In 1994, The Rainbow Project was set up in response to the spread of HIV among gay and bi men in Northern Ireland. At the start the organisation was solely run by volunteers with a specific aim of providing safe-sex information and support to men who have sex with men.
Since then The Rainbow Project has evolved and four years after it started, it began providing counselling for men who have sex with men and, in 2003, launched youth development services.
In 2008 the organisation shifted its focus towards developing policy and engaging with government, and the formation of a group to support parents and carers of young LGBT people.
An advocacy service to support victims of hate crime followed in 2010, along with teacher-training projects. In 2012, the Rainbow Project began the process of officially becoming inclusive of LGB women and trans people, although their services had been used by these groups previously.
Work with employers started in 2012 and, five years later, a partnership with Stonewall was launched. This saw Stonewall’s long-established Diversity Champions programme expand to Northern Ireland.
John O’ Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said: ‘We’re thrilled to be building on our relationship and extending this into a formal partnership. We know that many employers are keen to make their workplaces welcoming of all lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff. Now that we’re working with Stonewall, we can make that work happen faster and dramatically increase the pace of change for LGBT people in Northern Ireland.’