KELIN scoops the 2015 ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights award

“Violations of human rights are happening everywhere so let us remain vigilant.” – Martha Tholanah, winner of the 2015 David Kato Vision and Voice Award and guest speaker at the 2015 ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights award dinner. 

On 16 April, KELIN was awarded the 2015 ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights award during a ceremony held at the conclusion of the Annual Partnership Forum (APF) in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

DSC_0031.JPG

 Regina Mwanza, KELIN Communication Officer, described the award as a welcome recognition of their work. “It means that our work in promoting and protecting HIV related rights is being recognised. It is good to know that we can share good practices with others at a regional level. We are thankful for the platform [provided by ARASA] because we have been able to link up with other partners and have our staff trained during the ARASA Training of Trainers Programme, which has contributed immensely to the work that we are doing.”

KELIN is a human rights organisation working to protect and promote HIV related human rights in Kenya by providing services and support, training professionals on human rights and engaging in advocacy campaigns that promote awareness of human rights issues. The organisation was registered as an NGO in 2001 and is a national network established to address and respond to legal, ethical and human rights issues relating to health and HIV and AIDS. The organisation advocates for the inclusion of human rights in health policies, laws and operational frameworks at the country and national government levels. They also focus on key populations such as LGBTI, sex workers and people who inject drugs in ensuring that no one is left behind in the fight for human rights.

The organisation was recognised for their work in 2014 / 2015, which included representing TB patients who were unlawfully incarcerated for defaulting on their medication and petitioning the Kenya High Court on the unlawful and unconstitutional sterilisation of five women living with HIV.

“I would like to say congratulations to tonight’s winner as it is a recognition of very important work, but [it is] also a reminder. I hope that each time we are recognized for the work that we do, we also remember that there are a whole lot of people who make it possible and that we should continue to lean on and also to give others support” said Martha Tholanah, key note speaker at the 2015 ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights award dinner as she handed over the award.

The ARASA HIV, TB and Human Rights award was established in 2007 to recognise and support organisations across southern and east Africa to highlight the ground-breaking work undertaken by organisations to protect human rights, often in extremely challenging political climates. Through this long standing tradition, the ARASA partnership honours the efforts of HIV, TB and human rights organisations and recognises their contribution to the continued growth of a human rights movement in southern and east Africa. The award is accompanied by a grant of USD10, 000 to further the work of the award winner in promoting rights-based interventions on HIV and TB.

“People have disappeared, people have been tortured, people have been intimidated and arrested for their activism work.  And this is a sober reminder of the risks we face every day as we do the kind of work that we do, especially when we mention human rights as part of the work that we do,” explained Tholanah. “As we go about our legitimate work, we need to remain vigilant and there is power in numbers. This is why it’s so important that there is this ARASA partnership. I see it as a very important way to keep the connections, to keep each other supported, because while the challenges are many, the struggle sometimes seemingly impossible, the importance of coming together as collective voices cannot be over emphasized. I hope we all continue to give each other strength. To draw strength from each other and allow each other space to be who we are”.

Speaking about their experience as the 2014 award winners, Chester Samba, Director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) said that winning the award opened doors and opportunities for them. “We really appreciated the grant and the opportunities and doors that it opened for us in the work that we continue to do. I hope it will also provide that comfort that it provided to GALZ and also reassert your efforts and your position as you continue to do the work you were doing and be able to provide the results that we all want to see.” Paul Kasonkomona from Engender Rights Centre for Justice (ERCJ), who won the award alongside GALZ in 2014 added that the USD 10,000 grant may sound small to some but a lot can be achieved with it. “We want to hear those stories of what you have changed or tried to change in the lives of the people that you are serving,” he added.  

Since winning the award, KELIN has submitted an urgent application to the Constitutional Division of the High Court of Kenya seeking temporary orders to stop the implementation of a  directive by the President, His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta to County Commissioners to work with County Directors of Education and Medical Services, to collect up-to-date data and prepare a report on all school going children who are HIV positive, information on their guardians, number of expectant mothers who are HIV positive and number of breastfeeding mothers who are HIV positive.