LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

The story of Creating Opportunities

Creating Opportunities

Laura Piazza - ILGA Europe Senior Campaign & Programmes Officer

There are many ways to tell the story of Creating Opportunities, as many as the number of activists, community members, allies and experts that made the programme possible over the last 4 years.

You will hear some of their stories in the coming days in during ILGA-Europe’s #CreatingOpportunities social media campaign. No one is better placed than the activists involved in the projects to talk about the impact of the Creating Opportunities programme. They understand its relevance for LGBTI groups with little access to funding, how it can support people working in hostile contexts, and how the programme made it possible for groups to organise small scale campaigns under challenging circumstances.

There is not much I can add to their meaningful stories. I can just share my reflections on how Creating Opportunities grew and evolved in the last 4 years, what I saw changing in my work and in the movement, and how all this changed me.

I joined ILGA-Europe almost 4 years ago. My mission? To launch the brand new Creating Opportunities programme. This involved monitoring country situations and potential opportunities for public campaigning, collecting campaigning good practices in the movement and creating a hub of expertise on campaigning that could contribute to build the capacity of activists in this sector. A challenging and exciting mission – all at the same time.

In the first phase of the programme, I talked, listened and learned. I spoke to a large number of member organisations, trying to understand their needs but also how to best collect and organise the incredible wealth of expertise on campaigning that was already present in the movement, in many different forms.

The first Creating Opportunities projects were clearly responding to the initial objective of providing emergency support. Often, this meant we were working with organisations working on reactive campaigns. The organisers usually had little time for strategising, for coordinating, for connecting, hence little space for a transformative role of Creating Opportunities and ILGA-Europe.

Things changed over the time. ILGA-Europe stepped up our work on campaigning and strategic communication, through the work with PIRC and the compilation and dissemination of good practices. At the same time, quite naturally, the programme’s participants became activists from small organisations and initiative groups, mostly from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In many cases, they were working exclusively on trans and intersex issues. The Creating Opportunities programme could then express its full potential - not only as a source of fast and flexible support, but also as hub of expertise on campaigning, with a strong component of coaching and peer-learning. The number of small (and less small) scale campaigns we contributed to financially and strategically grew steadily since the inception of the programme as well as the non-financial cooperation in the form of dissemination of expertise, contacts and tools around campaigning.

In most of the situations in which the programme has intervened so far, campaigning was a response to a climate of hostility against the LGBTI community. Community organisers were reacting to the limitation of rights of minorities and shrinking space for civil society.

Yet, something extremely positive stemmed from all Creating Opportunities projects. They are the living proof that even in the most critical and hostile contexts, where rights and opportunities are shrinking, there is a dynamic component of society which acts and finds ways to resist and bring change. Working with this humanity every day made me grow a great sense of trust and optimism for the future, despite the dark times we are going through.

Over the next week, LGBTI activists from Europe and Central Asia will share their own Creating Opportunities experiences with you.