RUWEPO Holds Human Sexuality/Human Rights Seminar in Bungoma, Kenya.
Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme (RUWEPO) NGO held a one day LGBTI human rights and sexual orientation awareness seminar for 36 participants in Bungoma on March 27. There were a total of 27 women and 9 men who participated in the workshop drawn from women self help groups and diverse religious backgrounds.
Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme addresses disadvantaged and marginalized persons especially women, youth and children with the aim of giving them hope and purpose in life without any form of discrimination.
Anne Baraza, CEO of Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme, said that working with lgbti is a challenge to those who hold traditional values. She said “sexual orientation is discovered but not chosen as many people tend to think. Even many schooled mothers reject them emotionally due to homophobia and tran sphobia. Many a times religious institutions impose their own values to lgbti.”
She said that women in Africa should know that they have an ethical and moral obligation to address gay & lesbian issues in an affirmative manner. They are the ones who give birth to LGBTI and usually more close to the children than their fathers. The mothers should not join in stoning LGBTI but instead show acceptance and maternal love to our LGBTI children. “We have to embrace human diversity and mothers have the key to unlocking the stalemate on homophobia”, she said.
She implored women in Africa to take up their responsibility as mothers to take the steps necessary to eliminate all forms of oppression and discrimination of our children based on sexual orientation. “We must protect our LGBTI African children by all means”, she said.
She said women should correct their faulty assumptions & homophobia towards the homosexuals. African women must confront their personal prejudices, myths, fears, and stereotypes regarding homosexuality. “Educating women on human sexuality is educating the whole nation”.
Jane Wanangwe, Project officer of Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme said that education on sexual orientation is badly needed in all spheres of life for the African woman to address ignorance on human sexuality. She said that in 1973 after thorough research, the American Psychiatric Association and in 1975 the American Psychological Association stopped calling homosexuality a mental illness.
She said many people think that the homosexuals need to be cured. This is a fallacy. They are not suffering from any sickness. They just happen to fall in the other group, the minority group. This group is entitled to human rights like any other person. Women should be the first ones to change their attitude towards these people and accept them as normal human beings in their midst.
Rev. John Makokha, Other Sheep Kenya Country Coordinator, said that this is the time for women to protect their LGBTI children outside their wombs. He said “Women of Africa arise and shine when it comes to the dialogue on sexual orientation and human rights. We are counting on you since history has shown that you can be the salt of the community”.
He said no religion in the world talks about sexual orientation as we understand it today scientifically from well researched sources and experience. It is high time religious leaders stopped being judgmental and respected science as an option for further sources of knowledge. “The Bible is a book about God and not a book about human sexuality”.
He said “I know persons who have accepted their sexual orientation as a gift from God and live productive and spiritual lives better than some homophobic heterosexuals”.
A participant said that usually when a child is born and discovered later to be LGBTI, the mother faces a lot of persecution both from the husband and the community. This occasionally leads to divorce since culturally the woman is to blame for bringing the “curse”.
It was interesting to note from some participant that it was her first time to hear of LGBTI. To her it was a shock and said she had never come across any homosexual person. This seminar was an eye opener.
The seminar participants were issued with photocopied literature on LGBTI and human rights issues.
The following Recommendations were made by the Participants;
1. They requested for more days in future for human sexuality and human rights seminar.
2. They requested for a seminar on HIV/AIDS prevention among same sex relationships.
3. They requested for counseling programs for PFLAG since there is a lot of confusion and stigma.
4. They requested for seminars for their religious leaders since they are the ones who perpetuate homophobia and hatred through their sermons and teachings.
5. They requested for more audio-visual materials and literature on LGBTI so that they can watch and read and be well informed on issues of human sexuality in regard to science and religion.
6. They requested for literature on sexual orientation to be translated in Kiswahili since majority of them do not understand English.
7. The women in Bungoma are still a sleeping giant when it comes to human sexuality and human rights issues. More empowerment seminars are needed. They conceded this was new information for them in the community.
These LGBTI Human rights awareness seminars were successful with the grant support from X-Minusy Solidarity Foundation (The Netherlands).
By Anne Baraza, CEO
Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme NGO