Enhancing LGBTIQA+ rights and equality in Fiji

Meet Rainbow Pride Foundation Program Manager Abdul Mufeez Shaheed, to discover how the organisation is improving rights and equality for Fiji's LGBTIQA+ community.

A group of eight people standing in a line outdoors with lush greenery behind them, and three banners reading: 'Stop transphobia'; 'Pacific sexual and gender diversity network'; and 'UNFPA'

The Rainbow Pride Foundation has been a proud program partner since 2021. We asked Program Manager Abdul Mufeez Shaheed about the foundation and how his team is working to improve LGBTIQA+ rights and equality in Fiji. 

Q. What does the Rainbow Pride Foundation do?

A. We are a not-for-profit organisation based in Suva, and we advocate for human rights and equality of LGBTIQA+ Fijians to ensure they can live with dignity, free from discrimination, persecution and violence.

We also empower Fijians of diverse SOGIESC (people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics) to participate fully in democratic decision making in their households, communities and in nation building.

Most of our work focuses around LGBTIQA+ rights and equality, climate and gender justice, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian response, health and wellbeing and socio-economic justice.

We have a hub network that complements our initiatives. Currently, we have 22 hubs around Fiji, many made up of geographical networks or special interest groups such as our disability PRIDE hub, women’s LGB PRIDE hub and Indo-Fijian PRIDE hub. 

We also work closely with our partners including OXFAM in the Pacific, Kaleidoscope Diversity Trust, the Australian Humanitarian Partnership and other LGBTIQA+ organisations based in Fiji to help them promote diverse SOGIESC inclusion in their programs and projects.

Q. What does your role entail?

A. In my role as Program Manager, I’m responsible for grant proposal writing and project and program management alongside other members of the Program Team. I also work with senior management on organisational development activities and provide support where necessary.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your work?

A. We are a small team of five looking after large national projects with volunteers. It is satisfying to see the way we work despite being a small team. 

Seeing RPF grow over the years from project to project has also been a motivator to always do better. I get to meet new people every day in my work, either members of the LGBTIQA+ community who have lots of stories to share, both sad and happy, or with development partners. RPF has been a learning curve in terms of how we manage our small office and staffing to deliver some of these projects.

Q. What are the main challenges you face in your role?

A. Resourcing is always an issue. LGBTIQA+ is a contentious topic in Fiji and requires strategic thinking and resourcing to lobby nationally and locally. Knowing how to navigate the cultural and religious dimensions of the topic is always a challenge as it is not always a one size fits all approach. There are communities who are welcoming to listen and understand and there are communities who may not appreciate the presence of a LGBTIQA+ civil society organisation. 

Working nationally also requires a strategical approach regarding identifying champions who could get you in a room or space, or meeting the right people. All of this requires resourcing, be it people, technical or financing. While a lot of change can be done without finance, the issue of LGBTIQA+ requires donor partner support and priority and we rely on organisational partners to go into communities to lobby for LGBTIQA+ inclusion.

Q. What are your future hopes for Rainbow Pride Foundation?

A. We are currently undergoing an organisational restructure in terms of our strategic plan, HR and policy review. This has been a good exercise as staff and volunteers have been involved in the process of improvement and strengthening. 

Future hopes for the foundation include using the new and reviewed strategic plan to guide us on programming and securing multi-year grants for operational and program support. 

We are also embarking on strengthening our hubs, which are our geographical and special interest groups around Fiji made up of LGBTIQA+ Fijians and support of allies. They are our eyes, ears and feet on the ground during natural disasters and beneficiaries of our programs and initiatives. Strengthening the network would allow us to work better with, and in, our communities.