Strengthening Democracy Through LGBT Political Participation in South Africa
The project aims to strengthen South Africa’s democracy through increasing equal participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people and promoting understanding among political parties and the Independent Electoral Commission around the importance of diverse representation. This will be achieved through the training of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex leaders in civic engagement strategy and working with parties and the Commission to adopt policies and procedures to improve their representation, participation, voter registration and turn out.
Lessons from Project
Clarity around how, and who, to engage within political party structures is important for targeting interventions at those most likely to embed learning in the structure. But even when internal learning structures within political parties are engaged – like the ANCs OR Tambo School of Leadership, a lack of resources to cascade learning can limit the number of indirect beneficiaries.
Financial obstacles remain a significant barrier to building community networks and grassroots movements on LGBTQI+ rights issues in challenging economic contexts. Support to empower grassroots mobilisation of resources should be part of efforts to mitigate this challenge which risks impacting on an intervention’s sustainability.
Efficient communication between project and finance management staff, and between grantees and implementing partners, is key to ensuring the delivery of projects in challenging conditions, such as during a global pandemic or when significant staff changes take place, especially when adaptive programming is required.
Building cross-party networks of LGBTQI+ activists can ensure that key issues are retained on the agenda and more substantively engaged across the political spectrum.
Access to online training and engagement activities are limited by financial and logistical obstacles, a challenge sharply accentuated for marginalized groups in rural communities. Such activities should remain in-person where possible, and in scenarios where this is not an option, resources should be set aside to encourage grassroots participation.
Supplementing training through follow-up coaching and mentoring and by creating platforms for ongoing dialogue and engagement can build and sustain networks that are driven by shared understandings on key human rights and LGBTQI+ issues across the political spectrum.
In-person training conducted through a series of shorter sessions over a period of several months, rather than one training condensed into a short period of time, can improve learning and support the building of connections and networks between participants, which is important to recognize and leverage.
Engagement with, and mapping of, prospective national institutional stakeholders in advance of a project taking place is critical to ensuring that the activities proposed align with their interests and priorities and are feasible in the timeframes proposed.
Project design processes must carefully think through the outputs required for outcomes to be achieved and be realistic in what transformation training can bring in a relatively short period of time to a political party, which is not just a technical entity, but a political body. One training on LGBTQI+ issues for a political party is unlikely to trigger significant policy or legal changes in a two-year period.