Meet The Nature Network!

By Ross Reeves, The Nature Network

Members of The Nature Network are the stars of a new vlog series exploring what life is like for a group of LGBTI asylum seekers who left home for a new land.

You know things are tough, really tough, when the option to stay in the place you’ve been born and raised becomes so untenable that the decision to leave for the great unknown becomes the more compelling alternative.

Restrictions on paid work, a lack of language skills and local prejudices notwithstanding, for lesbian, gay, bi, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) asylum seekers and refugees, the reasons for leaving their homeland and the problems they face on arrival at their destinations are often compounded by their sexual identities and gender expressions (see earlier blog for more info).

So it’s all the more inspiring to meet The Nature Network; a group of young Ugandan LGBTI asylum seekers who not only made the brave decision to leave their known worlds behind them, but who used their tenacity to forge a new family in their adopted city of Nairobi, Kenya.

Ronnie & Brian

Brian and Ronnie are members of The Nature Network in Kenya

This was something that the Rapid Response Fund was pleased to play some small part in, when it provided a grant to secure a safe house for the group, along with urgent medical necessities. This offered some respite from the sustained transphobic and homophobic attacks that its members were facing, which prevented them from settling in a permanent residence.

In turn these issues impacted upon the emotional well-being of the group, and their ability to access and adhere to HIV services. This is because the safe house creates the stability needed for the group to reach out consistently to LGBT-friendly sexual health services in their local area. It also provides a secure space in which the Nature Network can offer information on safe-sex practices, as well as psychosocial support for its HIV-positive members away from community and police harassment.

The group has also started growing vegetables and rearing chickens, enabling them to better support the nutritional needs of their HIV-positive members. Finally, short-term rental support has enabled the group to plan for the long-term, developing a sustainable solution for their accommodation needs.

But what does it mean to create a family from scratch? How does such a family resemble and differ from those that had to be left behind? These are questions that we put to the Nature Network’s stars-in-residence, Ronnie and Brian, who have created a series of vlogs, in the run up to IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia), exploring the notion of ‘family’ in line with this year’s theme.

IDAHOT will be celebrated on the 17th of May, and will stand as a poignant reminder of the work that is still to be done across much of the world to stamp out discrimination against the global LGBTI community.

The Rapid Response Fund will continue to play its part in this by providing small emergency grants to LGBT-focused, civil society organisations in 29 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean where homophobia and transphobia are still often the norm rather than the exception.

Watch vlog 1

Watch vlog 2

Watch vlog 3

Watch vlog 4