As a lone girl in a traditionally patriarchal & heteronormative Muslim family in Tanzania, Oliver Rubama grew up with so much pressure to conform. She was expected to conform to socially expected patterns of female behavior and dress, and to aspire to get married to a man approved by her family.
As a young member of Tanzania’s sexual minorities community, Oliver watched with growing fury and exasperation as many of her peers were forced into marriages, pressured into heterosexual relationships, or ostracized, and denied family inheritance for failure to confirm.
In 2010, Oliver left her family to join Tanzania Lesbians Association, abudding organisation devoted to defending the rights of gender non-conforming women and girls. The organisation was committed to ensure that women and girls, regardless of their sexual orientation enjoy full protections of the law and access social services, particularly health programs pertaining their sexual and reproductive health rights.
In 2014, she formed her own organisation – Young Women Initiative, to tackle wider social challenges undermining the work of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in Tanzania like lack of sufficient access to legal services, and lack of medical insurance. Her organisation also defends the rights of female sex workers and women living with HIV/AIDs.
Now, after seven years of sustained organising and advocacy, Oliver and her team can point to some gains:
Still, she says, challenges remain: