Baku, Azerbaijan-“We don't look at gender in our language, so why do we look at it in life?” This message is at the center of Azerbaijan LGBT rights organization AZAD lgbt's campaign promoting the Toolkit portion of its site,azadaz.org. Based around the word 'O', Azerbaijani's genderless word for he/she/it, the campaign is designed specifically for an Azerbaijani audience. “When we launched the site earlier this month we wanted to start taking a different approach to LGBT rights work in Azerbaijan.” says Lala Mahmudova, current head of AZAD. “Instead of taking campaigns designed for the United States or Europe and trying to make them work here, we wanted to step back and ask what would really work for the lgbt community in Azerbaijan.”
The campaign is designed to surprise its audience by calling attention to an everyday word with a lot of ambiguity. Characters in the campaign videos use this to make the audience believe they are talking about one gender, when actually they are talking about another. “We first had the idea a few months ago. We were talking about a friend in the third person and I realized I had no idea if they were a man or a woman.” Mahmudova explains. “Its something you never consider until confronted with it, and we realized we could use this to start conversations about aspects of LGBT life in Azerbaijan people may not have thought about.” In the campaigns videos, after the initial surprise the audience is confronted by facts about LGBT life in Azerbaijan they may not have considered, then directed towards the AZAD Toolkit.
A collection of researched data on LGBT life in Azerbaijan, “The toolkit is essential to the whole campaign.” Says Mahmudova. “We wanted to make sure the videos led somewhere and were backed by facts. The toolkit gives people a chance to learn and reconsider what they know about LGBT life here.” The Toolkit also has a growing number of educational lessons people can use to hold their own seminars on LGBT rights. “Right now education and attitude changes are essential to making life here safer and better for the lgbt community. We hope the campaign will start conversations and get people thinking about what they really know.”