Asia Catalyst is currently working with a female-based community-based organization (CBO) in Xi’an City, Shaanxi province in China (name has been redacted). Founded in December 2009 and consisting of 2 full-time and 1 part-time staff, and 10 volunteers, it works towards accessing equal rights and improving the quality of life for the LBT female community in Xi’an and nearby areas. The LBT community in Xi’an often faces discrimination and stigma based on gender expression or sexual orientation in both public and private spheres. The CBO reports widespread employment discrimination, particularly against transgender women, while community members often experience pressure from their families to marry men and conform to social norms. Family pressure also often impacts ongoing intimate relationships LBT women may be having, causing personal distress and other associated difficulties.
According to Yin Yan, one of the founding members of the CBO: “The LBT community in Beijing, Shanghai and the other bigger cities in China have more rights as compared to Xi’an. As we know, CBOs in bigger cities have developed more and have more resources and more capacity. Because we are based in north-west China and have limited resources, we want to set up a strong organization and increase our capacity to address the discrimination against the LBT community over here”. The CBO wants to provide a space for the LBT community to come out and talk, support each other and share their experiences. Apart from having events where the community comes together, the organization delivers lectures at the local University to raise awareness on LBT issues and also conducts workshops on LBT orientation with University counselors.
“The LBT community in Beijing, Shanghai and the other bigger cities in China have more rights as compared to Xi’an. As we know, CBOs in bigger cities have developed more and have more resources and more capacity. Because we are based in north-west China and have limited resources, we want to set up a strong organization and increase our capacity to address the discrimination against the LBT community over here.The CBO has been receiving tailored one-on-one coaching from Asia Catalyst through a collaboration between Asia Catalyst and Common Language (a national LBT organization in Beijing) since December 2014. The tailored coaching sessions include a range of organizational management and advocacy topics, which have helped the CBO increase its capacity and overcome challenges. Yin Yan believes that Asia Catalyst’s coaching enabled the CBO to gain a deeper understanding of strategic planning and staff have used the skills they learned in the coaching sessions to further improve the CBO’s strategic plan. In a discussion with Asia Catalyst Yin Yan also reported that, as a result of the coaching, the CBO has grown from a group to an organization, and that the tools and skills gained at the workshops could be applied immediately – “The most important is not just the learning, it is that the training is realistic and easy to use”.
As a result of the coaching session on meeting practice, the CBO now prepares agendas and writes notes for all their external and internal meetings. They also found the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) session very useful. Yin Yan uses the WBS to divide and delegate responsibilities amongst her staff and feels confident the work will be done even while she’s away. Due to the coaching, she can now employ a range of techniques such as timelines and budgeting, making program management a lot easier. These techniques have enabled her to understand at what stage her program is at, and to anticipate the outcomes more confidently. She tells Asia Catalyst that her concept of advocacy is also now more coherent and very different from what she initially understood.
Apart from coaching, Yin Yan is currently also participating in Asia Catalyst’s one year CBO Catalyst program, which merges organizational management skills with rights-based advocacy training. Yin Yan presented one of the three strongest advocacy plans (decided by CBO peer votes) during the CBO Catalyst advocacy workshop, meaning the CBO then received one of the three available Asia Catalyst sub-grants to implement its advocacy plan. The CBO will be using the funds from this sub-grant to conduct education classes on sexual orientation to middle schools in Xi’an city. It also plans to consult with the LBT community in Xi’an to identify further priorities and make their advocacy plan more robust. Yin Yan hopes that the plan will have an impact on enriching the lives of the LBT community in Xi’an and help increase awareness on the issues faced by them.