On Saturday 4th May 2019, Kuchu Shiners Uganda celebrated the grand opening of its new office and shelter specially targeting MSM and transgender communities. The event was attended by partners, allies and community members. Organizations in attendance included Transgender Equality Uganda, Happy Family, Coalition for Human Rights Education (COHRE), Visual Echoes, Spectrum Uganda Initiatives Uganda and Golden Centre for Women's Rights (GCWR).
In an interview with Kuchu Times, Musa Bukenya the Executive Director of Kuchu Shiners Uganda said that the creation of the shelter was to curb the increasing rate of homelessness among MSMs and transgender persons especially those living with HIV. He attributed this to rampant evictions, unemployment and abandonment by families based on their sexuality or gender identity. Since its inception in 2017, the shelter which began with only 2 people currently hosts 15 community members thanks to the support of Frontline Defenders.
Shira, the organisation’s Programs Director introduced the organizational activities to the attendees some which are a drop-in centre, HTC services, psycho- social support, advocacy, gender based violence trainings and awareness among others which are all offered free of charge to the community.
The event also had a showcase of various economic development projects by the members of the organization. In just one year, Kuchu Shiners has invested in poultry, cattle rearing, crafts, baking and outdoor catering which are flourishing. Bukenya emphasized that the main objective of this initiative is to empower members with skills that will help them become self-reliant and financially independent. "We want to create a relationship where we can work together as one and in partnership to support each other for the good of our community," he explained. Besides skills development, the programs have also contributed greatly to the implementation of the organizational activities.
Guest of honor, Mr Samuel Ganafa who is the Executive Director of Spectrum Initiatives Uganda cautioned the shelter residents about security at their new home which has been a major reason for the past evictions. "You have to be very security cautious for the sake of your fellow housemates, office and organization. Please, be careful about who you associate with because they can be moles who are looking for information on what transpires in the organization as witnessed at your previous premises. “
He also applauded the staff and board for finally establishing regulations to govern the house. Mr Ganafa stressed that these rules are critical to instill order that was missing in the previous shelters. The function was finally crowned with the cutting of cake to officially welcome the community to Kuchu Shiners' new home.