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.