Changing the lives of transgender people in Malawi

Lesbian, Intersex, Transgender and other Extensions (LITE) started out in 2016 as a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Lilongwe, Malawi. “There was so much commonality in the challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people that this motivated me to form a nongovernmental organization addressing these issues,” says Lawrence Phiri Chipili, Executive Director of LITE, who is a transgender man.

UNAIDS has assisted us in understanding where our gaps are in our organizational policies and helping us to shape the direction in which we should go. It has advocated for our inclusion in national platforms and helped us to strategically engage with the government, with the ethos of leaving no one behind firmly at the centre.

Since its formation in 2016 and its formal registration in 2017, LITE has navigated its way into important national platforms, including the Malawi National AIDS Commission’s technical working group that guides the multisectoral AIDS response.

In May 2019, LITE, along with five other LGBTI organizations in Malawi, formed the Diversity Forum to collaborate on their common goal of ensuring that LGBTI rights are promoted, protected and respected in Malawi. LITE is also the Deputy Chair of the Southern Africa Trans Forum, which brings together 18 transgender organizations from the Southern African Development Community. In 2019, LITE and Mr Chipili were recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as one of their global innovators.

None of this recognition has come easy to the organization. Using his academic background in economics, Mr Chipili has pushed for evidence to support the organization’s advocacy.

“We decided as we were forming the organization that we needed a baseline understanding of what the needs of transgender people are in both the rural and urban areas of Malawi,” he says. “We didn’t want to base our assumptions on a small group of people living in Lilongwe. We conducted a needs assessment with communities and we realized the overarching challenges they have in accessing health-care services, education, employment, legal services and the enjoyment of safety and security.” Read more via UNAIDS