Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Brian Raymond a Transgender Refugee Leader in Kenya shares a post-election story

The thrill of meeting an international journalist after staying indoors for a number of days is worth talking about. So when I was asked to share this article I obliged.

The meeting took place on a chilly August Nairobi day on 11th/8/2017, we suggested to meet with Marie after the Kenyan general elections. I was a bit scared venturing out due the tension that was all over the country before they announced the newly elected president. 

We agreed to meet by 2pm but there was much delay because of the long distance from where I come from to where we had suggested to meet. The traffic is still light so this also made me get to my appointment late.

Marie was very happy to meet me. We went through the jovial preamble and we hugged. We had to look for a convenient place. I was so excited to meet Marie because we had planned for this meeting days before the general election. We had to put it on halt. Before the meeting she introduced herself and said she was a journalist working for ActionAID. She said she was going to be writing an article about me which would be published in their magazine. 

She asked me why I fled to Kenya: 

I replied that, it was due to persecution and a life that had changed after the fact that in my community where we were living many people were always pointing fingers at me, heckling and making my life uncomfortable.  All this was because of my sexuality, body appearance and the expectations my friends had of me. I faced all sorts of pain and stigma. I was ridiculed on all occasions. But, when I was threatened by youths who said out-loud how they planned to beat me up, I could not take it any more. I just got a few clothes, a small bag and fled to Kenya.

But, nothing prepares one for a  life as a refugee. Pressures of being in an environment one is not used to, the fact that one has to look for places to do shopping, recreation and socialization all demanded attention. It became a daily conversation even among other refugees. Luckily enough we were organized enough to start a self help space. We came up with an idea of starting up an organization with my fellow Ugandan refugees who also faced similar problems. We decided to use our talents in order to change people's negative attitude against LGBTIQQ through different skills. The skills included: dressing, food preparation, craft making, netball, music, dance and drama. 

Before coming to Kenya I used to work with Dr. Stella Nnyanzi at Makerere university as a research assistant and field work officer on different research projects under the Law, Gender and Sexuality (LGS). I used some of the organization development skills I had acquired through working at these different projects to start up an organization. This organization has helped 70 LGBTIQQ refugees some of whom are living with HIV. This kind of work has introduced me to wider networks and referral service points. It is through one such experience that I was invited to be part of the ActionAid training. I want to also mention this. I have had the opportunity to be trained by Dr. Tom R. Muyunga-Mukasa who now lives in USA. These two doctors are a great resource not only to me but to many on the LGBTIQQ community. Dr. Tom, is so patient with many of us and he is a dedicated, dependable and thorough mentor. He has helped many LGBTIQQ CBOs with organization development and planning comprehensive HIV activities.

She asked me, how the campaign training changed me:

During the training, I was introduced to the concept of  Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA). According to me, it is like putting on spectacles to enable one see better. It now makes it easier for me to look at my responsibilities from a more impacting angle.  I am able to first think harder through issues. I have some kind of compass guiding me. I now know how to ask why, who , when and where. I can connect cause and effect. I now ask why things happen and what solutions exist to address issues as applied to marginalized persons. 

I learnt the importance of working with others, allowing there to be channels of communication, the importance of giving feedback and taking it whether positive or negative.  I am now skilled at making successful campaigns, making reports and documentation as a way of assessing the impact of an activity. I came to know the importance of stories as tools for social change. It is important to compose and share a story. It is important to plan activities, make online mobilization and mobilize resources. I now know the importance of planning what to do.

The message I pass to my fellow LGBTIQQ members:

My message is that we shouldn't give up. In order to have a successful movement, let's not be selfish with information, most people hate LGBTIQQ because they are fed with false information and others are ignorant, let's love one another so that we stop the hate speeches. 

In my  conclusion with the wonderful journalist, I linked LGBTIQQ life with HIV/AIDS. I still find people who fear HIV and take time to accept their status when found positive with the virus. I have also come across those who accept their status and begin an aggressive self-care. Our organization has engaged  in advocacy to stop the spread of the virus. I call upon my friends to  advocate for Human Rights not Gay rights because Gays are also human beings. Let us be creative in passing out information and educative strategies in order to stop discrimination and stigma among ourselves. She was so grateful with dialogue we had. I am so happy, I am sharing this article. It makes me feel there are those who will be motivated to organize their thoughts and share their stories. Stories motivate and enable us to emotionally unburden. Thank you.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Nairobi Kenya: Kenyatta National Hospital Staff Made Possible a Befitting Farewell For the Fallen Roger Waligo a Ugandan Transgender Refugee in Kenya

As I write this, I am  part of a larger group gathered at the Kenyatta National Hospital mortuary along Ngong’ Road in Nairobi Kenya. Many of us came to this point in time via the different roads that run as helpful veins around the vibrant hospital. 

All these roads; Mbagathi, Hospital, Kenya, Mucai, Mara, Cathedral, Woodlands and Bishop led to that common magnet of human emotions. We came together yet again to sort out who could run errands; identify those who could hold the purse; others chose to remain prayerful sentinels who embraced the night’s cold; and others made the calls to pass on information. We watched the wonderful staff of Kenyatta National Hospital fight so hard to hold in place a life that was escaping from our colleague. They did their best, we witnessed the world class Kenyatta Hospital care providers at their work. Roger Waligo, a young straddling bundle of energy breathed that last sigh on 29th July 2017! May Roger find fuller meaning in heaven’s abode.

Keeping the treasured life of Roger was a community task. Days before the death, we were held together by one task of saving a life. However, death robbed us and the days after 29th Just 2017 became a blur of horror. 

We were torn apart, sorrow does that. We were angry, death does that. But, we remembered Roger during moments like these in past experiences. During a past bereavement, it was Roger who was part of those mobilizing logistics to intern another colleague of ours who passed away in 2014.  So, we resolved to make arrangements for Roger's body to be well dressed and prepared for internment in a fitting way. Roger deserved a befitting farewell and we are sure we did our best. We thank the Kenyan community for being with us during our moments of sorrow. We thank the Kenyatta National Hospital staff for providing space and bearing with us as we mourned our loved one. 

I listened to whispered conversations attesting to the good acts and hard work Roger always displayed. We are using this occasion to extend our hand and hearts to comfort one another. I recall the times I visited Roger's home at Kawangware-Muthama and we toured a sprawling Tuputupu-size garden of Irish potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages and anything that could grow cared for by those able hands. In a makeshift fence were a few birds clucking in anticipation of food when they noticed us. Or, it could have been their unwavering welcome in chicken-speak. Roger was always a welcome sight even to the poultry at this home.

One day, I wanted members to help us with our themed spiritual support event combined as a musical psychosocial support session too.  When Roger joined us, we turned the event into a “gal power” theme. That is how fast and energetic Roger was. Always hands on and appropriate. It made sensible planning and when the event was conducted it was billed as a very successful event ever organized by refugees for refugees. Since then, Roger has been attending all Nature Network events. 

Roger, we mourn your passing. We bid you a goodbye. We will never forget you. For those who knew you well and loved you, the pain is deep and enduring. The LGBTIQQ community, too, will long feel the loss of a good friend. We can find consolation only in faith, for we know in our hearts that you who brought warmth to all of us will bring the same to heaven safe in God's promise of eternal life.

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