Health

Uganda’s Global Fund board names transgender man on its board


Williams Apako will serve as the representative of marginalised communities

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Renowned LGBTQI+ advocate Apako Williams has been elected as a board member of the Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund, a worldwide partnership to fight HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism (UCCM) was created by the Global Fund to govern the use of Global Fund resources in Uganda, reflecting the principles of national ownership and participatory decision-making. The UCCM is responsible for coordinating submission of fresh proposals, process requests for continued funding, selecting principal recipients, as well as oversight on all Global Fund.

The UCCM comprises of members from the government, civil society organizations, academia, the private sector, UN agencies and other bilateral agencies, and representatives of key populations.

Apako will serve as the representative of “Key Populations” on the board. Key Populations refer to marginalised communities disproportionately affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, including transgender individuals, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs. Apako is a transman, meaning a person who despite being identified as female at birth, identifies as a man.

According to the Global Fund website, Apako Willims is the Founder and Executive Director of Tranz Network Uganda (TNU), a legally registered Company Limited by Guarantee, dedicated to advocating for the human rights of transgender and gender non-conforming persons in Uganda.

It says with a background in Social Works and Social Sciences, Apako is a seasoned social worker. His expertise is underscored by a diploma in Project Planning and Management. Currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Diplomacy and International Relations, he is part of a cohort of 14 Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) East Africa Alumni.

It adds that Apako is a recognised fellow of the Sexuality Leadership Development Fellowship, and a trainer of trainers on Gender and Sexual Diversity, trained by USAID. He is also a community paralegal and LGBTI rights defender, bringing over 8 years of experience serving gender and sexual minorities in Uganda.

His extensive involvement includes consulting on Gender and Sexual Diversity, as well as advocacy in public health and human rights directed at discriminatory laws that impact on health.

Apako already holds roles in various committees and boards. Notably, he sits on the National Security Working Group, a national LGBTI security response committee, and contributes to the Technical Working Group of the Uganda AIDS Commission. In addition, he is a proud member of the Key and Priority Populations Programme (KPPP) Sub-Community Advisory Board of BAYLOR Uganda Centre of Excellence and the Amplify Change Grantee Reference Group.

Previously, Apako was a board member of the Global Fund Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism-UCCM. He is the Vice Chairperson of the Uganda Key Populations Consortium, Vice Chairperson HAKI Defenders Foundation, as well as a board member of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF).

Apako’s election has been celebrated by members of Uganda LGBTQI+ community. A report online said people who have worked closely with Apako believe that he is up to the task.

It quoted blogger Daniels Mukwano saying Apako Williams “brings a fresh perspective to a position of immense importance in advocating for the rights and well-being of transgender community in Uganda”.

“Apako Williams’ election… is a remarkable achievement that marks an important milestone in Ugandan society. By breaking barriers and advocating for the rights and healthcare needs of marginalised communities, Williams is championing necessary change, fostering understanding, and paving the way for a more inclusive future.

“His unwavering dedication to promoting the rights of marginalized communities exemplifies the power of resilience, determination, and community advocacy. Through his work, Williams not only uplifts those facing similar challenges but also creates spaces for meaningful dialogue and understanding within Ugandan society,” says Mukwano.

The report says Apako’s journey to this position has been fraught with challenges and resilience. As a member of the transgender community in Uganda, he has experienced firsthand discrimination, stigma, and social isolation that is often directed to members of minority groups.

“However, through determination and unwavering commitment, Williams has persevered, standing tall as a beacon of hope for others who face similar struggles,” it says.

Apako’s election as the representative of Key Populations at the Uganda Country Coordinating Mechanism couldn’t have come at a more critical time.

According to the report, with the escalation of human rights abuses directed at suspected and known LGBTQI+ persons under the pretext of implementing the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) 2023, his presence on the UCCM is vital because it puts him in position to advocate and ensure that the needs and rights of the people he represents are adequately addressed within the public health framework of Uganda.

“His appointment signifies a meaningful step towards a more inclusive approach in healthcare planning, programming, and policy-making. But with AHA in place, it also means that he has to work harder than his predecessors and fellow board members,” the report says.



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