Alex Njenga has always believed in egalitarianism both as a principle and as a tool for justice. As a result, he has always been suspicious of, and at times hostile to social prejudices that treat some people as “more equal than others,” – to use a line from George Orwell’s famed political fable, Animal Farm.
Some of the experiences that have shaped his social and political outlook have been personal. As an adolescent in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County, Alex was stigmatised and denied healthcare after he identified himself as belonging to Kenya’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) community.
Like in many other African Countries, members of Kenya’s SOGI community still face many challenges, including stigma and discrimination at family and institutional levels, lack and loss of employment due to their sexual identity, mental health challenges because of social stigma, among others.
“Someone has to challenge this culture,” says, Alex, and he has set out to do exactly that. Now aged 37, he has resolved to focus his fight on access to healthcare services for members of the community. In 2014, he started mobilising and sensitising other members in Uasin Gishu to assert their health rights and demand for services at health care centres throughout the County. To be able to reduce friction and build understanding between the activists and healthcare workers, he also sensitises the latter about SOGI issues, with a view of gradually ridding them of their prejudice.
His efforts have been infectious. Overtime, the community’s members have been emboldened to speak up for themselves and assert their rights, shaking off the timidity and social stigma that was holding them back.
Today, Alex is referred to as the leader of the SOGI community in Uasin Gishu, a reference although meant to spite him, he says, doesn’t faze him. “As long as the rights of our communities are not violated, I don’t mind whichever way they refer to me,” he says. Together with colleagues, they have now turned their guns on section 162 of the Kenyan Penal code, which criminalises same sex relations with up to 14 years imprisonment.