The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.
For our two last TRUE Africa 100s of 2015, here are Victor and Lily the peer leaders and co-founders of Men Against AIDS Youth Group (MAAYGO).
Lily, a transwoman, and Victor, who is gay, founded MAAYGO in Kisumu, western Kenya with three friends in response to the impact HIV was having in their community. Infection rates are high in the region (15.1 per cent compared to the national average of 5.6 per cent) ; the number of contractions is growing instead of decreasing like the average in Kenya.
MAAYGO seeks to be a safe space in Kisumu and its neighbouring regions; it offers counselling, testing, lubricant and condoms to the LGBTI community in the area. They received a MTV Staying Alive grant in 2012 to continue their work.
MAAYGO also has a weekly radio show on LGBT issues in Luo, the local regional language; peer educators who go to hotspots to offer counselling and HIV testing; and a drop-in centre visited by many in the area. MAAYGO also advocate for support in the local government to reduce the stigmatisation of the LGBTI community by the police and law courts.
Why did you start up MAAYGO?
Lily: Men Against Aids Youth Group (MAAYGO ) is a youth-lead organisation whose leaders and members identify as gay, bisexual, men having sex with men, male sex workers and transgender, who are affected and infected by HIV/Aids.
More still needs to be done to continue changes in cultural attitudes and acceptance.
It was formed to empower the community by promoting policy-advocacy, quality healthcare, gender integration, research and capacity-development towards the improvement of quality of life with special attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, intersex (LGBTI), men having sex with men (MSM) and sex workers. It was formed with a vision of ensuring a healthy, empowered and just society.
Victor: We started MAAYGO as self-help group with five infected and affected with HIV, gay and bisexuals individuals who wanted to respond to the HIV and Aids scourge in Kisumu. We initiate projects and programmes in order to provide health, HIV and livelihood services to MSMs, MSM+ and the community.
We also advocate to promote greater access to HIV and health services as well promoting the human rights of MSMs.
Do you feel optimistic about cultural attitudes towards the LGBTI community changing in Kenya?
Lily: Yes, I am very optimistic about changes in cultural attitudes towards LGBTI people.There has been tremendous milestones and advocacy efforts geared towards creation of safe spaces and access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights services to the LGBTI community. However more still needs to be done to continue changes in cultural attitudes and acceptance.
There has also been more acceptance and tolerance.
Victor: Great impact has been achieved at the national and county level, which has influenced positive change in LGBTI movements in Kenya. They are becoming more visible and coming out to access human and health rights services and advocate for sexual minorities’ well-being.
Recently the Kenyan president responded to President Obama, declaring the homosexual debate as a non-issue which has really opened great conversations on issues affecting LGBTI/SW communities. Some political leaders have now dropped cases in parliament,
There has also been more acceptance and tolerance. But more needs to be done to have a healthy, empowered and just society where everyone enjoys equal rights.
Who’s your African of the year?
Lily: My African of the year is Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, the executive director of Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA), an international, Pan-African, non-governmental organisation. Solome is a feminist who has contributed a lot in advocating for women rights and space in Uganda and Africa. She has also worked together with Uganda LGBTI activists to challenge the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Victor: My African of the year is Dancan Omondi who has ten years of technical experience working with various NGOs including Columbia University’s organisation ICAP as a community and prevention programme coordinator.
Dan has also supported LGBTI grassroots organisations such as the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), Persons Marginalized and Aggrieved (PEMA-Kenya), MAAYGO, MSM health organisation ISHTAR, Voices of Women in Western Kenya (VOWEK) for the last five years.
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Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica