looking for peer organizations that are offering similar learning centers to youth. Here are few websites to help the student better understand what we have in mind:
http://38.121.140.176/web/guest/cyberpeer
http://www.avert.org/quizzes.htm
http://www.avert.org/games.htm
http://www.brainpop.com/

BrainPOP is more what we have in mind.

We do not have resources, but we do have a curriculum that is ready to go online.

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

A student with a background in software engineer.
Our website is bi-lingual, English and French, but it is not necessary for the person to be fluent in French, we have translators.

Time Constraints

We will work with the student's schedule.

Contact

Mariam Armisen
Founder and Director
693 62nd Street , Oakland, CA 94609
510-985-3032
NOTE: Skype will be best for phone conversation since I will be traveling in several West African countries from April to August. Skype ID: m_armisen)
mariam@gayn-center.org

PSC Support

MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Public Service Center’s Fellowships or Internships programs. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.

If you have funding from outside the PSC that enables you to work on one of these projects, that’s great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don’t use our funds. And remember, the PSC staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves

 
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