Meet PITCH Country Focal Wanja Ngure from Kenya
Meet PITCH Country Focal Wanja Ngure from Kenya
In our series on PITCH country focal points, Wanja Ngura from Kenya shares what she hopes to achieve with her partners before the end of the programme.
What are key advocacy successes achieved in PITCH in your country to date?
Three stand out to me. The first has been preventing the use of biometric identification of key populations. Between 2015 and 2017, the Kenyan National Health authorities developed a plan, funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, to conduct a study of HIV and key populations. The planned study included a survey of the number of each key population group, information about their HIV incidence and prevalence, risk behaviour and intervention exposure. It included plans to use biometric methods of identification, using such attributes as fingerprints or iris scans.
Biometrics is being used in many government security systems; for example, for criminal track records. One of the main concerns was that this system could be used to expose someone as being from a key population, which could be used against them.
PITCH partners mobilised Kenyan civil society and leveraged support from the Global Fund, UNAIDS, and other international agencies, resulting in the decision to remove the use of biometrics from the study. Researchers have also agreed to involve community researchers when the data collection gets underway.
Another significant success has been PITCH’s role in improving the rights of LGBTI people.
In March last year, PITCH partner NGLHRC won its case appealing the use of forced anal examinations on men suspected of being gay. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge bench in favour of two Kenyan men who were arrested in 2015 and subjected to forced anal examinations and HIV testing to determine if they had engaged in private consensual sexual acts. NGLHRC went to court, challenging the state's cruel and humiliating treatment.
This petition sought to question whether it was constitutional to subject the two men to anal examination, and whether the results of the examination can be admitted as evidence when constitutional rights to dignity, fair trial and more have been breached in acquiring that evidence. The case was initially lost in a lower court; a decision that NGLHRC appealed, eventually going on to victory.
PITCH played a significant role in facilitating NGLHRC to bring allies together to brainstorm the various way of adding support to the case, as well as in the campaign that sought to increase awareness on the case and why forced anal testing is a human rights violation.
We have also increased the capacities of PITCH partners to engage with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process that reviews the human rights records of all UN member states. We held a workshop last year that helped community-led organisations gain a better understanding of the UPR, how it can help in advocacy, and how to ensure key populations are involved in the review.
Who are your two most important allies (i.e. organisations or agencies not part of PITCH but on whose support you rely)?
The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) is a key ally when it comes to advocacy. GALCK is the coordination body of LGBTI persons in Kenya and their communication officer represents key populations in PEPFAR meetings and processes.
Health Gap is also at the centre of health advocacy at all levels – be it in Kenya, at regional level, even at the global level. They have been a great source of technical support to our work.
Name one thing that has surprised you in PITCH since you started your role?
The complexity of PITCH and how it has moved from complex to clearer asks with achievable outcomes. This has not only been a point of learning but it has shown partners that they can work more effectively and smartly if they measure their advocacy achievements.
Relationships among partners and with the country focal point have moved from a point of hostility and fear to a point of great maturity. We have developed better ways of solving conflicts, which has led to the work becoming easier.
What is the most important global and/or national policy event for your country in 2019?
Supporting key populations and adolescent girls and young women to meaningfully engage with Universal Health Coverage (UHC) processes, particularly by pushing for better UHC governance and accountability mechanisms. We want to ensure HIV interventions, especially for key populations, are included in the UHC minimum essential package for Kenya.
We are also supporting partners to fully engage with the UPR shadow report for Kenya, which will be submitted to the UN Human Right Committee by June 2019, and lobbying missions, especially African missions, to make recommendations on HIV and human rights to the Kenyan government in Geneva. Kenya will be reviewed by the Human Rights Council in January 2020.
What is the top change you hope to see in your country before the end of PITCH?
Punitive laws and policies that discriminate against key populations being amended in line with the Kenya 2010 Constitution and scientific evidence.
Name one thing you have learned through working in PITCH that you didn’t know before?
I’ve been working with diverse populations in a very complex group, and we are expected to bring in synergies and create linkages among PITCH partners, allies, other sexual and reproductive health and rights alliances and wider stakeholders. In such a complicated scenario I’ve learnt first-hand that when you do the right thing, good things really happen and that the truth always wins.