The places I find myself in.
There has been quite long hiatus since I last posted in this blog. Well, here I am. I find myself blessed with a job as research assistant at Pharmaccess Foundation, Namibia. I am actually the sole researcher at the premises of the organization, but I will soon liase with the professors in University of Amsterdam – since our organization is based there, in Amsterdam. Once it used to be the gay capital of the world. Will I find myself there one day?
Perhaps, the job is really stimulating, allowing me to explore the epidemiology of HIV in Namibia and be paid for it too!
I am also the research coordinator for LGBTI Namibia and somehow, this fits perfectly with my position at Pharmaccess, because of the research part and the Amsterdam connection.
LGBTI Namibia is an organization that was founded on passion. I know that, because one of our co-founders spends much of his free time making things happen. He put into motion the registration of the organization, the launch event and press coverage last year. This year he and our chairman spoke about human rights and sexual orientation in relation to the intransigence of the Namibian government in discussing the issues. The organization is moving forward. In fact, today I came back from a meeting about funding LGBTI Namibia is set to receive.
We are about to receive funding via a major international donor that wants to confront HIV amongst so called “most at risk populations” (MARP). Need I mention that this donor is the US government or that men who have sex with men are a MARP? It is perhaps all too evident.
As I write this, I am reflecting on the meeting I had with the leadership of LGBTI and our plans for the funding. Accepting this funding clearly entails subscribing to the well established public health goals. These goals are ambitious, seeking to address structural impediments to HIV prevention – socio-legal aspects – as well biomedical interventions including the distributions of lubricants for men who have sex with men (funny how I remember some years back I spoke with a fellow student at Princeton Leon from Venezuela about how the US government and PEPFAR need to fund lubricants – he did not agree).
In fact, the organization that will disburse the USAID funds to us is a well established public health organization, which has systems of keeping track of resource mobilization (monitoring) and its effects (evaluation). Now we too will have to implement monitoring and evaluation with all of the technical and brunt work that comes with it. Frankly, I am not keen on that.
I was trained on monitoring and evaluation (M&E – as it is a called in the jargon) when I attended a workshop run by the Namibian Network of AIDS Service Organizations. Now LGBTI is set to become one of these organizations, part of the system of program monitoring (SPM – a type of M&E that goes to the government). I cringe, however, at giving this training to anyone else – it is a lot of material that is somewhat boring.
All of this would be too much for me. My job at Pharmaccess is stimulating and demanding – I could not do another as M&E officer a fully fledged organization. I guess that is where the funding comes in – they can hire someone for that. When I mean they, I mean LGBTI Namibia, so I should say we. We are in this together.
What I want is to continue my research endeavors on my terms. I enjoy writing on this blog and I think I will continue doing so. I was approached by my former choir director to research gay adoption in Namibia and that is fascinating. What I plan to do is ask him and his partner to find a kid, try to adopt and see what happens. I’ll be there to document it. I will be hosting a picnic tomorrow for my friends in the LGBTI community; some of them are good friends, others I have met not more than once. I would to write about these picnics and how they serve as vehicles for understanding self worth, sexuality and issues of gender and vulnerability. That is fascinating. This time I am hosting our second picnic and I think one of my new friends (a sex worker) may come. I would love to interact with him.
I realize that if LGBTI is to conform to the exigencies of M&E that comes with USAID funding, we will have to hire other people to do it. Otherwise it just will not happen. I do not know to what extent I would supervise any of these typical NGO activities. Certainly, I would do it when I need to look for data. But it need not become chore.
So there you have it. This where I am now. I am at a place where I want learn about the LGBTI community and assist where I can, such as the organization of events and discussions (I have a proposal for World AIDS day – will touch it up soon), but nothing obligatory. This is where I am, and I can’t help it if other people want me to be elsewhere, I am here at the crossroads of my life and activism.