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Ugandan Refugees and Asylum Seekers Start Self Help Project to Make Ends Meet

IMG-20150824-WA0027By George Barasa

As the number of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) refugees continues to rise in Kenya; a group of youth has decided to start a business, His Grace Fashion & Designs, to help make ends meet as they await resettlement.

Apollo 26, who used to work with Campus Liberty Uganda, was attacked after accusations were made that he was recruiting students into homosexuality. Simon a 22 year old driver whose story was featured on Kuchu Times was left with a scar covered body after violent attacks from his neighbors; he is yet to undergo corrective surgery to rectify the damage caused by these attacks.

Chris 24, a former student at Makerere University student was also violently attacked on suspicion of being gay, Henry 22 was outed to his family after secretly tying the knot with his longtime boyfriend. He was thrown out of his family home and forced to seek refuge in Kenya thereafter.

The last one of the group, 30 year old businessman Yasin had never made his sexuality a secret but was forced to shut down his business after his colleagues started making life threatening threats.

Faced with poverty and unemployment, the group of five devised means to make sure they survived in the refugee camps. They saved the allowance they were receiving and set up a workshop to make laptop, Ipad, Camera, Phone and book covers from cloth. With their initial savings they bought material that ranged from lesu, kikoi, masai shukas and kitenge as well as a sewing machine.


Some of the items produced by His Grace Fashion & Designs
Some of the items produced by His Grace Fashion & Designs

With these little resources, they were open for business and determined to make a better life for themselves. Like any other business, they have endured challenges like eviction threats and people shunning their products based on their sexuality.

The five youngsters however still hold big dreams; they hope to expand to bigger premises and also hope to change people’s attitudes towards sexual minorities

The fivesome’s business manager says this venture has kept the group busy and saved them from indulging in survival sex, drugs and idling.  His hope is that they can one day be allowed to operate under a waiver  without undergoing cumbersome business permit regulations and high taxes considering the  situation that lead them to seek solace in Kenya.