Skopje, 8 December 2017
Two research studies conducted by Subversive Front were presented in the second part of the programme of the National LGBTI Conference “Rainbow Dialogues – Needs, Challenges and Priorities”
The Research and Policies Programme Coordinator at Subversive Front Viktorija Bondikjova presented the Research report on the Needs Assessment of the LGBT Community Members in Macedonia. The goal of this qualitative research was to provide a comprehensive assessment of the self-identified needs of the LGBT community in Macedonia in relation to health, education, economic opportunity, housing and service provision. Additionally, questions related to the community cohesion, participation in the community and activism efforts were included. The focus groups and interviews with LGBT community members and NGO staff in Macedonia were facilitated by the research team consisted of three members. We have used purposeful snowball sampling method whereas the sample was consisted of 70 LGBT individuals and 10 NGO staff members. Regarding the demographic characteristics, majority of participants had a bachelor/University degree (49%) and a high school degree (37%) and most of them identified as Macedonian (67%). 64% of the participants identified themselves as biologically male, 36% identified as biologically female, where the majority (41%) self-identified as gay, 26% as lesbian, 13% as bisexual, 13% as straight, 4% as queer, 1% as pansexual and 1% were uncertain how to identify their sexual orientation. The findings showed that, in relation to the perceptions about society, culture and government, participants expressed dissatisfaction, lack of political will, hostile environment and pessimism about the social progress, as well as the need for improving the relations between the NGO sector and the state institutions. NGO staff identified a set of six guiding principles in order to govern the NGO sphere: transparency, accountability, community-based approach, dialogue, constructive conflict and solidarity. As avenues to combat the negative portrayals of the LGBT community, the participants expressed the need for conducting TV and media debates on LGBT-related topics, developing humanitarian and volunteer activities not related to SORI, improving social mixing activities and implementing family support groups. Concerning the perceptions about health issues and services, participants discussed about the experiences with societal stigma and discrimination, as well as mental health issues such as feelings of depression, anxiety and fear. In spite of that, the findings demonstrated high level of needs for mental health services, but also distrust of state mental health institutions, lack of confidentiality and privacy, homophobic psychologists and psychiatrists and interest in mobile mental health services. Concerning the physical and sexual health, the participants discussed about the needs for services outside of Skopje, experiences of violence, discrimination and financial barriers in accessing the services among the Roma community members, lack of information in local language, lack of services for trans-related healthcare and need for improving the information dissemination strategies. Regarding education and information sharing, participants recognized the need for education programs for the general public, LGBT-related training for educators, altering textbooks so they accurately reflect research related to LGBT, improving engagement and education at the intersection of religion and LGBT, and developing and incorporating comprehensive sexual education programs in the formal education system. In relation to employment, transgender participants expressed concerns about employment and experiences of discrimination when applying for a job. In relation to the questions concerning community organizing and strengthening, NGO staff expressed difficulties and frustrations due to the limited engagement of the LGBT community, while the LGBT community members expressed interest, but also challenges in engaging in organized activism. In this context, participants expressed the need to increase the collaboration with the LGBT community, value diverse experiences of the community, follow the approach of meeting community members „where they are at” and temper expectations of the community engagement. Concerning the legal and justice reform, participants mentioned higher need for laws that will safeguard their rights, increase advocacy efforts, but also feelings of disappointment due to lack of concrete results. In order to address these needs, recommendations and reasoning for the NGO sector and relevant state institutions are provided in the research report.
At the conference, the Advocacy Programme Coordinator at Subversive Front, Aleksandra Dimovska, announced the upcoming report of the regional research study on the political participation of LGBTI people in the Western Balkans. This research study was conducted from May to November 2017 in partnership with Labris from Serbia and Victory Institute from the United States. The overall goal of this research study is to present the opportunities on increasing the political participation of LGBTI communities in the countries of the Western Balkans and how that influences exercising social justice. The major part of the research relies mostly on qualitative research methods, through conduct of semi-structured interviews with interlocutors – representatives of political parties, LGBTI activists and civil society representatives, representatives of several institutions as well as experts from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Croatia. Additional key sections that will be incorporated in the research work consist of review of the legislation in relation to LGBTI rights in the individual countries, as well as analysis of the existing political participation of the LGBTI communities in the region related to the link between the party politics and the civic society organisations. Finally, after the comprehensive analysis of the existing materials on political participation of LGBTI in the Western Balkans, and with the aim to address the gaps detected on this topic, a series of recommendations for the policy makers, the NGO sector, and the other regional and national actors will be presented in order to establish a significant and sustainable culture of protection and respect of the fundamental human rights.