Feature: Emerging LGBTI Activists And Leaders In Kenya

Every Year, Identity Kenya will be putting out a list of Emerging LGBTI Activists and Leaders to honor the work and contribution these individuals have given for the movement and who continue to support, mobilize, petition and advocate for equality and non-discrimination in Kenya.

According to Queer Watchtower who is in the selection panel, the list is comprised of ‘young, energetic, visionary, self-driven and independent thinkers and activists’ who ‘will take over the rein of leadership of the LGBTI movement in Kenya’ to the next level.

Denis Nzioka, Editor of Identity Kenya, Kenya’s premier sexual and gender minorities news agency, said that the list will be an annual affair and will reflect ‘the need to recognize leadership’ given the current vacuum the LGBTI movement is experiencing.

He further added that the list will also reflect the otherwise ‘hidden’ ‘critical’ and ‘useful’ contribution each of the nominees give to better the lives of LGBTI Kenyans.

Selection was done from a list submitted by the Selection Panel of activists who were working in various fields and regions around the country. Ideally, criterion was they had to be young, independent (or affiliated to an organization), currently working or advocating and identify as openly LGBTI.

This particular edition is the final installment of Identity Kenya’s 2012 3 part special feature on the news, events and persons who made 2012 remarkable.

Part 1 was on the Top LGBT News Stories of 2012. READ: Feature: The Top Kenya LGBT Stories Of 2012

Part 2 was on the Top Homophobes in Kenya of 2012. READ: Feature: The List Of Kenyan Homophobes Who Made News In 2012

Whereas care has been taken to ensure regional, personal identities and work portfolio diversity, the list is in no way a reflection of the extent and passion of these young men and women.

Likewise, care has been taken to reflect, as much as possible, the environment and ‘buoy’ factors and persons where they operate and work from. This list as much to them as it is the persons and groups they represent. The numbering is purely for editorial purposes.

Emerging LGBTI Activists And Leaders In Kenya

Eric Mawira Gitari, 28, Nairobi – Co-founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) and a human rights lawyer and activist. He has a pedigree in immigration law, refugee and asylum seekers, public litigation and civil liberties.

He has worked as programme manager at the Hebrew Aid Immigration Society (HIAS) office in Kenya and as the LGBTIQ Associate at Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC). He is a carpenter, writer and poet.

Leonard Mutisya, 26, Kisumu – A student in Anthropology with a background in directing theater, refugee resettlement, media advocacy and public education on LGBTI health and rights, Mutisya is an LGBTI health expert and consultant.

His activism is for and provision of health services, peer support and health research with gay and bisexual men and MSM in Kisumu and Kenya from 2010 to date.

Mutisya was the co-author and Editor of ‘My Way, Your Way or the RIGHTS Way’ a publication on human rights and LGBTI lives in Kenya.

Jackson Otieno, 29, Nairobi – An anthropologist and current Communication Officer for the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), as well as a campaigner for the full recognition of the human rights and well being of sexual and gender minorities, Otieno has emerged as the face of the coalition as it transitions.

He is an expert orator and seasoned blogger as well as equal rights activist. He has strengthened links between GALCK and other organizations as well as partners and has become the most visible bisexual activist in Kenya. He also co-founded Purple Haze, Kenya’s premier bisexual advocacy group.

Barbra Muruga, 25, Nairobi – Describing herself as a radical queer feminist activist, Muruga is a ardent blogger, passionate trans and gender non-conforming activist and commentator. She serves at Jinsiangu, a Nairobi based social justice organisation working to create awareness of and respect for trans, intersex and other gender non-conforming individuals in Kenya.

She strongly believes in the feminist and transfeminist values and is a human rights and social justice activist with a particular focus on trans and intersex activism. She aims to see the rights of gender minorities truly upheld in the countries they reside in and specifically the African communities.

Kenne Mwikya, 22, Nairobi – A law student and philosophical, Mwikya is a critic, feminist and blogger. Combining wit and charm, debate and dialogue as well as out-of-the-box analysis, Mwikya’s opinion is valued and appreciated far and wide. A voracious reader and social justice advocate, Mwikya has been described as a critic and opinion shaper in the movement.

He describes himself thus: ‘I am young, restless and my life revolves around the socio-political and economic hegemonies that make it so hard for queers to inhabit spaces, any spaces, comfortably.’

Esther Adhiambo, 32, Mombasa – Currently Programs Coordinator of PEMA Kenya, Mombasa’s premier LGBTI organization, Esther Adhiambo is credited with her efforts are reconciling Muslim religious leaders and the LGBTI community in the Coast.

She also serves in the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) Board. She is also a former Pan African fellow with Fahamu-Africa.

She has coordinated LGBTI efforts in the Coastal town of Mombasa for years and her work is seen by the flourishing groups in Coast that are emerging.

John Odada, 23, Nakuru – Odada is a psychologist who heads KYDESA, a health advocacy group in Nakuru and its environs and the only LGBTI organization formed there.

Intelligent, head strong and organized, he also serves as the intersex representative at the Board of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK).

He is also a mental health advocate and addiction counselor who has given his skills and expertise in helping LGBTI persons deal with depression, substance abuse and other mental illnesses.

Brizan Were, 27, Lodwar – A former Jesuit seminarian, Brizan Were is a human rights activist working for LGBTI in arid and semi arid areas.

His unique group, Upper Rift Minorities is arguably the country’s and world’s only LGBTI and MSM group specifically catering to pastoralist, nomadic and refugee LGBTI persons living in harsh climates.

John Mathenge, 33, Nairobi – Mathenge is the face of the sex work movement and by extension on account of his position as the National Coordinator of Kenya Sex Workers Alliance. He is the founder and director of HOYMAS, Kenya’s only male sex work who are living with HIV group.

He has appeared in numerous interviews on sex work as well as represented Kenya in various sex work foras. He sits on several national groups on sex work and HIV as the male sex work representative. He has equally organized some of the largest gatherings and demos of sex workers Kenya has ever seen.

Guillit Amakobe, 27, Nairobi – A trans and intersex activist, Amakobe is one of the co-founders of Jinsiangu, a social advocacy group for transgender and intersex persons in Nairobi.

He has been influential in bringing back discourse on trans and intersex issues in the larger LGBTI movement.

Having been a Fellow with a pan African organisation, Guillit has traveled to many African countries and used the opportunity to network and share with other trans activists.

Jane Wothaya, 27, Nairobi – The current face of Gay Kenya, Wothaya is a talented writer and conversationalist. Her recent work with the OUT Film Festival and human rights work have forged her credentials as an emerging leader.

She saw the successful launch of two Gay Kenya Trust books as well as dabbled in organizing marches for various LGBTI causes. She also runs an outfit that produces rainbow merchandize. She also goes down in history as the only lesbian who got married and had their union blessed.

Kate Kamunde, 31, Nairobi – Kamunde is a passionate queer rights activist, talented musician and poet with an extensive 5 years experience working on human rights of sexual minorities in Kenya as well as security for LGBTI human rights defenders.

She is currently pursuing activism through music and is about to publish Kenya’s premier lesbian poetry book. She has an album and is working to hone her music talent.

She has appeared in various media interviews and written extensively on her blog on lesbian relationships, love and health.

Michael Kioko, 35, Mombasa – An advocate of the High Court and practicing lawyer, Kioko’s currently serves as the legal and advocacy officer of PEMA Kenya.

He is credited with organizing sensitization meetings with police and LGBTI persons. He also began legal clinic weeks for the Coastal LGBTI community and has his eyes set on training judicial officers on SOGI and human rights.

Dan Peter Onyango, 30, Kisumu – Currently the Executive Director and founder of Nyanza Rift Valley and western Kenya LGBTI coalition (NYARWEK), he is a clinician in profession. He has worked with the Center for Disease Control and prevention.

He has undertaken strategic plan and work with 17 LGBTI and MSM member organization in Western Kenya on coordination and linkage, human right advocacy, security, organization development and research and documentation.

Anthony Adero – 25, Nairobi – Adero is a young LGBT and HIV activist, lobbying for access to Sexual Reproductive Health information, STI and HIV services, and human rights for young MSM. Anthony is also a member of the Youth Reference Group at The Global Forum on MSM and HIV.

He advocates for current and critical issues affecting young LGBT people and wants to further pin point current strategies for effective change; supporting anti-stigma as well as HIV education campaigns that work to ensure we increase and enforce protective laws and strategies that oppose and repeal laws that criminalize HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission, homosexuality, and gender variance.

Andrew Maina, 24, Eldoret – If anyone is credited with making inroads of gay University students in the country, its Andrew Maina. What began as a meeting of fellow students has now grown into a fully fledged campus lobby group called Queer Initiative.

The group, first formed in Eldoret, has grown to have members from almost all campuses in the country.

It is this innovation that equally led to the formation of Lesbos, the lesbian equivalent of Q-Initiative.

Blessol Gathoni, 26, Nairobi – A queer feminist and trans activist, Blessol has been instrumental in organizing and coordination of emergency efforts when LGBTI persons are in danger.

A queer feminist and trans activist, Blessol has been a fierce human rights defender and advocate. She is a key security planner for LGBTI persons and groups as well as vocal activist on trans matters.

Mombo Ngua aka ‘Mantully System’, 24, Nairobi – A sex worker, and advocate for LGBTI and sex workers rights, Mantully is well known and has been featured in several media features touching on sex work.

Passionate and dramatic, his enthusiasm is only matched by his adeptness at pushing for public discourse on gay men and male sex workers.

Roselyn Odoyo, 28, Nairobi – Odoyo sees herself as an African, feminist, human rights activist and own life analyst. She became a lawyer to challenge injustices. She worked with ICJ Kenya Chapter in the Human Rights protection programme.

She has an LLB from Manchester university UK and is currently pursuing her Masters in human rights and democratization at EIUC in Venice.

Sylvia Kavengi, 29, Mombasa – Having worked for GALCK for years, Sylvia branched out to start an organization for lesbian women in the Coast of Kenya.

Tireless, vocal and affable, she is one of the constant faces of the community and has shown her zeal for lesbian rights in the country.

She has represented lesbians in various international platforms across Europe and Latin America.

By Denis Nzioka, Editor of Identity Kenya. Interact, get instant updates and follow him on Twitter here ~> @DenisNzioka
Source – Identity Kenya