GALZ Affinity Groups

Set up in 2002 to cater for members living outside Harare

Owing to the location of its offices, GALZ services have, until recently, been more readily accessible to those living in or close to Harare. This was reflected in membership figures which, at the end of July 2004, stood at around 300 with more than half of these coming from the capital and the neighbouring city of Chitungwiza.

Before the development of the Affinity Group Programme, most people outside Harare and Chitungwiza saw little point in joining an organisation from which they stood little chance of deriving benefit. Other than receiving GALZ publications and general information through the post, members in other centres were severely restricted when it came to accessing GALZ services such as counselling, workshop programmes and social gatherings. Access has also been become increasingly difficult in recent times because of the soaring costs of travel and accommodation and the ongoing shortage of fuel in the country.

Since the introduction of the Affinity Group Programme in 2002, membership of GALZ has grown significantly in urban areas other than Harare and Chitungwiza, indicating that there is strong interest in lesbian and gay people organising at local level when services are readily accessible.

By the end of 2004, 9 Affinity Groups had registered with GALZ:

Bulawayo – Melga, Prime Times
Chipinge – Harmony
Chitungwiza – Rainbow
Marondera – Eastlove
Masvingo – Good Hope
Mutare – Eastern Networking
Penhalonga – The Edge
Victoria Falls – Mosi oya Tunya

The programme is strongly activity-based in order that group leaders can gain hands-on experience in proposal writing, financial management and report writing.

Training in areas such as strategic planning and organisational development is provided through the annual Affinity Group Conference, the first of which took place in Harare in 2004. Here, group leaders meet to discuss their relationship with GALZ, share experiences with others and develop individual workplans for the upcoming year. In addition, site visits are conducted by the Programme Managers for Gender and Health in order that GALZ can meet with individual local members and monitor and evaluate the progress of groups first hand.

If lesbian, gay and bisexual people in local communities are to embed themselves in civil society, it is important that they develop meaningful relationships with human rights groups, health workers, press and other civic-based organisations in their respective areas in order that LGBT issues become more visible and tolerated within broader society. Groups are particularly encouraged to seek out gay-friendly lawyers who can assist them with problems they may face with law-enforcement agencies in relation to the sexual orientation of their members.

Workshops held by Affinity Groups prove excellent examples of how this normalisation strategy can work: representatives from local HIV/AIDS organisations are frequently invited to facilitate such events, thus helping to mainstream LGBT issues in HIV/AIDS prevention work.