Kuchu Shiners Uganda (KSU) celebrated their 5th year anniversary on Wednesday 17th March 2021 at their office premises in Nansana, Kampala. To celebrate, they hosted several partner organizations, allies, KSU staff and membership to an HTC outreach with support from Kawaala Health Center. They also had a soap making and crafts exhibition by KSU members.

"We have come a long way in fulfillment of our vision to empower transgender female sex workers in overcoming every form of stigmatization and discrimination due to societal transphobia," Timothy The KSU Programs Director shared. He also noted the three major goals of KSU which are; to ensure the financial independence of transgender female sex workers through economic empowerment projects, improvement in accessibility to health care services and advocacy for rights and freedoms of transgender female sex workers would not be possible without the guidance of KSU's partners and allies and further called for their continuous support and contribution to KSU's progress in the future.

Timothy further highlighted the organizational achievements which include visible growth of staff, members and KSU as an organization through recruitment of volunteers, peers and skills development, strengthened collaborations and partnerships that has helped widen their operations to different parts of the country (Kampala, Masaka, Kasese, Wakiso, Mubende, Mityana, Fort Portal, Mbale), new office space, a well maintained shelter for homeless transgender female sex workers and improvement in service delivery to the communities they serve through their peer network.

The Executive Director KSU, Musa Bukenya shared a brief background of KSU’s early beginnings as a small shelter for homeless transgender female sex workers in Kawala. "Our journey began in a one roomed house with a bed that divided the bedroom and the office. Jonas, one of our founding directors came up with the name that described our purpose. We have been misgendered, attacked, negatively criticized by society and even shunned by people within our very own LGBTI+ and sex workers' communities. It has been a tough journey but we thank everyone that has stood with us through the storms. People have often asked me how we have managed to achieve all we have in the last 5 years and I tell them that it's been through the efforts of staff, peers and members of the organization," Musa said. Musa applauded staff, peers, volunteers and partners such as IDI, MARPS Network, HRAPF, Kuchu Times, Visual Echoes, Spectrum Initiatives for their contribution to KSU over the years.

Mr Samuel Ganafa, Board Chair and guest of honor at the occasion congratulated KSU on the milestone and encouraged them not to underestimate their capabilities. He encouraged them to remain united, focused and committed in order to achieve their goals as well as promote a positive image of key population over the negative and biased stories that have been spread to the public especially during the recent election period.

Beneficiaries of KSU's programs also shared testimonies  with us

Beneficiary 1 (Peer): "Looking at our journey, I never knew that we could come this far from a one roomed house for a shelter. Through all the hardships, we were encouraged to persevere under the leadership of our executive director. Now, we have a better home, some of us have also been employed by the organization and even paid salaries. We experienced challenges too when we went out to offer services to the community like long distances which no form of transport but rather walk on foot, lack of funding for activities, transphobic sentiments from people within and out in the communities. I challenge those that need any form of assistance to please reach out to us because our services are free and open to all who need them. I also appreciate our Board Chair, Mr Samuel Ganafa who has always been there to support us in every way. He has been our foundation and parent to all of us through his guidance."

Beneficiary 2 (staff): "This is my fourth year working with KSU. We have struggled to come this far even though many people might look at us and assume that it has been easy. Our partners who have observed our growth can testify that KSU has groomed queer representatives that can express themselves anywhere and I am one of them. Four years ago, I was shy and could never dare speak in public but I have now become a fine representative. My personal growth journey has also been incredible. I urge all youngsters like me to take advantage of any opportunity presented to them and work hard. Our members and those who live in the shelter should partake in the different programs that we have so that they can learn and develop their skill set for self-sustainability which they can use when they go out on their own."