From the local to the continental, the Fahamu Pan-African Fellowship programme aims to nurture and support grassroots African activism - generating contemporary, energetic, visionary and innovative thought and activism.

Self story

SELF STORY
Halo, my name is Guillit Amakobe, a lesbian and human rights defender for the LGBTI community. I am an artist, and member of the LGBTI organizations Artist For Recognition and Acceptance (AFRA) and G-Kenya. Both organizations are based in Nairobi, Kenya under Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK).

I was born and raised with a religious foundation, Catholic to be precise. With the tough Catholic fundamentals and a father strict like an army general, life was very complicated and lonely; adhering to my father’s rules, our home was like a military camp.

Dandora, my neighborhood, was not a safe haven where you felt safe anytime, day or night. Dandora hosts one of the largest dumpsites in the world. Dandora was enslaved and drowning in poverty, home for the vigilante groups and losing aspiring future leaders to the dumpsite. In Dandora back then, life was a struggle live or die, no one was safe in our homes or the streets.

Chained by my family to be what I was not, I was living a lie filled with regrets, fear and secret ambitions. I followed a regular schedule: school, home and church. I never had female friends, just regular home boys playing all boyish games. I witnessed the way the society viewed the “tomboys”: some of the tomboys were forced to adhere to their society’s roles by the time they reached their teenage years.

My efforts to join a girl’s school were fruitless; I ended up in some isolated school far away from civilization. I thought I was being punished, but was not informed of what! Unable to live a lie anymore after high school, I spent more time hanging out with known lesbians in Dandora, playing football. When not at school or at church, I spent most of my time writing poetry and drawing. I used art as an outlet for the stress and depression I felt from constantly hiding. I was revealing my true self through pen and paper.

In one of many sessions after church, a girl approached me while heading home and asked why they have never seen me with a guy. She suggested that I seduced a known lesbian in the area…! I laughed and pretended I did not understand her remarks.

Through a friend, I learned about GALCK and some of the organizations under it, and what GALCK has been trying to do for the sexual minorities. By this time my siblings had grilled me about my new “friends” and cut me out. I also got some hidden warnings from my mum.
I found refuge with my friends. They understood me; at that moment, I felt that I did not need my family anymore.

The more I learnt about other queer friends’ struggles, the more I became interested in liberating my new family, who were condemned, cast out, jobless, tortured and murdered. Something needed to be done, not just by me but by entire sexual minority family. The lesson learned was the more we hide out in our own safe spaces, the less space we create in the society for our existence.

Though several organizations are holding trainings and workshops on sensitization of the LGBTI in the country, the society still needs more space and time to digest the existence of a queer community in Kenya. I found a common ground with Fahamu Pan-African Fellowship Program (FPAF). This program gave me a platform to enhance my knowledge, skills and passion in defending the right of the sexual minorities.

I learned to seek understanding from my family, society, and government on our differences and act on our commonalities on a common ground. We need to recognize our human needs and wants without imposing values or stepping one another’s feet with ill intentions. Though they had trouble accepting me, currently my family and I are on speaking terms, and some of my siblings are supportive of my work.

Now I’m a human right activist, a poet using art as a tool to fight social injustice. I’m working with the LGBTI community and organizations to create safe spaces and gain equal participation in building our nation.


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