Technical PoV: Turning the Tide- Meru’s Journey Towards Inclusivity

In the heart of Meru County lies a community that thrives in unity, resilience, and shared experiences. 

The Power FEMspace, a group of young womyn who identify as sexual and gender minorities, has emerged as a beacon of hope and solidarity. The members of this unique space come from diverse backgrounds, but they are united by the shared challenges they face as sexual minorities in their society.

Photo: A YW4A Power FEMspace session in progress during one of the group's monthly meetings.

Meru County, like many places, presents an array of challenges for those whose sexual identity, orientation, or practices differ from the majority. Discrimination, harassment, and targeted violence are unfortunate realities that the members of Power FEMspaces grapple with daily. 

These young womyn face a world that often judges them based on their gender expression and orientation, rather than recognizing their humanity. Seeking jobs, accessing healthcare, or even basic services like banking become daunting tasks overshadowed by the threat of prejudice.

Harassment is another issue that permeates their lives. The unwanted attention, explicit comments, and inappropriate behavior directed at them are not only disrespectful but also undermine their sense of safety and self-worth. Targeted violence from various sources, including boda-boda (motorcycle) riders, touts, and idle individuals, adds to their woes. Fear of violence is a constant presence, and it infiltrates their every step.

Within the community, intimate partner violence casts a dark shadow. Love should never be tainted with cruelty, yet these young womyn are subjected to abuse in their relationships, further entrenching their sense of vulnerability.

Perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching challenges they face is being disowned by their families and religious communities. The very places that should provide solace become sources of anguish. Coming out, a deeply personal and courageous act often leads to rejection, threats of “corrective rape,” and even the dehumanizing practice of conversion therapy. Many are forced to flee their homes, facing homelessness, depression, and in some cases, contemplating the unthinkable.

Despite these harsh realities, Power FEMspace has emerged as a haven of hope and resilience. This space offers more than just a place to convene; it’s a sanctuary for sharing experiences, providing support, and collectively fighting against discrimination. Through their gatherings, these young womyn find solace in knowing they are not alone. They forge bonds that transcend the boundaries of their challenges.

Photo: Power FEMspace members, along with YW4A and KFUK-KFUM Global project coordinators, pose for a group photo after an insightful meeting, during which they exchanged insights on SRHR and addressing SGBV.

Power FEMspaces’s successes stand as testimonies to its strength. The group members’ meetings, similar to group therapy, serve as a platform for sharing experiences and addressing the violence they’ve endured. Equipped with knowledge about leadership and human rights, these womyn emerge as advocates for change, both within themselves and the broader community.

Through a sensitization meeting, Power FEMspace brought the voices of minority youth to key stakeholders in Meru County. The police, clergy, health representatives, and more listened to their stories, bridging the gap between the marginalized and those in positions of power. This outreach sparked a tangible change – the inclusion of reproductive health services and HIV testing facilities for women at the Meru Level Five hospital’s Drop-In Center.

Photo: Liza Kibara facilitating a session during a meeting at Alba Hotel, Meru calling for inclusion of reproductive health services for women at the Meru Level Five Hospital’s Drop-In Center.

However, the journey is far from over. Power FEMspace aspires to further its impact by sensitizing the community about these newly available services. Their determination to break the cycle of discrimination and violence is unwavering. As they continue their fight for acceptance, understanding, and equality, Power FEMspace is more than just a group; it’s a movement that strives to make Meru County safer and more inclusive for all.

Definition of Term:

Womyn: a term often associated with a focus on inclusivity and the recognition of the diversity of experiences among people who identify as female. 

Written by Cynthia Kananu,  Director of Inua Mama Mjane, the YW4A partner in Meru County. 

This article is part of the YW4A Technical Point of View (PoV) series, a collection of technical analytical and strategy reflection articles from YW4A programme staff, consultants, advocates and allies, with expertise in various aspects of programming facilitating young women’s leadership and eliminating SGBV.

Follow Cynthia and Inua Mama Mjane on Twitter.