Zam, 26-year-old lesbian woman from Uganda
“Thank you guys, for if it was not for you, I don’t know how I would have raised 50,000Kshs for bail.”Zam, 2019
Zam fled her country due to homophobic persecution and traveled over 400 miles to Nairobi to seek safety. However, unlike many other asylum seekers arriving daily from other countries to Kenya, Zam did not find the situation as calm as she expected.
She was homeless for months, wandering the streets of Nairobi with no support. She sought shelter outside UNHCR offices in Nairobi, where she would gather empty boxes and grass to sleep on.
On 10th May 2019, she followed a protest led by other LGBTQI refugees outside UNHCR offices. She and 21 others were arrested by Kenya Police Services, and detained at Kileleshwa police station before being charged with causing disturbance and assault, among other charges. If convicted, these charges would have put Zam and 21 others in jail for 5 years.
Through partners and donors, CoSIR led an advocacy campaign against pressure from the government and others who wanted these LGBTQI refugees prosecuted and convicted. CoSIR managed to secure court bail for all 21 activists. Thanks to Amnesty International, UHAI-EASRI, and Frontline Aids, who paid the $1500 each for five activists accused of assault and $500 for remaining 17, including Zam.
Upon release, CoSIR engaged a lawyer, who advised the activitists to enter a plea bargain with prosecution to accept the charges and be given less punishment. In September 2019, Zam and 16 others accused walked free out of Kibera court after their charges were dropped. Eventually, all charges were dropped for all of the 22 accused.
CoSIR provided all activists with three months of assistance, including a mattress and basic necessities. Before she travelled to Kakuma refugee camp in December 2019, she passed by our offices. With tears rolling down her face, she said, “Thank you guys, for if it was not for you, I don’t know how I would have raised 50,000Kshs for bail.’’.
Zam now lives in Kakuma Refugee Camp, and hardly a month passes by without her calling to remind us how our support gave her freedom to live to fight another day.
Savio, 38-year-old gay man from Uganda
“When I came from Industrial Area (prison), I found that everything in my house had been stolen. My gas cooker, mattress, and all documents were all gone. Worse still, there was an outstanding rent water and power bill of 27,500Ksh (about $275). Even when CoSIR agreed to pay my bail, I felt excited, but not as much because I knew I was getting out of prison to sleep on the streets. I had slept on streets before and knew how hard it was. I was happy beyond words when CoSIR approved to grant me 10,000Ksk (about $100) rent for three months.”Savio, 2019
Savio fled his country to seek asylum in Kenya in 2015. Like many other gender non-conforming refugees, his journey was a painful one: He was among the 22 arrested and charged on May 10th, 2019.
A few weeks after his release, Savio attended a two-week paralegal training course organized by CoSIR and facilitated by the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Ther,e he and others acquired prerequisite legal skills.
In February 2020, Savio was resettled by UNHCR to Sweden, where he started a new life. We at CoSIR are grateful for his life and future.
Paralegal training funded by Frontline AIDS. Photo: CoSIR, October 2019