Free to be Me is an innovative program that builds and maintains a movement of self-confident and diverse LGBTIQ+ organizations and activists who advocate for their human and socio-economic rights. In 14 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia we support LGBTIQ+ people so they can assert their rights and start change in their community, country and internationally.

Why we work with LGBTIQ+ organizations

For a more just, fair, dignified and prosperous society, all people should have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and/or queer people (LGBTIQ+). They face discrimination, violence and stigma in almost all facets of their lives. For years, they have been targets of social exclusion and physical attacks exclusively due to their (perceived) sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Their issues are often overlooked and excluded from programs to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although LGBTIQ+ movements have become stronger and better organized in the last decades, they still face stiff resistance. The rise of nationalist, right-wing and anti-rights ideologies, as well as weakening democratic structures, have put civic space for LGBTIQ+ organizations in a vulnerable position. Existing economic development programs are not reaching LGBTIQ+ people and communities adequately or equitably.

A focus on socio-economic rights

Free to be me is the first program of its kind to pave the way for targeted lobby and advocacy to get SOCIESC issues mainstreamed in economic development programs. Although a disproportional number of LGBTIQ+ people are poor, unemployed and economically disadvantaged, few actors have addressed this either sporadically or structurally. Our alliance aims to fill this gap through a combination of national-level approaches and foundational work at the global level.


The program supports LGBTIQ+ people so they can assert their rights and start change in their community, country and internationally. To do this, we will invite them into inspiring safe spaces where they can organize, namely, “Communities of Action” (CoA). Here, people belonging to all parts of the LGBTIQ+ rainbow can meet, become stronger, and jointly develop and implement plans to advocate for their rights. Free to be me will enable local organizations to become sustainably resourced and to lead on influencing public opinion, legal and policy changes, and access to socio-economic rights.


Fourteen countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia

Selection of results

  • The program funded 163 LGBTIQ+ organizations in 2022.
  • In 2022 over €6.8 million in grants was disbursed, largely through a participatory grant-making mechanism, with national level panels formed in 10 countries.
  • 109 nascent organizations received capacity strengthening in various aspects of organizational development, including lobby and advocacy, program design, implementation, reporting, finance management, and proposal writing.
  • In Zimbabwe, the program actively worked to oppose the Crossdressers Bill that targeted trans and non-binary people. Thanks to the collective efforts of the Communities of Action and other stakeholders, the Crossdressers Bill was rejected by the National Assembly in December 2022.

Period and budget

2021 – 2025, EUR 37 million.

Donor and consortium partners

The program is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the ‘Power of Voices’ subsidy framework to strengthen civil society. Consortium partners are: Positive Vibes, ILGA World, and Hivos as lead party. Global Interfaith Network (GIN), Workplace Pride and Sogicampaigns are our technical partners.