When veteran LGBTI activist David Kuria resigned as General Manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya in 2011, the appointment of a heterosexual to succeed him caused quite a stir. Behind the Mask’s Kenya Correspondent, Melissa Wainaina interviewed Kuria’s successor, MaqC Eric Gitau, about the coalition’s plans for the year ahead. Below are excerpts of the interview.
So who is MaqC?
I’ve been called a diverse person. I am a husband to one wife, a student, social features blogger, talk show host, communicator, programs development and management specialist, life-coach, defender of human rights.
MaqC is this character who sees and identifies with variety of range in everything. I have learnt to discern, appreciate & defend diversity in gender, sexualities, opinions, approaches, lifestyle and even choices. For me, variety is indeed the spice of life.
Please tell us about your role in GALCK?
As the General Manager of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, I do not view my role as simply what my job description states. I understand it to include being a servant leader, responsible for igniting, driving and monitoring vision and action for individual staff, activists and allies, different teams within the coalition, and the entire network. In some subtle and unique way, bridging the diversity gap is my other unstated role.
What is GALCK’s key mandate?
As a coalition, we are tasked in the long haul to contribute significantly to equality and non-discrimination of LGBTI persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. We do this in partnership with our member groups. This very involving mandate requires coordination, fundraising, lobbying and advocacy at grassroots, local, national and international level, capacity building and mentorship of different groups and different activists, and amongst other key roles, providing LGBTI people who are victims of human rights violations by state agents and non-state actors with legal advice and assistance.
What were the key achievements and highlights for GALCK in 2011?
At GALCK, we had themed the second half of the 2011 “Business Unusual”. After a major and challenging transition of leadership and governance, the new team at GALCK’s successfully saw through some major milestones.
Institutional strengthening – We went full throttle in developing, revising policies and procedures and putting governing and operational systems and structures in place, recruiting, hiring and inducting qualified staff on performance contracts for strategic positions, and aligning ourselves to the International framework on CSO development effectiveness, an effort that saw GALCK receive a special mention during the Civil Society of The Year Awards (CSOYA) 2011.
Network Expansion – We were able to establish presence nationally by conducting needs assessment and basic capacity enhancement for groups in different counties across the country. GALCK was pleased to step in and give such groups a boost in terms of setting up offices/centres, trainings on protection of human rights defenders, security, human rights concepts and approaches.
Decriminalisation-Process – We began the consultative process of seeking to repeal the laws that criminalize same sex relations in Kenya. This process has taken a more inclusive and strategic Multi-Tier-Approach (MTA) towards equality and non-discrimination of LGBTI persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Are there any new members of the coalition yet?
GALCK has Memoranda of Understandings with Kilifi/Malindi’s Tamba Pwani, South Coast’s Ukweli Mombasa, University of Nairobi’s (UON’s) LESBOS, Eldoret’s Q-Initiative, Upper Rift Minorities (URM), Minority Persons Empowerment Group (MPEG) in Thika to name but a few.
GALCK has also begun the process of formalizing affiliations with like-minded networks such as Afya Minorité East Africa, an East African Initiative that focuses on the health and wellness of LGBTI persons; Nyanza and Western LGBTI coalition NYAWEK; and The Other Sheep-Kenya that works on religious issues related to LGBTI activism.
What projections for 2012?
We are now entering a season for “Take-Off”.
We believe that regardless of the successes and challenges that GALCK has had since the past regime, all that was the preparatory work at the runway.
The lobbying and activism, partnering and networking, strategic and operational planning, institutionalizing of systems and structures, staff allocation, training and performance contracting, getting buy in for the multi-tier approach – all these, were excellent and important and most instrumental for laying the groundwork for the take-off.
That’s all I’ll say about that. But watch this space. Less talk. More work.