Mariam Armisen –– Minority Rights Advocate
In Francophone West Africa, a law in most penal codes in the region, which related to identity theft, is used against trans individuals, particularly trans women. A simple trip in the daytime as a trans woman can have severe repercussion on their safety and security; and if stopped for any reason by the police, a person risks an arrest.
Also, the psychological, sexual and reproductive health needs of trans individuals are misunderstood and in West Africa, especially in Francophone countries, there is no safe place for trans individuals to access care as trans individuals.
Today, there seem to be light at the end of the tunnel with the emergence of a strategic and strong trans organising in West Africa, especially in Francophone countries, injecting a different discourse on gender, one that has been lacking in LGBTQ and women’s rights movements––thanks to Mariam Armisen and Queer African Youth Network (QAYN) who undertook a needs assessment in various trans communities in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal, to surface the multitude of trans identities (both past and present); the strategies used by trans individuals to adapt to and the challenges faced in their context; and to surface the new form of trans identities and emerging issues.
QAYN added an evidence-based approach to organising by providing a baseline study to trans activists who were beginning to organise in West Africa.