The role of philanthropy in building peace

Philanthropy plays an important role in building peace in Africa, according to Wanja Muguongo, the executive director of UHAI EASHRI, an activist fund that supports and provides funding for the LGBTI community and sex workers in East Africa.

In an interview, Muguongo was recently asked about her opinion on the African Philanthropy Network’s (APN’s) contribution to peace-building.

This is what she had to say: “I think it contributes because it is all about bringing people together, which is how you get peace. Conflict is normally resource-driven so a philanthropic space, which is about ensuring that resources are going to do more effective work, is definitely useful in peace-building.”

When asked to elaborate further on the work done by UHAI EASHRI in East Africa, Muguongo replied: “We are a grant-maker but our issues are issues of sexuality, LGBTI and sex worker issues, which are issues that are not well represented in the African space.”

UHAI EASHRI has a footprint in seven East African countries, which include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and the DRC. Their participatory funding approach ensures that the people on the ground are the ones driving the resourcing agenda. The organisation gives its grantees the power to decide which initiatives are most important to them and those are the initiatives which are funded.

UHAI EASHRI is Africa’s first and largest grant-maker that supports the LGBTI community and sex worker rights. Since it was created in 2009, it has raised US$5m in grants, which were used to support a number of civil society organisations in the East African region.

Muguongo was later asked which aspect of her work in the APN she is most passionate about. She had this to say: “Network-building – there are many things in Africa that are designed to separate us, designed to attract bridges, designed to differentiate us from one another. So, the networks allow us to be different people from different spaces doing different philanthropy work, but as a network we can speak as one, with a common agenda. I like that.”

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