“It was a painful experience to watch him die an avoidable death because he did not want to be treated as less human. Because they didn’t show him the honour and respect that he deserved.”

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Episode notes

“OBB” is a Nigerian public health professional and advocate who works with the LGBT population, drug users, sex workers, and the HIV-positive. Over the last 10 years he has been managing a large program for these key population groups, for Heartland Alliance International.

The work can only be described as a calling, in an often very difficult context. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2013 was a step in the wrong direction, and alongside this there is a great deal of pushback from cultural and religious institutions.

Topics discussed:

[02:05]  Working to address stigma and discrimination for the LGBTQ population in Nigeria, including access to health and social care.

[12:15]  Working with often-unsympathetic ministries and other central government stakeholders. Facilitating cultural change alongside engaging with technical challenges.

[19:45]  First steps for starting up programmes in new contexts and new communities. Variations between different parts of Nigeria.

[25:15]  OBB’s own story, and how he came to be an advocate for people marginalised by mainstream health and social care.

[30:20]  Staying motivated in the transition from social work to managing an organisation, and losing most of his direct client contact. Major takeaways over 18 years working on these issues.

[38:30]  Common mistakes in engaging with marginalised groups. Experiences in north-east Nigeria amidst the ongoing Boko Haram  conflict.

[44:45]  How to work effectively in a hostile policy environment. Dealing with a major setback in the form of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act.

[57:00]  OBB’s book recommendation, and a final word for organisations looking to support marginalised communities in contexts like Nigeria.