Sexual Diversity in Africa – Past & Present

Binyavanga Wainaina
Image of Binyavanga Wainaina

The recent passing of Binyavanga Wainaina (above), one of the first high-profile Kenyans to openly declare that he was gay, has once again brought the issue of diversity in Africa to the fore.  We are not homogeneous cultures and people, and should be embracing our differences. Commenting in this article about his life, Nanjala Nyabola commented about his much-publicised “coming out” in 2014,

“What he said is ‘look I’m here and I’m still the same person that you know and love and respect ‘… I think it’s incredibly powerful,”

Botswana has recently de-criminalised gay and lesbian sex, and you can read Kago Komane’s excellent analysis of this process, where he also describes gay bashing as “a colonial import” here.  In an earlier article, Bernadine Evaristo discusses the impact of colonialism in the piece entitled “The Idea that African homosexuality was a colonial import is a myth.”

Several books have researched in depth the history of LGBTQI people in Africa:

  • Hungochani: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa explores pre-colonial sexual diversity in the Southern African region.  Hungochani is the Shona word for “homosexuality”.  An overview of the different chapters can be found here.
  • Boy-wives and Female Husbands also explores a wide range of African sexualities throughout history and a short summary is given here.
  • An ever-growing range of African literature is also exploring themes around being gay and African, including Uzodinma Iweala’s second novel, Speak No Evil, which is reviewed here.

An Al-Jazeera piece by Tafi Mhaka from late 2018 asks the question, “are anti-gay witch hunts really protecting ‘African values‘”

Put simply, Bisi Alimi’s 2015 Guardian article states “if you say being gay is un-African, you don’t know your history.

The Persistent Gender Pay Gap

Image result for gender pay gap

The ongoing Women’s World Cup has brought to the fore the issue of unequal pay between men and women, which affects virtually every country in the world.   Comprehensive reading about the issue can found in Wikipedia here.

In football, Norway and New Zealand are two of the few countries that have ensured (in the last two years) that their female and male players receive the same pay and the same rewards.  The reigning World Champions, USA, are currently taking legal action to state their case, whilst in the Netherlands an agreement has been reached to ensure that pay parity is reached by 2023.  Read more about these cases here

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported in 2018 that the global pay gap stands at around 18%.  Whilst several countries (notably Luxembourg, Italy and Belgium) have reduced this to 6% or less, there are many others with 30% or more, meaning that in those countries women are earning only 2/3 or less than men.  For a list of the “worst offenders”, please check this article from Business Insider.

Whilst there has been progress in recent years towards pay parity, there is still an enormous gap globally, highlighted by an interesting recent article from the UK Guardian focusing on Debunking the Myths.  Another article from the Guardian highlights the fact that 8 out of 10 firms pay men more than women in UK.

Changing Times……

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For this post, we focus on three initiatives that encourage us to think some social norms are changing… and changing fast and for the better.

Afro-Queer is a podcast about queer Africans living, loving, surviving and thriving on the African continent and in the diaspora.   You can read about and listen to any of the eight episodes in the first season here.   You can also read more about the background to Afro-Queer and the team behind it here.

Launched in 2012, the Inclusive Mosque Initiative is dedicated to creating places of worship for marginalised communities, spiritual practice and the promotion of inclusive Islamic principles.  Have a look at some of the great articles on their blog here.

Towards the end of 2018, Woni Spotts became the first Black woman to have reached every country and every continent in the world.  Read about her story here.   Another person laying claim to this is Jessica Nabongo who is likely to also complete all 195 countries in the coming months – her story is documented here.   Finally, still on the subject of travel, please have a look at some of the blogs featured under the post 11 Black Travel Bloggers you Should Know.

“Sometimes you are a Caterpillar…” Animation, Superheroes and Inclusion

Social Inclusion advocacy and messaging comes via a range of channels. We find the animation and movies industry fascinating as both hold immense potential as avenues to provoke discussion and reflection, and ultimately to influence societal norms and culture for change. We will share a few videos and movies you could watch out for (noting the Parental Guidance advisory if watching with children!)!

  1.  Sometimes you are a caterpillar…brilliant messaging on why inclusion matters! Let us know what you think! This video was done courtesy of Chescaleigh and Kat Blaque

2. By now many of us have watched Black Panther – The Movie. There was a lot of discussion on how the cast and the plot impacted on inclusion and diversity – you can read this article Black Panther: Superheroes and Inclusion.

‘By including characters of African, Indigenous, and Asian descent, comic producers appealed to a whole new audience. These minorities weren’t represented in movies nor comics. When they started to be included, these ethnic minorities started to feel legitimised and recognised…Greater diversity on screens will make our society more tolerant and diverse as a whole‘.

Marvel has now released an animated version of a ‘Black Panther’ TV Series. More on the animated series here. 

Black Panther cast

3. Netflix is also working on an all girl superhero African animation series. Mama K’s Team 4 tells the story of four teen girls living in the neo-futuristic African city of Lusaka, Zambia who are recruited by a retired secret agent still committed to saving the world. The series joins Netflix’s growing slate of original animated programming designed for kids and families everywhere, by artists from around the world. Mama K’s Team 4 is created by Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema, who was one of eight winners in the Triggerfish Story Lab initiative in 2015, a pan-african talent search. Watch this space!

4. Traditionally, African stories were shared by folklore and these are gradually being captured on various media. Lyndsey Chutel decries the dearth of representation in animated films in her article ‘ Cartoons for African children are frozen by a lack of funding and imagination’. The Binoandfino website has responded to this by compiling this ‘A list of Africa Focused Children’s Animation Featuring African Lead Characters’. We have not yet watched most of these. Let us know which ones are your favourites!

We welcome you to share any other social inclusion related animations and comics from the diverse cultures represented in the EmbraceEveryone family!


Doing Diversity & Inclusion better

We recently had a discussion on the global trends in Social Inclusion work – or Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) work as commonly known. We will summarise a few articles from thought leaders who have articulated these trends and shared recommendations on what works well. We would love to receive your thoughts, articles and even videos that articulate these trends and approaches. Especially those with a regional focus so that we can interrogate further on context.

  1. Eight truths on D&I - Deloitte
    Eight truths on D&I – Deloitte (2018)

    We love how Lucy Adams (Disruptive HR) articulates the trends in her article ‘Fresh Approaches to D&I’. So, why do traditional approaches to D&I rarely have much of an impact? Have a look at the below to see if you can identify an approach you have implemented.

  • Compliance approach, where D&I is driven by the numbers. We set targets for increasing numbers of X, Y or Z and document these in action plans. Numbers can become our only focus. A Compliance approach can hold people accountable – but we also create a punitive culture which can drive leaders to some short-term choices that aren’t really building inclusion.
  • Charismatic Personality approach where D&I is tied to the championship by one individual. It’s great when a leader cares passionately about a particular issue. Their status and their energy can shine a light on a cause, and you seem suddenly to be able to move mountains after years of being ignored! The downside is when they move on (or find another cause …) and things revert to relative indifference.
  • Fix The Difference approach which is pretty common. Our focus is all about helping the minority rather than engaging with the majority and changing implicit norms and culture.

  • Shaming and Finger Wagging approach where leaders and colleagues who don’t behave in the right ways or use the right language are placed in the spotlight to encourage them to change. Discriminatory or offending behaviour should be called out. However anything that discourages open discussion or leads people to be disingenuous for fear of saying the wrong thing is a problem.
  • Busy Bees approach where we flood our organisations with numerous initiatives and programmes. A lot of this energy gets diluted through the multiplicity of activity. Not only can this be confusing and exhausting but often these programmes are seeking short term results and are superficial rather than a long-term programme to achieve genuine culture change.

2. The Stanford Social Innovation review contributes to the discussion by outlining Practical Ideas for Improving Equity and Inclusion for Non Profits. by Emily Teitsworth. Among the suggestions she gives includes letting go of opportunities to allow others with diverse voices to also be heard. ‘Relatively small choices…can directly combat the inequitable distribution of resources. Making space for others to succeed is a revolutionary act; without it, other efforts to advance inclusion can’t prosper’

3. Lastly, we will share this link to The Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide which all practitioners can contextualise and will find useful in building inclusive practice.

Embedding equity and inclusion within your organisation – The A.E. Casey Foundation

Enjoy the read!


Tackling Sexual Harassment

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Sexual Harassment has been described as “a scourge”, “a plague”, “an emergency” and “a cultural problem”, among others.   Without a doubt, it is an enormous problem reflecting abuse of power usually by men towards women and children.  In this article, we use several examples, which highlight some of the challenges being faced and some of the efforts being made in both to tackle Sexual Harassment.

First, an article by The Conversation with the title ‘ Many Men are Sexually Harassed in the workplace – so why arent they speaking out?’. The article acknowledges the difficulties both men and women have in reporting abuse, the main one being stigma and also perceptual differences in defining the scope of sexual harassment.  Also,  sexist attitudes that justify and tolerate sexual harassment resulting into abuse and significant mental health impact.

In France, there have been some recent legal efforts to tackle Sexual Harassment have been made, including a new law giving instant fines for street harassment, which can be read about here.  However, a survey in early 2018 found that one in eight women in France have been raped at least once in their lifetime and over half of all women have been victims of sexual harassment and violence.  Read an article about the findings here and access the findings in detail here (in French).

Image result for tackling sexual harassment in india

Please also read this article from Human Rights Watch (HRW) concerning the very high levels of sexual harassment in the garment industries of South and South East Asia.  HRW is advocating for  new international standard that will help prevent and respond to harassment and violence at work.

Everyday Sexism is a project started in 2012 to document cases of “everyday sexism” and has documented examples from more than 20 countries, including amongst Refugees.

For detailed information on Sexual Harassment, please check the Wikipedia page here and the UK Guardian’s Sexual Harassment 101 here

How can you prevent sexual harassment? By understanding and supporting advocacy against sexual harassment (changing norms) and by developing and enforcing anti harassment policies at all institutions and public spaces. More on this TED talk by Gretchen Carlson –

Finally, we present an important and powerful film made by SIHA (Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa) which focuses on the role of Men as Allies in the fight against Gender-Based Violence. Please have a look at the film of the project in Sudan below: