Change will not happen if it is not driven by actions and movements. For a region like the MENA to change from homophobia, transphobia and misogyny into an environment where all rights are protected is a long process and it requires intensive advocacy efforts. The Advocacy and Documentation Program at AFE MENA builds the capacity of local activists in order to increase visibility and develop advocacy skills to support them in their gender and sexuality programming. The significant role of AFE MENA is not only the trainings but it is also the unity of efforts regionally and the intersectionality of advocacy efforts that make the difference.
One level of support of the Advocacy and Documentation Program is advocacy based on SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) documented violations and facilitating the communication between activists and stakeholders, donors, countries and international bodies such as multilateral organizations. In 2017 and after long advocacy efforts, the issue of marginalized populations was first introduced to the European Union (EU) forum with neighboring countries where meetings with Civil Society took place. In the forum only two representatives from the MENA were present, one of whom was AFE MENA. This inclusion of SOGIE rights gave way to several LGBTQ recommendations from the EU including dedicated funding of LGBTQ Rights Movements in the MENA Region based on the documentation of violation cases and organized activities.
The second level of support of the Advocacy and Documentation program is the trainings on different documentation modules, such as documentation of violations, the European Union modules and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which supports local organizations on writing shadow reports that are presented alongside the UPR in the United Nations Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
The AFE MENA team located in North Africa has an important role specific to the African continent. In the African Commission, an institution of the African Union specific to human rights, alongside several political limitations and gaps, AFE MENA was the only North African SOGIE member in the October 2018 cycle. AFE MENA was also present and had an important contribution in the Africa PAI (Pan Africa ILGA) in supporting activists and networks from the region, resulting in the election of 2 out of the 9 board members to be from North Africa.
The Advocacy Program also connects with several Francophone associations to support the work of Francophone countries in the MENA by increasing visibility of organizations, shed light on documented violations and connect civil society with supportive funding and stakeholders. AFE MENA also mobilized efforts to organize stand-ins in front of the European Parliament and supported activists to visits to different European cities and organizations to respond to security breaches in the region including meeting with the European Union’s High Representative.
The Advocacy and Documentation program at AFE MENA is currently designing several tools and manuals for advocacy and for documentation in Arabic to develop advocacy skills, increase accessibility and bridge the gap in limitation of resources.