Building Self-Sustainability in Trans-Led Movements, One Training at a Time

Article written by Mahri Bahati

A recently convened training of trainers in Bangkok, Thailand is certain to make waves in the movement for trans health and human rights. Over the course of five days from 18 -22 July 2017, the IRGT and MSMGF joined forces to convene a group of thirteen trans-identified individuals from 12 countries to deliver a training of trainers for the Trans Education + Action = Capacity for Health (TEACH) organizational development and capacity building curriculum.

Globally, many trans-led organizations lack the resources, support, capacity, and infrastructure to be self-sustaining and therefore struggle to meet the specific HIV care and prevention needs of their own population. In response to this problem, IRGT leadership conceived the idea of identifying, training, and nurturing a cohort of trans individuals who could then work with trans-led organizations within their respective regions to address these issues.

TEACH is an initiative spearheaded by the IRGT in partnership with MSMGF. Following a funding award from Viiv Healthcare Positive Action, IRGT worked with MSMGF as an implementing partner to operationalize the project, leveraging the experience and expertise of both organizations to get the project off of the ground.

The aim of TEACH is to equip trans individuals and trans-led organizations with the necessary knowledge to be self-sustainable and build comprehensive programs that meet the HIV care and prevention needs specific to trans people. The TEACH curriculum is designed to be delivered via 15 modules covering topics in strategic planning and organizational management, designing comprehensive interventions for transgender women and men, financial management, resource mobilization and proposal writing, as well as community collaboration.

The significance of this gathering was not lost on the participants. Remarking on how the experience surpassed expectations and how she can see this effort snowballing to strengthen a vibrant, global trans movement, Rikki Nathanson noted,

“TEACH is the conduit to employ to begin this journey…one regional workshop will capacitate not only one organization [but] at least ten to fifteen. As these organizations begin to grow, and others mushroom, the momentum of growth of the trans diverse movement will increase, thereby increasing from strength to strength.”

Amidst discussions of budgets, logical frameworks, and strategic plans, time was also given for participants to engage with and strengthen each other, including a culminating graduation party and celebration. Participants greatly appreciated the ability to network and forge connections in addition to exchanging knowledge and furthering their professional development.

“When planning to convene groups of people, it is easy to think only about the learning objectives, logistics, and making sure nothing goes wrong. But when it’s actually happening you notice that a dynamic is occurring that you never expected,” noted Co-Facilitator, Mahri Bahati. “People are connecting in ways you didn’t imagine. People are being changed by just being in the room with so many other empowered trans women.”