The Umunthu Project (UP) advocates for LGBTI rights amongst public servants and in institutions of higher education in Malawi through the lens of Umunthu, a Bantu philosophical concept of humanity - "I am because we are." Through workshops and film screenings, the project provides a platform for thoughtful public discourse on the contentious issue and addresses the underlying attitudes and behaviors that are disadvantageous to the psychosocial well-being and development of LGBTI people.
The unclear political context leaves the public with conflicting views on LGBTI rights. The current debate in Africa has been politicized: many Africans view the West as imposing its ideals of human rights; others view same sex acts as "un-African." Overt discrimination and hostile environments in universities and health facilities can hinder access to services and impact the psychosocial wellbeing of LGBTI persons. Addressing human rights through a local lens can greatly impact public opinion.
We will provide 24 Umunthu training workshops for 500 healthcare workers, students, university faculty and administrators. The workshops will explore possible biases and knowledge deficits with respect to LGBTI issues on campuses and in health institutions to encourage open and inclusive environments. Additionally, we will hold 10 screenings of the documentary, "Umunthu: An African Response to Homosexuality," for up to 1,000 audience members to encourage an open discussion on LGBTI rights.
UP aims to promote and sustain an open society by encouraging dialogue on contentious human rights issues. UP applies the Umunthu philosophy and way of life to the issue of LGBTI rights by tackling real-life situations through participatory, artistic means. Participants critically explore and reflect on their roles in creating culturally competent environments that are conducive for LGBTI persons. Ultimately, project activities will elicit empathy and encourage unity - the concept of Umunthu.