A New Chapter: The Bisi Alimi Foundation and Business Engagement

By Eli Manderson Evans

This year marks several important milestones, some more celebratory than others. 2017, whilst marking the second anniversary of the Bisi Alimi Foundation, also serves as the year in which we launch our new business engagement programme. On a less celebratory note 2017 also marks three years since the passing of the 2014 Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act (SSMPA) in Nigeria, which effectively further criminalised same sex practices, relationships and love, further spreading fear and discrimination among Nigeria’s LGBT community. However, despite the horrific nature of the SSMPA there is much reason to be hopeful, our LGBT family in Nigeria exists and we are excited to see the number of especially young Nigerians engaging in social media conversations around LGBT issues. The unrelenting strength of the community continues to inspire us at the Bisi Alimi Foundation and the desire to assist drives our newest initiative.

Today the foundation launches its 2017 Business Engagement platform, designed to forge links with the business community in Nigeria. The initiative aims to form a powerful alliance with corporations operating in Nigeria to accelerate social acceptance of LGBT people through the power of business.

International business giants have long been a force in promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, using their international reputation and leverage to help to protect our LGBT family. As such, these firms have proven fundamental in numerous cases in which governments around the world have been slow or unwilling to fully protect their LGBT citizens. A 2015 Guardian article labelled businesses as the site of “the next LGBT equality fight”, seeing protection from workplace discrimination as fundamental to progress, whilst also being of mutual benefit to both the economic competitiveness of business and to the wellbeing of LGBT employees. However, such calls are largely directed at Western LGBT communities. What we are doing here at the Bisi Alimi Foundation is working to expand and extend those calls for change to Nigeria.

Companies such as Lenovo and Marriott International have been praised for their support and implementation of LGBT focused inclusionary workplace policies, receiving top ratings in the Corporate Equality Index, yet their existing global frameworks for LGBT inclusion has not been actively pursued in Nigeria, creating a gap. With the leading business giants growing their presence in Nigeria, a question arises as to what MNCs (Multi-National Corporations) are doing to ensure their global commitments to diversity and inclusivity for LGBT Nigerians are met?

Our Business Engagement programme aims to assist in filling this gap. Through delivering workplace training on diversity and inclusion we aim to facilitate the integration of MNCs overarching strategies for LGBT inclusion with their local teams operating in Nigeria. The Bisi Alimi Foundation in accordance with its business allies hopes to develop a group of equality champions to lead the way in promoting LGBT diversity and inclusion in Nigerian business culture.

Businesses have the power to create social change and a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of their employees irrespective of their sexual preference or how they identify themselves. The Bisi Alimi Foundation believes that with the cooperation of business giants, 2017 is our chance to develop an alternative business culture in Nigeria. A culture so strong and undeniably beneficial to all that will reach far beyond the gates and fences of company plots of land, to affect the lived realities of Nigeria’s LGBT community.

If you are a business that would like to know more about our business engagement programme or how to be involved and/or receive training please contact us at: e.mandersonevans@bisialimifoundation.org