10 YEARS OF AMSHeR – RAISING AN AFRICAN VOICE
Joël Gustave Nana NGONGANG (1982-2015) – AMSHeR’s founding Executive Director
Joël believed that LGBT+ communities in Africa needed to find a voice, to raise an African voice. “Denial of the existence of these communities lead to the denial of access to services for these communities all through the continent,” he cautioned, and proposed that motivated advocates around Africa who work on these issues in their own countries must come together to raise an African voice.
His contribution in creating a voice and visibility for LGBT+ communities and putting the issue of violence against these communities on the agenda at policy forums such as the AU and the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights is unprecedented and still bears fruit today. In his own words, “having found our African voice has been one of AMSHeR’s greatest achievements.”
“If your country’s too small to work, work for your continent.”
His achievements sprang from deep, personal convictions. Joël’s friends and colleagues remember him as a person of conviction: “If he felt strongly about something, he would tell you about it.” He was a complex person,” they say. “He had a clear vision of what AMSHeR is, and went to a lot of effort to pursuade people and establish AMSHeR as a key player in Africa and globally in a very short space of time.”
But Joël was also human, someone who responded to tone and emotion. There was something about the way he stepped in to care and say “this must matter…” He is fondly remembered as a friend and an inspiration: “He was human, he was flawed, he made mistakes, but he always acted with compassion and conviction.”
What he stood for remains clear in the minds of those close to him: “What I’ve learned from Joël was don’t ever be paralysed by inaction of those around you. Don’t get distracted. People will tell you all kinds of things, but keep your focus. Stay on the course.
“If your country’s too small to work in, work for your continent. Africa is full of dreams and promises, get out there. Do something!”