The fi rst meeting of the International Research Network, Africa (IRN-Africa)
was held in Saly, Senegal, February 8-10, 2007. The meeting was attended by twenty
six scholars, artists, and human rights activists from ten countries including Cameroon,
Canada, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa,
and the United States. Deborah Amory, Chair CLAGS Board, Paisley Currah, CLAGS
Executive Director, Cary Johnson, Senior Program Specialist for Africa at the International
Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), and CLAGS staff
deserve special thanks for organizing this pioneering gathering. The national and
cultural diversity of the scholars, artists, and activists participating in the meeting
highlighted the support and enthusiasm for IRN-Africa.
The presentations and discussions over the three days included the history and
contemporary context of sexuality studies; LGBTQI organizing in Africa; sexual
health and sexual rights for women, girls, and transgender; research on HIV/AIDS;
and sexuality rights activism through visual arts and documentary fi lmmaking.
Throughout the conference the need for interdisciplinary approach to academic
scholarship on sexuality and gender as well as partnership between academic research
institutions and the movements working at the grassroots and international levels
was emphasized. Such interdisciplinary (between academics, activists, and artists) and
inter-communal (between LGBTQI, heterosexual, urban, rural, religious, and secular)
collaborations are necessary because our main objective is not to prescribe a single
activist agenda but facilitate, promote, and circulate knowledge that explores the connections
between homophobia, misogyny, and other discriminations based on and/or
reinforced by cultural values and traditions. By disseminating such knowledge we aim
to create public spaces where men, women, sexual minorities, Africans, and Africanists
may freely engage in a discourse on rights including political, economic, and sexual
rights in African communities as well as the limits of rights based approach to understanding
sexual identity in this continent.
In order to meet the challenges ahead we are already working on a number of
projects such as commissioning research articles on sexuality studies in Africa, identifying
and showcasing the perspectives of activists, compiling a glossary of pan-African
LGBTQI terms, conducting a study of the media coverage of LGTQI issues, and
developing a comprehensive bibliography of the of sexuality studies in Africa. I am
delighted to be working with a dynamic group of eighteen board members dedicated
to ground-breaking scholarly research and activism in the fi eld of African sexuality
rights in general and LGBTQI issues in particular. Read our conference report and the
resources we’ve developed on the IRN-Africa page at www.irnweb.org.
Sybille Ngo Nyeck is a PhD student in Political Science at UCLA. She is coordinator of the African
Editorial Board of the International Resource Network, IRN-Africa.