Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) launched a Leadership Academy for young leaders in the LGBTIQ movement in Uganda, dubbed the SMUG Quchu Leadership Academy (SQLA). The academy seeks to build leadership skills among the LGBTIQ-community, through mentoring young leaders to shape and support their growth for the prosperity of their communities and the movement at large. This is through capacity strengthening trainings and workshops where leaders are mentored in different leadership disciplines and matched with mentors who are seasoned leaders in the Ugandan LGBTIQ movement passing on their legacy to new leaders.
In November 2021, the leaders, after initial engagements via Zoom, met in person for the first leaders retreat. Here, they met eachother and their mentors for the first time to kick off the workshops/trainings that will run for over twelve months. The first retreat was scheduled in 4 parts on areas candidates identified during the interviews and those that SMUG had identified to build the leadership acumen of the young leaders. The parts that guided the retreat were; Organization Management, Resource Mobilization/Fundraising, Fiscal Management and diversity and inclusion. Sessions were conducted by a dynamic team of Ugandan facilitators who covered several subjects, including non-profit advancement, servant leadership, communication and marketing, fundraising, and fiscal management. Participants went on to sit in to sessions with mentors and had one on one meetings with them to engage in deeper mentorship and coaching sessions structured as mentor-organized, based on the needs of the mentees.
The leaders were able to get a trace of the history of the LGBTIQ movement in Uganda and how much of the work was planned to be done the way it is now. The leaders were able to able to connect through one-on-one mentorship with their mentors and get much needed guidance into their most challenging leadership tasks and future plans for their communities. The leaders talked about topics that are important to LGBTIQ youth and the rest of the country. Violence against transgender individuals, changing identities, the changing needs of their communities, accountability, and being a young leader in an unsafe environment are all issues that need to be addressed. These young people demonstrated that, despite their youth, they were capable of leading discussions, discussing significant LGBTIQ issues, and speaking their truth to power with passion and conviction. These aspiring leaders came from a variety of backgrounds and identities, demonstrating that uplifting and teaching young LGBTIQ people must begin now, as they are our emerging leaders. Despite the fact that there are many young LGBTIQ persons who are passionate about LGBTIQ leadership, their vulnerability frequently outweighs their passion.
When LGBTIQ youth navigate a society like Uganda’s, which denies them safety, affirmation, and equality, they encounter several challenges to become their best selves. The LGBTIQ community may learn and benefit from the diversity of these young activists and their lived experiences in order to flourish and perpetuate the legacy of LGBTIQ rights in Uganda. The SMUG Quchu Leadership academy is a trailblazing youth-led and youth-planned project setting a new stage for the movement in Uganda.