Creating Impact

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Jan 29, 2018
by Salzburg Global LGBT Forum
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Creating Impact

Fellows of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum share in their own words what impact the Forum has had on them and their work

“I feel so good and alive, very fresh, and more motivated. Every year I get more amazed at how the Forum has grown and getting more informative, interesting, but also more focused on the issues that many of us neglect or forget about during our everyday work.” - Kasha Nabagesera, Executive Director, Kuchu Times Media Group, Uganda

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum has been blessed with amazing leaders from around the globe engaging with each other, exploring commonalties and differences, sharing their challenges, and asking questions. Inspired and encouraged by each other and our sense of a global community, Fellows have returned to their home countries and often started new projects: a LGBT film festival; the English translation of a first novel in Arabic; a refocus of their organization; reaching and nurturing new allies in the business or diplomatic community; or finally making that film that had long lingered in their head and heart. Many of our Fellows report that the new projects they start and goals and methods they recalibrate are as a result of the encouragement and energy our sessions provide. We have seen young activists grow into aspiring leaders of their generation, and established leaders at the end of their professional career reconnect and offer larger perspectives and a sense of calm that comes with time.

In a nutshell, we are all overachievers. And the Forum gatherings give us the friendships and voices we need on our journeys through an increasingly connected world. Our Facebook group (unlisted and open only to Forum Fellows due to security concerns) has become our tool to promote, alert and embrace each other’s work. Many of these achievements are compiled into a periodic newsletter sent to a growing list of subscribers, as well as featured in the main Salzburg Global Seminar newsletter, sent to over 6000 recipients.

As a Forum, we have meticulously documented our sessions, chronicling daily panel discussions across several social media platforms to thousands of followers; published recommendations, adopted by governments and institutions; and made our conversations accessible in five session reports, over 100 articles; more than 80 video testimonies (viewed on Salzburg Global Seminar’s YouTube channel and Facebook page almost 30,000 times), and a 20-minute short film.

But what has impacted us most? It is the sense of being part of a global community. This is our fundamental truth: We have become a global community of trust. 

Throughout this report you can find testimonials from our Fellows on what they have gained from being part of our global network.

Cha Roque - Filmaker; Communications Director, Dakila Collective for Modern Heroism, Philippines

“I was invited to the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum in Chiang Rai in 2016. Aside from connecting with a lot of great people and hearing about their stories, there was a particular session in the Forum that rocked my foundation and gave a big impact to my life. I was a panelist in a Forum about raising an LGBT family when I was asked about my most precious memory with my daughter. This question made me realize I should keep making films that tell the stories of LGBT people – not only their struggles but also their triumphs. When I came back to Manila, I continued working on my film called ‘What I Would’ve Told My Daughter if I Knew What to Say Back Then’.…

… It has now been screened at a couple of international film festivals. If not for the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, I might not have had that motivation and push to make another film, and now that I just came from another of their sessions, I am once again inspired to make new films that will give a voice to LGBTs around the world. Thank you, Salzburg Global LGBT Forum!”

Elle Fersan - LGBTQ Activist, Middle East & North Africa, Lebanon / USA

“Capturing the transformational experience I had here at Salzburg in a few words is not an easy task; but if there is one thing I believe I added to this gathering it is helping activists at home understand the importance of engaging with those activists who have sought refuge or found their lives elsewhere for a host of reasons... We in Lebanon are starting this initiative to build Syrian leadership among the LGBT refugees in Lebanon so that they can take their skills and knowledge back home once the war ends...

...Indeed, everyone realizes that we as human rights defenders cannot continue to rely on international aid to push our agendas forward. Reversing the brain drain into a brain capital is thus essential, and we, as activists in the diaspora, can only do that when we are accepted and embraced in our homes of origin. Thank you for being that connecting bridge and for offering the avenue of dialogue and redemption. It is undeniable that the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum fosters a ‘South-to-South’ dialogue that is otherwise impossible given the security constraints and the difficulty in calling for such a Forum in our parts of the world.”

Sukhdeep Singh - Founder & Editor in Chief, Gaylaxy Magazine, India

“The last week has been the most amazing and inspiring week of my life! I have spent the whole week with the president of IDAHOT, gay Syrian refugees, the first married lesbian couple of Japan, Russian activists helping Chechen gay men flee to other countries …

… activists from Uganda, China, Vietnam, Lebanon, South Africa, Bangladesh, Japan, South Korea, and many more such countries doing so many amazing, powerful and courageous things to make this world a better place! This is going to take some time to sink in… Phew! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Angeline Jackson - Founder & Executive Director, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, Jamaica

“The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, gave me the opportunity to interact with and learn from persons within LGBT advocacy whom I consider to be the best within our movement. I appreciated being able to share ideas and advocacy strategies with activists from various parts of the world. Sometimes hearing directly what one person is doing in another part of the world can help to give ideas about what one can do in their own country...

...From this Forum, I walked away not just with valuable connections but also ideas for new ways to possibly challenge Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, the use of videos to engage people and change hearts and minds, and possible country exchanges with activists from Latin America and Jamaica... The best part for me was hearing women and lesbian and bisexual women clearly stating the challenges within the movement without being told to be quiet or being pushed to the sidelines. I’ve very honored to have been invited to this Forum and plan to package this knowledge along with others I have learned and begin training small groups of activists in Jamaica.”

Ying Xin - Executive Director, Beijing LGBT Center, China

“This is my first time to attended a LGBT forum including activists, artists, scholars from all over the world. It really helped me to know the whole picture of the LGBT movement around world, which has really inspired me to make more connections with other countries. I learned from one of the participants from Africa that it was very hard and dangerous to do LGBT work in some African countries. I felt that it was not so bad in China, and if even this African Fellow can persist in their struggle in such a bad situation, how could we give up in China? …

… During this Forum, I also learnt different perspectives and strategies from other people. After the Forum meeting, I talked a lot with a participant from Argentina who works with IDAHOT and another one from the Asia Pacific Transgender Network: We have already planned to collaborate more on trans issues in Asia. I really like the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum and will recommend it to more Chinese activists and scholars to attend. By the way, the team of this Forum is also lovely and awesome!”

Danilo da Silva - Executive Director, Lambda, Mozambique

“There are very few spaces were queer activists, scholars, artists and politicians meet and discuss current and pressing issues with a global perspective, come out with common goals and an invigorating feeling that we are indeed a global community that need to learn from and share with each other …

… My experience in the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum had a profound impact not only in the way I perceive the global struggle for equality but also in the work I do here in Mozambique. After the meeting I have established relationships with other activists across the globe. We stay connected and have been able to come up with some concrete actions to promote the health and rights of LGBT, and also document and share our advocacy experiences. I am very grateful for this opportunity.”

Amy Lamé - Performer, Writer and Broadcaster, UK

“I was invited to take part in the first ever Salzburg Global Seminar session on an LGBT theme. Meeting people from all over the globe fighting for LGBT human rights was hugely inspirational. While in Salzburg I realized I needed to do more, and I returned to the UK invigorated and determined …

… Realizing a long – and quietly – held ambition, I stood for Parliamentary selection for the Labour Party. Unfortunately, I was not successful, but I am continuing my journey in politics and I intend to stand again. And win. Salzburg Global spurred me on to think bigger, do better, make a real difference. I will always be thankful for the invitation to take part in the session – it changed my life.”

Benjamin Cantu - Filmaker, Germany / Hungary

“My participation in the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum has been highly inspirational as a filmmaker and empowering from a human experience, both in the long-run.Within a few days I learned a lot about the current situation of LGBT individuals and groups from all corners of the world. Especially important to me was the intense dialogue with people from a trans background. I extended my network of friends and partners, with whom I want to collaborate in the future.

The film „Weil ich bin wer ich bin“ / “Je suis qui je suis” that I presented during the Forum in an exclusive preview already gained much from the Forum’s network during our production as Founder and Chair Klaus Mueller connected us with artists and writers in Cambodia, Namibia and Morocco who are part of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. He also shared the global perspectives the Forum had worked on for
the last years. After the film’s screening, I was instantly invited by many members of the community to future screenings in Uganda, Argentina, Japan and China. The Forum also empowered me as an individual to participate more in human rights causes, beyond filmmaking.”

Bradley Secker - Photojournalist, Turkey / UK

"The experience for me was one of great optimism. Activists, and prominent LGBT+ supporters and individuals from around the world in one place made for plenty of informative discussions, more understanding and a sense of more unity overall. I often feel rather isolated in my work on LGBT topics, so it’s reassuring to know that there are many others out there doing the same…

… Schloss Leopoldskron was the perfect venue, private yet vibrant. I felt truly free and safe for the first time in a while to be honest, which helped open us all up to honest debates. I hope to not only stay connected with many of the Fellows, but also to hopefully work alongside some of them with my photojournalism in the near and distant future."

Kaoru Aoyama - Professor, Contemporary Culture and Society, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, University of Kobe, Japan

“The week of Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was a week of effective retreat. Away from our ‘real lives’ [we had] an opportunity to immerse ourselves in indeed ‘real’ ideals based on solidarity. It was also an opportunity of re-creating my sense of belonging to a community for me. To know the different meanings of being sexual or gender minorities in various cultural and political situations opened a new door. It was a real education to me to have a chance to listen to and talk directly to friends from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Bhutan, Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Tajikistan, Lebanon and Syria …

… I felt reassured that my belief as an empirical sociologist was proven: it is always better to meet actual persons who go through that experience to get a sense of what’s going on in a society, however this is a small initial step to know more. This was also seriously the first time for me not to see any antagonisms between gays and lesbians, between trans- and cisgenders or between men and women in an ‘LGBT’ gathering! I will always remember one of the seminar’s concluding remarks: ‘If you want to make allies, you should be an ally to others,’ with the understanding, the trust and the care the friends in the seminar granted me.”

Palitha Vijaya Bandara - Coordinator, Positive Hopes Alliance, Sri Lanka

“I have seen, conducted and experienced many workshops at country level, but I can whole-heartedly say this was one of the most unique and fulfilling experiences in my life. I was enamored by the event from the point of conception itself, however, the use of distinctive methodologies and techniques created a platform where I felt comfortable enough to freely express my opinion and grow in a progressive manner…

…We are now connected through Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Facebook group. It is very good opportunity everyone sharing their own country situation through social media, continue to exchange ideas and learn about progress and difficulties in other countries. I look forward to translate this knowledge and implement our future work to ground level initiatives in Sri Lanka.”

Juan M. Pigot - Chairman, PAREA, Suriname

“It was obvious that everybody felt at home and safe. The five days went by in a blink of an eye. I’m now back home with good memories I will have for the rest of my life, new friendships but above all positive energy. Yes, we can learn from one another. Yes, we can inspire one another. And yes, we can change the world if we want to. That’s what I brought back from Salzburg. I hope that the successful Salzburg Global LGBT Forum will live on and will keep inspiring more people from around the world.”

Martin Vidaurre Vaca - National Chief, Iguales ante la Ley (Equal before the Law), Casilla, Bolivia

“This experience has greatly supported me in the work I do in Bolivia in favor of the human rights of the LGBT population as one consequence of the meeting in Salzburg. I inform you that we have held in Bolivia a meeting with diplomats from embassies of countries that have made progress on human rights of LGBTI people, such as the European Union, the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, among others.”