Brazil is considered the world champion of crimes against sexual minorities recording the death of 1 LGBTI every 20 hours. Data indicate that in 2018, 420 LGBTI died victims of homo-lesbo-transphobia, 320 homicides and 100 suicides. With these rates, Brazil is ahead in the number of deaths, considering 13 countries in the East, and Africa, which condemn LGBT individuals to the death penalty. The causes of death involve firearms (124), piercing bladed weapons (99), and death by physical aggression (97), with beatings, asphyxiation, clubbing, stoning, burning, among others (Grupo Gay da Bahia, 2018: 4). In this scenario of hatred and prejudice, there are institutions that fight for freedom and in favour of diversity, such as the Dignity Group.
With the vision of contributing to the construction of a society of equality in human rights and citizenship, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, the Dignity Group acts in the defence and promotion of human rights to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) community (Grupo Dignidade, 2018: 9). It also promotes social change through its advocacy for difference, showing that all individuals are different and need to be respected as such. In Brazil, the performance of the group is actively observed in all achievements of the LGBTI+ Community, within the scope of the executive branch or legislative branch at the national, state, and municipal levels. (Reis, 2019).
COMPOSTA+ was legally constituted in 2019, as a social enterprise belonging to Sector 2.5, focusing on reducing social and environmental impact through the collection and disposal of organic waste. Conceived by partners Théo Branco and Luiz Falcão, their actions and activities began 3 years before the legal formalization of the business.
Founded in 1992 in the city of Curitiba, the Dignity Group, a non-profit civil organization, was the first group in the state of Paraná to promote and defend the rights of the LGBTI+ community. Acting in the state and national scenario, and in citizen issues, it helped in the constitution of local and national organizations, such as the Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transsexual Association (ABGLT) in 1995 and the LGBTI National Alliance Network in 2009.
For Toni Reis, founder of the Dignity Group, his main motivation was personal experience and suffering between the ages of 14 and 21, a phase in which he was not accepted, suffered from internal homophobia, and was not accepted by the church, family and society. This period, called by him as “the search for a cure” (since he denied being homosexual), impelled him to promote a project so that people do not have to go through the same reality faced by him for seven years (Reis, 2019).
To enhance its actions and promote technical, political, and financial sustainability, the Dignity Group acts in a network with four other organizations and with complementary fronts, as follows:
The history of the organization is marked by partnerships with important public and private agencies, including: UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, Federal Government of Brazil, Brazilian Ministry of Health, the Government of the State of Paraná, the Federal University of Paraná, the Technological University of Paraná, It Gets Better Project, Gay Latino, GLSEN, InterPride, ABGLT, and others.
For Toni Reis, the main change that the Dignity Group seeks to generate in the world is to promote happiness in the lives of individuals, whether it be the happiness of self-acceptance or the happiness of society’s respect for individuals, so that we can all live together harmoniously. Human beings are biologically equal, socially similar to some people, and psychologically we are all different, so relationships must be based on respect. According to Toni, the Dignity Group preaches respect and harmonious coexistence among people, without judgment, prejudice, stigma, and without violence (Reis, 2019).
For Lucas Siqueira, the administrative director and responsible for managing the volunteers and the HIV Test Programme, the change it seeks to generate is that one day one can live with complete freedom in relation to sexual, religious, cultural, and racial diversity, in which diversity is not a separator, but something that adds value; the more diverse the richer, the more plural the better, “thinking globally and acting locally”. It is observed that true transformations are the sum of various micro actions, through each person, institution and organization that acts in their local reality, and when these local realities come together, change in the world just happens (Siqueira, 2019).
The mission of the Dignity Group is to advocate for and promote free sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as human rights and citizenship of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+). Thus, its actions and activities are based on the values and principles of “dialogue, commitment, responsibility, diversity, ethics, transparency, equality, cooperation, and unity” (Grupo Dignidade, 2018: 9).
The Dignity Group acts through programmes, projects, and events. Their programmes include:
The Dignity Group’s projects are:
The Dignity Groups organizes March for Diversity event every 17 May (the World Day to Combat Homophobia; Encontrão LGBT event, which aiming at getting to know and fraternizing between LGBTI+ and the public. The team also holds lectures on LGBTI+-phobia and AIDS/HIV themes (Action in Education event) and organizes Diversity Café – quarterly promoting a space for chats and for reflection.
According to Lucas Siqueira, what motivates people to come together with the Dignity Group is the transformation brought directly and indirectly to their lives. The Dignity Group has become a space where LGBTI+ people in times of distress, anguish, or seeking help can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and hence hope. The Dignity Group is considered a second family, seeking to bring back a perspective for life to the individuals in the group (Siqueira, 2019).
The challenge of every non-profit organization involves its existence and maintenance. To this end, budgeting and fundraising are crucial. For this reason, fundraising must be solid, recurring, stable, and the purpose of the organization must be very well established so that the public can identify with the cause and support the project. Another challenge involves engagement and motivation of volunteers, and finally, the challenge of reinventing and adapting to reality and social changes, and the necessity to oxygenate the organization’s processes and its operating flows (Henderson, 2019).
Impacts are identified throughout the history of the Dignity Group, as follows:
Since the emergence of COMPOSTA MAIS, several practices can be identified, among which stand out the learning of users in performing the proper separation of waste. Singular individuals generate an average of 1 kg of waste per day, half of which being organic, and half – recyclable. Proper sorting allows the recyclable waste to be clean, without the disposal of materials with organic waste, which can be reused. COMPOSTA+ business customers report that benefits waste pickers’ handling of waste, as well as restaurant hygiene, and reduces the stench produced by the liquid portion of organic materials.
The first lesson and good practice highlighted refers to the involvement of all parties: civil society, governmental, and non-governmental organizations, the community, or social movements, allowing everyone to have a voice. From that point on, identifying the demands but not assuming them. A second good practice encompasses action planning – this practice has been in place since the foundation of the organization and annually strategic planning is carried out, inviting the parties involved to participate and think through the actions along with the organization. Specialization in each established area and its structuring involved legal and psychological specialists, among others.
Practical actions included the advocacy actions developed by the National Alliance in terms of training, publicizing, engaging, encouraging, and sensitizing political actors in all areas, so that they can understand the reality of the LGBTI+ Community. And the establishment of geographic representativeness at the national and international levels was also important, having a space to speak in each Brazilian state, with scalability (Henderson, 2019).
1. Grupo Dignidade (2018). Conheça mais sobre o Grupo Dignidade. Available at: <http://www.grupodignidade.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/portfolio-versao_17042018.pdf>. Accessed 12 Dec 2019.
2. Grupo Gay da Bahia (2018). População LGBT Morta no Brasil. Relatório GGB 2018. Available at: < https://grupogaydabahia.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/relat%C3%B3rio-de-crimes-contra-lgbt-brasil-2018-grupo-gay-da-bahia.pdf> Accessed 10 Dec. 2019.
3. Henderson, F. Interview granted to Flavia Roberta Fernandes, 26 Nov 2019.
4. Siqueira, L. Interview granted to Flavia Roberta Fernandes, 12 Dec 2019.
5. Reis, T. Interview granted to Flavia Roberta Fernandes, 12 Dec 2019.
6. Credit to Carlos Olavo Quandt, Flavia Roberta Fernandes, Mari Regina Anastacio, Sara Regina Hokai and Ubiratã Tortato