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‘Intersex’ Is Counted In Kenya’s Census — But Is This A Victory?

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Nestled in a quiet, leafy Nairobi neighborhood just a stone’s throw from the throbbing of sounds of a sprawling city market, is a refuge where intersex, transgender and gender-nonconforming Kenyans can escape searing public judgment and discrimination. 

Inside, posters encouraging acceptance and love cover the foyers’ white walls; bathrooms boast gender-neutral signs. Downstairs, people share a late lunch of beans and rice while chatting on deep, soft couches. Upstairs, a transgender woman applies red lipstick without a mirror, then poses for a portrait, the sequins of her ruby red stilettos flicker in the long, afternoon light.

This safehouse is the heart of Jinsiangu, an organization advocating for the wellbeing of gender nonbinary people in Kenya. Its name comes from a combination of Swahili words meaning “my gender.”  

Last month, Kenya completed the colossal effort to conduct its decennial census — from urban high rises to rural, tin-topped huts — and for the first time, it included a new gender category: intersex. This marked a first not only in Kenya but across the continent. Activists hope this will set a precedent for intersex rights in Kenya and around the globe, but intersex inclusion is still far from reality. 

Globally, approximately  1-3% of the population are considered intersex and by those estimates, there could be as many as 1.4 million intersex people in Kenya, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

At the helm of Jinsiangu is Kwaboka Kibagendi, an approachable man with an impassioned voice, who has pushed for intersex inclusion since he started the safe house six years ago.  

Raised as a girl, Kibagendi, 33, didn’t realize he was intersex until six years ago. He blames cultural stigma, discrimination and a general lack of information as the reason he, and so many others, discover their identities late in life. 

“When an intersex child is born, people wonder if it’s a curse,” he said. “Parents might separate, the child might be killed, or they might disown this child. So, if that’s the case, I ask, ‘Can our government make sure that there’s enough information about intersex people in society so that once these children are born so there’s no more harassment?’”

Kibagendi is one of the millions who identify as intersex — a term used when a person’s reproductive organs don’t fit within typical male or female characteristics. He sees the census as an opportunity to change public perception about the existence of a third gender, adding that an official tally is the first step in strengthening the rights of intersex people in the country.

“People try to deny this notion that African nations cannot spearhead anything that’s human rights-oriented. But I can tell you now, it’s like the world is realizing that we in Africa — and Kenya — are becoming more progressive in human rights. I am very proud,” he said. 

He’s not alone.

“As an individual and intersex person, it was one of the happiest days of my life,” said James Karanja, director of Intersex Persons Society of Kenya.

Intersex people are deeply misunderstood in many parts of East Africa, where deviations of gender evoke beliefs about curses or mystical forces. Others see intersex as akin to homosexuality, a highly taboo topic that has polarized Kenyan courts in recent years. 

“It’s because of this idea that if you’re intersex, then you’re an outcast,” Karanja said. “I’ve tried committing suicide — everyone in our organization has tried. You feel as though you don’t fit into society.”

“Kenyan laws only recognize the traditional binary markers of male and female, making it very difficult for intersex people to get recognition from the day they are born,” said Veronica Mwangi, deputy director of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. “This has a ripple effect for the official registration systems that come along.”

Accessing state-funded insurance programs, applying for travel documents and obtaining accurate birth certificates, which offer access to government services and employment, become enormous obstacles for intersex persons, Mwangi added.

Both Mwangi and Karanja sat on a task force that has advised Kenya’s Bureau of Statistics since February about the inclusion of a third gender. Karanja said the addition is one of a series of recommendations that he hopes will improve the lives of intersex Kenyans. Other recommendations include adding an intersex option to birth certificates, providing funding to cover the costs of gender realignment treatments, and ensuring corrective surgeries are completed in adulthood rather than at birth.

Others, however, questioned the government’s interest in counting intersex people as well as how the information would be used and by who.

“You have to come out of your home when the census person comes and I wondered, why record this? Just because I’m intersex? When you disclose something, you don’t know how people will react to it,” Sydney said. Sydney asked not to use his last name out of concerns for his personal safety. 

Born Beatrice, Sydney, who identifies as a man, said he would prefer that the census uses a broader and more inclusive marker like “other” rather than “intersex,” or allow intersex people to change the gender on their birth certificates altogether. 

“What the government needs to do, is not [give] us a third gender but put in policies that protect intersex people,” he said. “An intersex person is just a normal person, despite the challenges we’ve faced. The challenges are many, but we are just normal people. We were created by God, the same way other people were created by God.”And while Sydney was open to the census, in the end, the official never even asked Sydney about his gender. 

“I was waiting for the third-gender question but he didn’t even mention it. I wondered, ‘Were they trained to do this work on intersex issues?’” he said. “I decided to keep quiet. If you don’t ask me, I won’t tell you.”

While the census provided a rare moment of recognition for intersex Kenyans, activists agreed it’s up to the community to continue to push for policies that protect and enhance the lives of intersex people in Kenya. 

“The [census] conversation, it’s a gateway to a class of people who have historically been excluded from basic human rights,” said Karanja. “In the future, for people like me, I see ourselves being the pillar of society, people who are given a chance to contribute to society just like any other group.”

Sydney’s mind is also on the future of intersex people. “It’s high time we speak about these things. … I’ve gone through a lot and I would not like an intersex child that is born today to go through what I went through,” he said. “That’s why I choose to go out there and share this information.”

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Meet The Black Lawyer Who Refuses To Cut His Locks To Make His Colleagues Feel Better.

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Marcus Shute Jr., a 34-year old lawyer from Nashville, raised a few eyebrows when he decided to grow his locks in 2002. But he still refuses to cut his hair in hopes to make a point that his personal appearance should not affect his professional career! In fact, Shute is a well sought-after lawyer and he runs his own law firm in Nashville, Tennessee.


"Many times during my matriculation through undergrad/law school and in my professional career I was told I would not be successful as an attorney if I didn't cut my locs," Shute said in an interview with The Shade Room.

Shute also said he had experienced being disregarded for promotion even though he technically deserved it just because he "did not fit the look." At one time, he said a judge even mistook him as a client instead of a law student.

Despite that, he chose to be authentic and not to conform to the industry's so-called standards. His experiences also inspired him to open his own law practice. He wanted most of his colleagues and clients to relate to him.

"The law industry, like any other industry, is a microcosm of the real world. It needs acceptance, inclusion, and diversity, but it needs to be more than empty lip-service and to be done in a meaningful way," he said. "Less than 5 percent of attorneys are black. And even fewer are in a position to hire at their firm, one of the reasons I founded Shute Law."

For more information about Shute Law, visit https://www.shutelaw.com

(Source: blackbusiness.com)

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15 Year Old Ghanaian Stabbed To Death In London.

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A 15-year-old boy handed himself in at an east London police station on Friday, and was arrested on suspicion of murder. He remains in custody.

Police were called on Thursday, 10 October at 15:20hrs to reports of a male found stabbed outside Stratford Broadway near Tramway Avenue.

Officers attended along with the London Ambulance Service and the teenager was found with critical injuries. He died at the scene at 15:49 hours.

His next of kin have been informed. The victim has been named as Baptista Adjei, 15,  from North Woolwich.

Formal identification awaits and a post-mortem examination will be held in due course.

A second teenager, aged 15, was found with stab injuries and he has been taken to an east London hospital. His injuries are not life threatening.

No arrests have been made. Enquiries are ongoing. A crime scene remains in place.

Homicide detectives from Specialist Crime have been informed and will be leading the investigation.

DCI Chris Soole, who is leading the investigation said: “First and foremost are thoughts are with this young man’s family and friends. They so tragically are having to come to terms with this terrible loss of life.

“Were you there? Did you see anything? This is a very busy area and lots of people would have been out on the school-run or making their way home. We know that the victim’s friends came to his aid and members of the public provided first aid at the scene. We need anyone else who has information and has not yet spoken to police to come forward.

“A Section 60 is in place for the whole of Newham borough as a result of this incident. Enquiries, including review of local CCTV footage and forensic analysis is in hand. We are working quickly to build a clear and full picture of precisely what unfolded. If you have information, do the right thing and get in touch.”

Anyone who can assist police is asked to call 101 quoting CAD 4644/10OCT19. Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. You can also tweet information to @MetCC

If there are any young people who either have information about violence or knife crime, they can visit fearless.org where they can pass on information anonymously. Fearless is part of the Crimestoppers charity, and is also independent of the police.

If you need help or information to support someone you suspect is involved in knife crime, or you want assistance yourself, then you can visit www.knifefree.co.uk or LondonNeedsYouAlive.

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Afrochella Renovates School For Orphans

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As part of efforts to support Ghana in achieving its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the area of education, Afrochella, an afro music, and cultural festival, is renovating the Genesis Academy.The Genesis Academy is a school for the orphanage.It is located in Jamestown, a suburb of Ghana’s capital, Accra.Spokesperson of Afrochella, Gifty Boakye, told DGN Online in an interview that the renovation would lead to the provision of a “solid roof on the school’s building.”According to her, Afrochella has raised about GH¢ 28,000 for the renovation.

She hinted that additionally, Afrochella would provide about 150 backpacks, books, crayons, pens and papers to pupils of the Genesis Academy.In 2018, Afrochella supported WaterAid Ghana with an amount of GH¢ 10,000 as part of its charity initiatives.Ms. Boakye said this year, Afrochella is interested in supporting the Ghanaian Government’s agenda of providing quality education for all its citizens. She said to develop, it was key for Ghana to achieve the SDGs, noting that there was the need for all stakeholders to support the state in providing quality education.

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Ghana Becomes First African Nation To Join Ambitious Partnership To End Plastic Pollution.

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The Government of Ghana formally joined the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) today, becoming the first African nation to combine forces with this ambitious new initiative dedicated to eradicating plastic waste and pollution worldwide.

Ghana is the second country to partner with GPAP, a public-private platform dedicated to fostering action to combat the plastic pollution crisis. In Ghana, it will work closely with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) to develop a national roadmap for sustainably managing and reducing the country’s plastic waste challenge, while continuing to boost its economic growth.

The Ghana National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) was announced by His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, at a gathering of more than 250 policy-makers, business leaders, sustainable development advisers, waste management experts, entrepreneurs and youth representatives – all of whom have carried out successful work in different sectors to combat the country’s plastic waste and pollution.

“With this partnership, Ghana is taking a historic step forward in our environmental stewardship, our sustainable growth, and our vision for the future,” said the president. “Our nation is flourishing with an extraordinary wealth of expertise, knowledge, innovations, social enterprise, and willpower to take on this issue. Throughout every sector and level, from local government to waste management pioneers and young student leaders, Ghanaians are actively contributing to the fight against plastic pollution. We are pleased to partner with the Global Plastic Action Partnership to bring together existing efforts, scale up these highly successful initiatives, and fast-track our progress towards a collective goal – to achieve zero leakage of plastic waste into our oceans and waterways.”

The Ghana NPAP will support the country’s public, private and civil society sectors in transitioning to a circular plastics economy, which directly addresses the root cause of plastic pollution by fundamentally reshaping the way plastics are produced, used and re-used. A parallel engagement is currently under way in Indonesia, the first GPAP country partner.

“We are deeply honoured that the Government of Ghana, under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo, has chosen to partner with GPAP in a collective effort to drive forward the country’s plastic action agenda,” said Kristin Hughes, Director of the Global Plastic Action Partnership and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “As one of Africa’s leading political and economic forces, Ghana has the potential to not only dramatically reduce its own plastic pollution, but also to spark off a wave of unprecedented plastic action across the African continent. We are confident that the findings and achievements from this highly meaningful partnership will serve as a model of success for the rest of the world.”

The Ghana NPAP will also be supported by the Global Environment Facility, which sits on the Governing Council of GPAP and co-chairs the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, a public-private collaboration mechanism dedicated to driving the global circular economy transition.

“The growing menace of plastic pollution is being felt all around the world,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility. “I want to commend Ghana for its leadership in being the first African nation to join the Global Plastic Action Partnership. Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, and its support for a circular plastics economy is an important signal to others across the continent.”

As part of broader strategic efforts to accelerate the reduction of plastic waste and pollution in Ghana, the NPAP will work in close alignment with two key initiatives. The first, a National Plastic Management Policy, championed by MESTI, will transform the management of plastics throughout the value chain, injecting sustainability and reusability into every step of the plastic life cycle.

“By putting standards and policies in place to guide the transition towards a circular plastics economy, we will achieve myriad positive outcomes for Ghana,” said Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. “We will see the creation of new jobs in the sustainable waste management sector; the protection of women, children and other vulnerable communities from the damaging effects of mismanaged plastic waste; and accelerated progress towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

At the same time, the Ghana multi-stakeholder ‘Waste’ Recovery Platform, facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will accelerate these efforts by creating a one-stop shop solution platform (both in-person and digital) for stakeholders to exchange data, solutions, and technological innovations on waste recovery.

“We are delighted to join forces with the Government of Ghana and the Ghana NPAP to amplify our collective impact,” said Silke Hollander, Resident Representative a.i. of UNDP Ghana. “The ‘Waste’ Recovery Platform is very much owned and driven by traditional and non-traditional stakeholders in the waste management sector and beyond in Ghana. By leveraging the incredible entrepreneurial initiatives underway and creating a space where people can connect, exchange knowledge and share good practices, as well as co-design and partner to find solutions, we are confident that the Platform will help Ghana move towards the circular economy and reduce plastic pollution in the near future.”

“The scope and depth of this partnership in Ghana truly represents a new and remarkable way to tackle the world’s most pressing issues,” added Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. “It’s clear that no single institution or sector can take on the plastic pollution crisis alone. In Ghana and across the world, GPAP is bringing together government, business and civil society organizations – and it’s also working closely with local entrepreneurs, women and young people to ensure that their voices and initiatives are heard. This is how we can achieve an equitable and sustainable future.”

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a global public-private platform for collaboration to help translate political and corporate commitment to address plastic pollution into tangible strategies and investible action plans. GPAP brings together government, business, civil societies and think tanks to stop plastic pollution from source to sea by 2025, by fast-tracking circular economy solutions.

(Source: World Economic Forum)

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