Scaling-Up Centres Of Excellence for Advocacy and Transgender Healthcare in Kenya

Trans* and Intersex groups in Kenya face barriers to finding, applying for, and implementing grants. Many nascent Trans* and Intersex groups in the country are not autonomous limiting their capacity in making financial decisions including in implementing grants. These groups lack resources to support advocacy, community organizing, peer support, individual-level advocacy, social services, and healthcare needs of Trans* and Intersex people. Trans* and Intersex groups in Kenya also do not receive bilateral funding directly, but access remains uneven especially when funding is channeled to larger organizations. 

Scaling-Up Centres of Excellence for Advocacy and Transgender Healthcare (CoE) in Kisumu, Nairobi, Mombasa and Uasin-Gishu Counties in Kenya is an innovative model powered by the Power of Pride programme 2021-2025. The model aims to contribute to sustainable inclusive development for Trans, Intersex and Non-binary (Trans*) movements, by building their advocacy capacity to fight against poverty and injustice through promoting social transformative approaches.

This strengthens: (i) the Political (educational, communicative, representational, and technical cooperation) role of Trans* civil society organizations (CSOs); (ii) Trans* CSOs Advocacy Capacity enhanced to influence decision makers, promote the voice of nascent Trans* groups locally and nationally, and ultimately challenge the unequal power relations which perpetuate poverty and exclusion; (iii) Political Spaces for Trans* CSOs to interrogate national contextual factors important for CSO development, understanding the threats and opportunities in the political system for social action in complex and multi-layered systems, and addressing the reflexivity’s of shrinking political spaces allowing room for country comparisons, signalling global trends and organizing agenda for action; and (iv) Trans* CSOs Research Agenda to learn about complex political and societal change processes and how Trans* CSOs and donor funding influence these.

The National Transgender Advocacy Network of Kenya (NTAN), co-chaired by both Trans*Alliance and Jinsinagu, convened a National forum bringing together four premier organizations (Trans*Alliance, Jinsiangu, Pwani Transgender Initiative, and Queer Initiative) in Kenya. This forum aimed to dialogue around philanthropic participatory grant making reshaped by the attitudes and capacities of young Trans* civil society organizations in efficiency, transparency, bottom-up-action and co-creation ethos. In turn challenging the notions of hierarchical leadership, preferring collaboration and horizontal arrangements in which “everyone’s a leader.”

This convening provided an opportunity for the National Transgender Advocacy Network of Kenya (NTAN) Co-Chaired by both Trans*Alliance and Jinsiangu to bring four premier organizations (Trans*Alliance, Jinsiangu, Pwani Transgender Initiative, and Queer Initiative) into a solid coalition to dialogue around participatory grant making reshaped by the attitudes and capacities of Trans* and Intersex movements’ in lived experiences in Kenya. 

In this convening, NTAN adopted an innovative model of the Hubs and Spokes model as a method of an organization establishing Centres of Excellence (CoE) for Trans* and Intersex programming in Kenya. This model will allow Trans* and Intersex organizations in Kenya to influence, support, and scale-up national and grassroots advocacy, allowing grassroots organizations to build their capacities to conduct strong and robust programs. The Hubs and Spokes will also act as a National and County level advisory at all levels of governance pushing for policy reforms in the Country. 

Through this model, we successfully developed a five-year Advocacy Strategy and a National M&E framework for the Power of Pride programme; improved organizational capacity of Trans*led CSOs to increase shared strategies and understanding within LGBTI communities; strengthened Trans* CSOs movements and leadership that reflects the diversity of the community; improved outreach and communication capacity of Trans* CSOs with broader human rights movements; allied communities and other key stakeholders and provided direct support to local, grassroots Trans* led groups investing $ 204,000 USD in the next five-year cycle by providing direct support to Trans* CSOs leadership and meaningful participation in human rights pratise and discourse demonstrating increased engagement and collaboration among Trans-led CSOs in Kenya. This approach will ensure consistency across operations, increased efficiencies, enhanced quality and provision of social services, and enhanced geographical coverage facilitating a high degree of scalability, and improved coordination at the National Network level. In instances where limited technical infrastructure will limit scalability, aligning with government strategy was adopted in this action.

The impact of this convening put communities at the centre of philanthropic decision making where communities mobilize capital (financial, civic, social, human, political, and intellectual) towards diverse and inclusive societies where Trans-, Intersex and non-binary persons in Kenya can participate to their full potential.

Trans and Intersex groups in Kenya need capacity-building support to sustain and grow their movements and to prevent burnout including trauma healing. These groups also require skills training in fundraising and grant writing, budgeting and financial management, and leadership and governance to build their organizational autonomy. This grant is the first time opportunity where communities mobilize capital (social, financial, civic, human, political, and intellectual) towards a diverse and inclusive society where Trans, Intersex, and Non-binary Kenyans can enjoy their fundamental freedoms and rights however, Capacity building is a long-term endogenous change process, and the process of developing institutional capacity is a long-term goal, and the obstacles to success are more complex heavily influenced by the domestic environment, as well as pressures to conform to a set of institutional standards. We hope that the expected benefits to be felt beyond the targeted organizations.