Safer livelihood for LGBTQI refugees: Digital Learning Centre

To improve self-reliance among 100 urban LGBTIQ refugees through online freelancing opportunities and digital training skills by 2024.
Good Practices

Safer livelihood for LGBTQI refugees: Digital Learning Centre

To improve self-reliance among 100 urban LGBTIQ refugees through online freelancing opportunities and digital training skills by 2024.
People at a desk looking at laptops

The project in brief

The project is implemented by ORAM (Organization for Refugees, Asylum and Migration) in Kenya. It started in October 2022 and will end in December 2024.

ORAM, through the Digital Learning Center (DLC), is responding to the limited dignified work opportunities that LGBTIQ refugees can engage in safely. The DLC project provides training, mentorship, and job linkages to online work freelancing as well as laptops to LGBTIQ refugees to access online jobs in the safety of their homes. ORAM is empowering an LGBTIQ Refugee-Led-Organization to run the DLC effectively and sustainably, and provide job linkages.

The overall goal is to increase the self-reliance of LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers by providing safer avenues for income generation.

Leveraging technology to put to use the skills and knowledge of LGBTIQ refugees gained in the country of origin and/or asylum to generate decent income before a durable solution is realized.

Additionally, the project contributes to improved mental health by reducing the protection risks that LGBTIQ refugees face in Kenya; discrimination, violence and persecution.

Main activities of the Good Practice

  • Providing skills, job linkages and tools to enable LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers to live more dignified and safer lives. Working from home reduces the risk of exposure of LGBTIQ refugees to discrimination, attacks and persecution.
  • Project co-creation with the Refugee-Led-Organization; Team No Sleep (TNS). ORAM engaged the RLO in the designing of the project, developing the implementation plan, and designing the exit. ORAM and the RLO co-manage the center activities and ORAM plans to hand over the DLC to the RLO by end of 2024 for project continuity. Additionally, the RLO has also co-funded the DLC.
  • Early preparation for ORAM’s project exit. This is being achieved through capacity strengthening of the RLO to run the center effectively and sustainably. ORAM is enhancing their capacity to become Trainers of Trainees (ToTs) to train other refugees and to provide job linkages. Job linkages will be provided through a fee-for-service model so that the DLC can meet the running costs.
  • Engagement of an LGBTIQ-Led RLO to provide insights on the lived experiences of LGBTIQ refugees thereby guiding in project design, identification of project participants and safety measures at the DLC.
  • Peer-Learning. The project is empowering some graduates of the DLC to become Trainer of Trainees (ToTs) enabling them to train and mentor others project participants. Refugees feel more engaged and invested in the learning process by training others and sharing their own experiences. Additionally, ORAM is facilitating peer-peer learning sessions of the RLO to learn from other Community Based Organization with similar projects.
Two people sitting at a desk with laptops

Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice

  • The desire of LGBTIQ refugees in Nairobi to generate income in a safe way, considering the challenging labour market environment for LGBTIQ refugees in Kenya.
  • The need for safer job opportunities, especially for vulnerable groups within the LGBTIQ refugee community.
  • Donations from individuals, corporations and foundations.
  • Working collaboratively with an LGBTIQ Refugee-Led-Organization to co-design the project from the onset to exit plan, identification of project participants and day-to-day running of the DLC. The commitment of the RLO to learning so they can run the center effectively and sustainably upon full handover to them.
  • A consultant with expertise in online freelancing work, and training job linkages that encouraged trainees during and after the training. The consultant also provided digital payment platforms for refugees without bank accounts to access their payments safely.
  • Access to online job platforms and payments available to LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees globally.

Partners involved

  • Team No Sleep, A Refugee -Led -Organization
  • Pawatech, a consultant to provide the initial training and capacity strengthening of trainees and RLO
  • Donors

What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?


  • Limited resources to fully equip the DLC and provide laptops to all graduates.
  • Limited resources to provide training and mentorship within the duration recommended by the consultant.
  • Low competency levels on computer applications can reduce the competitiveness to access and deliver online jobs.
  • Limited resources to meet the requirements for project exit. The project needs resources to sustain the center before the RLO establishes an online job agency whose income is expected to meet the operational costs of running the DLC.
  • Issues around laptop access post-training sessions in order to access online jobs.
  • Insecurity and theft of DLC assets.

How they were overcome

  • Joint fundraising plans with the RLO to meet the funding gap.
  • Encouraging trainees to access free training on the Microsoft and Google Learning platforms to enhance their competency levels.
  • ORAM has 10 laptops to be issued to the 25 graduates who have completed the training. ORAM has introduced a laptop lending model initiative that will enable the graduates to borrow laptops from whenever they get jobs which they bid on through their smartphones.
  • Through the funds allocated for seed funding for business enterprises, DLC graduates who show results with the borrowed laptops can also be awarded seed funding to purchase their own laptops.
  • To enhance the safety and security of assets there was a need to enhance the safety and security mechanisms at the DLC; CCTV cameras, asset forms, entry and departure forms and enhanced collaboration with RLO-Run-Shelter and CBOs for follow-up.
People in a room sitting at desks with laptops

Results of the Good Practice

  • LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers obtained the skills and knowledge to access work safely.
  • LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers obtained the skills and knowledge to make a decent income.
  • 72% of the participants secured online work, earning an average of $88 during the 3 months of training and mentorship. The highest earner made $243. Such work categories include AI Transcription, Social Media Marketing, and virtual assistant.
  • 20% of the participants were selected to be trained as Trainer of Trainees (ToTs).
  • Increased knowledge of running a DLC through coaching provided by the larger training institution with a digital learning center.
  • Improved mental well-being as a result of reduced protection risks for LGBTIQ refugees associated with access to the labor market.

In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

The goal of the project is to provide safer avenues for income generation to enhance the self-reliance of LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers. LGBTIQ refugees in Kenya face discrimination, violence and persecution due to the sociocultural, political and religious differences, making it challenging to access and sustain jobs. Consequently, it becomes difficult to meet basic needs, resulting in negative coping mechanisms such as depression and dependency on aid. Additionally, a larger percentage of displaced LGBTIQ persons in Kenya have not had their Refugee Status Determination completed. As such, they lack the necessary identification required to access formal and informal jobs and even durable solutions in a third country.

This project is in direct response to these challenges and realities of LGBTIQ refugees, who are mostly youth. The DLC provides training, mentorship and on-job-linkages on online freelancing enabling them to access ‘cloud-based work’ such as translation and transcription, virtual assistant, data entry, graphic design and social media marketing, allowing LGBTIQ refugees to work safely from home. Most participants secured work during and after the training and mentorship, with 72% of them earning an average of $88 each. The laptop lending model and support through seed funding will increase the capacity of the participants to engage in online work and earn an income that can sustain their needs. By training, empowering and providing them with the tools to improve their livelihood, the project is meeting the objective of enhancing self-reliance. As a result, this eases pressure on the host community.

LGBTIQ refugees will not put undue burden on hosting communities to meet their basic needs.

Next steps

Following the successful implementation of the program, the next steps include:

  • Training of another group of 25 LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers in Nairobi.
  • Trainer of Trainees (ToT) training and capacity strengthening activities for the RLO.
  • Monitoring graduates and provision of laptops/ encouraging them to buy their own laptops so that they can further work remotely after their graduation.
  • Building a community of freelancers for urban and ensuring sustainability of online work within the community.
  • Fundraising for capacity strengthening of the RLO to take over the project.

Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?

The project still requires resources to meet the operational costs of the center before the RLO is capable of running it independently through the fee-for-service model. Additionally, to increase the competitiveness of the project participants, there is a need to invest in advanced-level digital skills.
Funding to conduct a feasibility study to pilot the project in Kakuma refugee camp. LGBITQ refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei settlements face even greater protection risks. This project will enable them to make a decent living without the risk of exposure.

Submitted by

Winfred Wangari, East Africa Program Manager - [email protected]

Contact the project