By Kieran Kennedy
The Speaking Out Initiative is run by MSMGF and focuses on addressing the health and human rights needs of MSM. It aims to support HIV advocacy efforts and leadership at the grassroots by training MSM and transgender people to protect their rights.
Ivan Banegas began as a political activist in his hometown of Amapala, Honduras, and is now the executive director of Colectivo Violeta, a Honduran organization that advocates for LGBT rights nationally.
“From a young age I liked to be involved in politics, supporting and defending the community into which I was born,” Ivan explained. “I did this work without much experience or knowledge, but with a lot of conviction.”
Ivan was one of the participants involved in the first pilot training of Speaking Out in Honduras and has since become a co-facilitator. He likes that the training is highly experiential and gives participants a realistic impression of what advocacy work is. The first training in 2011inspired a six-month long political initiative in 2012 called Accion Diversa (Diversity Advocacy). This initiative sought to promote the visibility of the Honduran LGBT community. It targeted the country’s decision makers and put LGBT rights on the agenda for the Universal Periodic Review (a review that each member state of the United Nations undertakes every four years tracking their own human rights record and their efforts to improve human rights).
In June 2013, strongly inspired by the Speaking Out training, Ivan helped launch another project, “Sexual Diversity, Democracy, and Justice.” In the run up to the national presidential and congressional elections in November 2013, the project sought to reach agreements with political parties to safeguard the rights of LGBT people. There are some laws in Honduras that give legal status to LGBT organizations, but these laws are vulnerable and under constant attack from the religious right. Out of nine political parties, four participated in meetings with LGBT advocates. Of these four parties, two have elected representatives in the national congress and the others are seeking representation on bodies such as the Secretariat for Human Rights. These political parties are committed to defending Article 321 of the Honduran constitution (which addresses hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the penal code), attempting to advance legislation on gender identity, and improving health and human services for people living with HIV and the LGBT community.
Both of the public advocacy initiatives described above have slowly chipped away at the dominant strain of homophobia in Honduran culture. LGBT organizations have now helped to create and claim a space on the political map when in the past they would have been invisible. On a personal level, Ivan notes that Speaking Out has taught him how to lead a group as well as how to debate effectively with important decision makers in the national political arena.
The Speaking Out training has not only helped Ivan in his LGBT activism, but it has given him better tools as he continues to offer targeted help and advice to people in his native Amapala. He stays involved in political actions that could benefit the local people, and these days the local government regularly consults him on many issues that affect the municipality.
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