By Patrick Rukwaro, Internews in Kenya.
If elected to the Senate next year, David Kuria Mbote will become the first openly gay Kenyan to hold a key elective office. “I wish people of Kiambu look at what I have to offer in terms of skill …. I really hope they give me a chance to serve them,” he told Jeff Koinange during the K24 television show, On the Bench.
The 40-year-old former seminarian with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and Theology honed his communications skills during a strategic communications workshop at Internews two years ago. “At that time, I was General Manager of Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK).
“The training helped us to communicate health issues related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community since it was a very practical training,” says Kuria. “We wrote articles and requested to appear in radio talk shows….our issues started being heard.”
A Catholic who for seven years trained to be a priest, Kuria did not take the final vows because he felt priesthood was not his vocation. His leadership qualities first emerged when he was only six years old. Then David introduced alter-boys (boys who act as priest's assistants during a service, esp. in the Roman Catholic Church.) at his church. He later founded GALCK.
The television appearance by Kuria is a sign that the media is beginning to tell stories about gay people in a positive way. “Internews first engaged with the gay and lesbian community in 2008 after realizing that no media told their story yet they are a key population at risk of contracting HIV,” says Ernest Waititu, Internews Project Director of the Health and Digital Media Programme.
With the help of Internews, Kuria and other members of GALCK started the website http://www.freedominspeech.org, an online news magazine that helps articulate issues of the LGBTI community in Kenya.
Kuria's appearance follows the airing of Invisible Bridge, a three-part documentary about the secret lives of gay men in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city which run in the same station late September. The documentary was broadcast on K24 in late September. The story was produced by Stella Kasina after Internews data journalism training.