A posed portrait of Tasha, 21, a Ugandan refugee living in Nairobi, and supported by Nature Network. Tasha is a transgender woman who presents as female, because of this she is often targeted and she does not often leave the apartment where she lives. “As a transgender, I’m always indoors. Me, I never move out. I’ve never enjoyed my life here in Nairobi, that is what I have to tell you. Because from Monday to Monday, from January to January I’m always indoors. I only move out if it’s really important, very-very important, because I’m scared for my life. Being in the same place, same house, same room from today, tomorrow, the other day, the other day, daily. It really bothers our mind and then you are all there. You feel like you’re being tortured in a way, so you’re not free to do what you want. At times you feel like you wanna take poison.” Tasha explains how many Ugandan refugees end up in sex work to be able to afford food and shelter. “I personally, I’m not doing sex work, but most of the people, most of my refugee friends are engaging into sex work. Because they want to earn a living. And most of the people that are engaging into sex work are getting different diseases like HIV/AIDS.” “We’ve had people, refugees, in fact here, Ugandan refugees dying of AIDS because they have gotten it here in Nairobi. And most of the time when they get these diseases because as for refugees we cannot afford the hospitals and stuff. They end up getting so sick, very ill and we cannot treat them. At the end of the day they end up losing their life because of practicing sex work. They never want to disclose it to anyone, because they are scared of discrimination.” “I don’t wanna lose my life. I’m still young. I still have a future out there. I wanna do something for myself. I wanna stand out for other LGBTI people.” Kenya, October 2017. 
Nature Network is a Nairobi based organization providing LGBTQI+ refugees in Kenya with support through safe temporary housing, health services, food and security. Nature Network has advocated to police over 50 times, responding to hate crimes, and runs a WhatsApp group of safety tips. Refugees supported have come from Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. 
Stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation means that access to HIV services is yet another challenge for this community. As a result, LGBTQI+ people in Africa are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV, with prevalence rates in many countries exceeding 10-20%. To respond to this, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) built a quick, nimble, and easily accessible $10m fund which can get money to the most effective grassroots organisations doing some of the most important work among the most-at-risk LGBT groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A Rapid Response mechanism administered by the International HIV / AIDS Alliance quickly disburses smaller sums to respond to emergencies where LGBT people are in jeopardy. The fund is active in 30 countries and Nature Network in Kenya is one project that has received the fund.  
Robin Hammond/NOOR for Witness Change

Tasha /

“My name is Tasha, that’s not my real name, but I’m using it for security reasons. I’m from Uganda. 21 years of age, but currently living in Nairobi, Kenya as a refugee, because my family got to know I’m gay. Growing up was a challenge, because I was always girly since childhood, which my family and the community hated, so I always insulted and disrespected by other children of my age. Because I was girly I was always put in boarding school as a punishment for my parent to stop behaving like that.

During my teenage I was expelled from school, because I was gotten exchanging letters with my boyfriend. That’s when my parents disowned me and put police to hunt me down. When I got to know about it I had to flee Uganda, because my life was in danger. I’ve lived in Nairobi for some time now, but life is a living hell here, because of the police brutality, sex work, house eviction, discrimination, language barrier. For all these that happens to most of us there’s much depression, frustration, loss of life, crazy heartbreaking moments and a lot of things.”

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