Written by MaqC Eric Gitau Wednesday, 04 July 2012 08:54
GALCK has been conducting a project titled: The Envisioning Global LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Human Rights Project that will document and analyze criminalization of LGBT people, flight from violence and persecution, resistance to criminalization, and Interaction between International Human Rights Mechanisms and LGBT rights initiatives.
The envisioning project has been in recording progress since the research and video workshop held at GALCK from the 14th to the 16th of May with the first major assignment being on 17th May when the team recorded the IDAHO celebrations in collaboration with the Canada team that facilitated the research video workshop for GALCKs and SMUGs Envisioning teams.
The Kenya Envisioning team later headed to Kisumu where interviews were first carried out with various groups. These interviews tackled mostly the history and cross cutting issues of LGBTI organizing in the region, challenges faced by different members of the LGBTI community in the region as well as success stories of initiatives that have had impact on the community.
The Executive Director of NYARWEK, an umbrella body for LGBTI organizations and LGBTI serving youth groups in the region, amongst many things explained how their outreach programs works in collaboration with the police, bouncers and club owners to create a more friendly environment for LGBTI in the area. The founder of one of the member groups called Women Working with Women (3W) shed light on how their group has a female football team that interacts with the rest of the community in Kisumu at a neutral level and thus bridging the activism gap with the general population.
The program coordinator for Kisumu Initiative for Positive Empowerment (KIPE) explained how they have daily calendar to create a safe social environment for the LGBTI community and their clients. Still in Kisumu the team interviewed four persons from different organizations under NYARWEK whose real life stories touched on state induced harassment (mostly by police) as well as the public and family. Two of the interviewees were male sex worker.
The Envisioning team headed to Eldoret where the team met with a young campus based LGBTI group (Q-Initiative) that is at its initial stages of formation. The members are in their early twenties most of them in the same campus. This interview shed light on the passion of young university students who want to make a difference for the LGBTI student and alumni population. This was a rather unorthodox interview as the lead researcher Immah Reid noticed they were quite uneasy. They did not wish for any video recording of any kind. They opted for audio recording and since it was hard to get any one of them to open up, the envisioning team held a discussion with all of them together on their challenges of being LGBT and how they run group as well as what they hope to see it in the future.
The team’s next destination was a town called Kitale where the sexual and gender minorities are even more stigmatized. The 20 group is led by a peer educator called who moved there from Nairobi. The group has members who are mostly really closeted. Envisioning team conducted an interview with him and a member who is a transgender woman who highlighted how problematic it has been for her getting into a relationship. She doesn’t quite know how to approach a potential mate.
The envisioning team also conducted interviews with the Programs Coordinator and a board member of the Persons Marginalized and Aggrieved (PEMA-Kenya) based in Mombasa, at the Kenyan coast. They highlighted how they are organized within members of the community, board and secretariat. Their most effective programs are with police and religious leaders. Their greatest challenge is reaching out to indigenous LGBTI persons (born and bred in Mombasa) due to stigma that causes most of them not to want to associate with formalized LGBTI organizing. Most of their members and officials are immigrants from different towns in Kenya.
Following this, the team interviewed officials from Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), whose offices had been raided last year when a training workshop on MSM was happening. KEMRI initiated discussions with the religious leaders to understand the usefulness of engaging with MSM and MSWs, for public health reasons. Immah Reid reports: “There, we held an eye opening interview with a Muslim cleric and a Bisho. The two are by far the most intense interviews we have held of persons who did not advocate for the LGBT rights.” The teal also interviewed the official who is in charge of the Centers. He reported that there are high levels of stigma for workers at the center since it is common knowledge that they work with the sexually diverse community.
In Kilifi, the envisioning team interviewed officials and members of an organization called Tamba Pwani that mostly deals with MSM issues. These ones highlighted gay bashing and insecurity as major problems they encounter daily. The officials are very disturbed that the community in Kilifi and also Mombasa does not take violations on sexual and gender minorities as seriously as they should. Tamba Pwani has also experienced challenges in reaching out to Lesbians. Envisioning also had the chance to get on record a story of a gay man turned sex worker after his education was discontinued by the family when they found out that he was gay. He mentioned that he would be willing to stop sex work if he gets a man to support his family and himself.
Interviews in Nairobi and its environs are currently underway. Lined up are more recordings of interviews with LGBTI groups and organizations, veteran activists, allies, media practitioners, officials from the immigration office, ministry of health, Attorney Generals’ office, the Judiciary, Law society of Kenya, Politicians and officials from political parties, senior Kenya Police officers, and some entrepreneurs from the private sector.
After the interview period ending in August, GALCK will then embark on a documentary featuring edits of the interviews that will be useful for advocacy and sensitization of LGBTI activists. A small quote book with quotations on different themes from Kenyan LGBTI persons and allies will also come through from this project as will be a publication on Kenyan LGBTI History, Ethnology and Present-day struggles.
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