“When I dare to be powerful to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Audre Lorde
We meet up with ALU Global Challenges student, Akinyi Osanjo, who has shown consistency in using her power and strength to advocate for the LGTBQIA+ community through her passion and capstone project, The Asylum Project. She takes us through the concept behind the Asylum Project, the impact that its existence is creating for the LGTBQIA+ community, and how her involvement with the Women Deliver will influence this project.
Akinyi gives way into her life and who she is. With an infectious audacity, she claims her identity and doesn’t forget to mention her city, Nairobi.
“I am the protagonist in my own human rights journey, openly queer femme, intersection feminist, and a Kenyan from the bustling city of Nairobi. Plus you can add a documentary photographer and a proud plant mom.”
Life at ALU
Before exploring The Asylum Project in more detail, Akinyi talks about her choice of study at ALU and what role this has played in shaping her passion for advocating for the LGTBQIA+ community.
“The course’s creative license intrigued me into exploring my passion project on migration and deep-dive into a grand challenge that encapsulates the exclusion of LGBTQIA+ refugees within Africa: Primarily the Great Lakes and Southern Africa regions. As an individual-centered around the need for social advocacy, the endless readings and writings for my research classes proved vital to arguing out the necessity of addressing policy inclusiveness.”
A center of queer liberation, a platform for the amplification of LGBTQIA+ voices and a project necessitated by the need to see more policy inclusion for the queer community is, among other crucial aspects, what The Asylum Project is about. Akinyi describes what the project aims to achieve and the stakeholders involved.
“It is my passion and long-term capstone project for my final thesis paper that covers; gender, sexuality, asylum, and migration. It examines the necessity for digital spaces to educate and activate LGBTQIA+ refugees’ inclusion on grassroots levels. Above all, examining the intersectionalities within migration, the need for policy development, and advocacy avenues for the gendered and sexed refugees. It is and will be a center for queer liberation, especially for LGBTQIA+ refugees. As it is, they face numerous challenges as a result of the triple stigma; being a refugee, of different gender expression and/identity and sexual orientation plus the misconception of HIV contraction.”
The Asylum Project: The Concept
Looking at the lack of information available on the struggles faced by LGBTQIA+ refugees on the continent probed Akinyi to focus her project on producing more information around LGBTQIA+ refugees by leveraging the digital space.
“Increasing knowledge production around LGBTQIA+ refugees plights and inclusion within the Great Lakes and Southern African regions. Throughout the beginning phases of my research, most papers I found were centered around Eastern Europe and the Middle East, very few on Africa, in particular, Dr. B Camminga’s ( a trans-non-binary South African and pro governor at the African Centre for LGBTQI+ Migration Research Network) work on Transgender refugees in Cape Town. Furthermore, I aimed for the cause to educate allies on distinguishing between the voluntary and forced migration within the LGBTQIA+ community. After fostering conversations to understand the benefits of intersectional mobilization within the campaigns for LGBTQIA+ refugee, I want to study the fundamentals of digital organizing”
Who can engage with the project
Akinyi invites “anyone willing to learn about LGBTQIA+ rights and relinquishes their transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, transmisogyny, misogyny, ableism, fatphobia, racism, climate change denial, and performative activism” to engage with the project’s content.
“The main contribution to the asylum project will be educating yourself about not only refugee rights but widely, the need for LGBTQIA+ rights in Africa and respective countries. Thereafter, sharing posts from the platform with your peers, asking questions, sharing contacts of other queer organizers, especially offline.”
The Asylum Project X Women Deliver Class of 2020 Young Leaders
The Women Deliver Young Leaders Program “elevates the work of young people taking a stand for gender equality”. A huge congratulations to Akinyi, who was selected to be a part of this year’s class. She sheds light on how her involvement in this year’s class will impact The Asylum Project.
“Women Deliver Mighty Network presents an opportunity to collaborate with other advocates and/or activists whose works revolve around pressing issues, especially around gender rights and tech policies. Through working on grants proposals and writing collaborative peer articles, it gives me space to learn more about my other intersections within migration and gender plus sexual rights.”
Advice to young creatives using the digital space to advocate for minority groups
If you are looking into using online platforms to begin your advocacy and activism for minority groups, Akinyi has three critical points to note before starting:
- Beware of respectability politics: “Be aware of respectability politics that will force you to be ‘diplomatic’ in your advocacy methods and shift the focus away from the pressing issues. You will become respectable but not respected, I have had to learn to be radical about standing my ground and true to your mission – a shift from the cis-normative and heteronormative opinions.”
- Constantly Educate yourself: “Constantly educate yourself on your cause and the intersectionalities that are within it – LGBTQIA+ rights ties into health care, environmental justice, and even racial justice.”
- Ask for help: “within my research work I have received overwhelming support from people I thought were inaccessible, you just have to be brave enough to reach out.”