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GRASSROOTS: The GMT Initiative Blog

amfAR's GMT Initiative supports grassroots organizations that respond to the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS among gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals (collectively, GMT).

Economic Empowerment in Kenya

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Economic Empowerment in Kenya

Posted by Kent Klindera, May 29, 2013 

 

Kisumu 003.JPGMAAYGO members hold up their banner in Kisumu, KenyaI just spent the weekend in Kisumu, Kenya – visiting with a new GMT Initiative grantee the Men Against AIDS Youth Group (MAAYGO).  Predominantly made up of young gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans individuals (collectively referred to as “GMT”), MAAYGO focuses on reducing the HIV vulnerabilities of GMT through economic empowerment schemes.  As one member stated during a discussion in their office this past Saturday, “If you are the breadwinner, it is interesting how all of a sudden homophobia in your family goes away.”

Kisumu 005.JPGKennedy, Victor, and Simon with MAAYGO’s rentable chairsamfAR, with support from the AIDS Fonds of the Netherlands, is providing a small grant for MAAYGO to conduct a needs assessment of its members, and then roll out a “microfinance” program that offers members loans of roughly $150-$200 to start small businesses.  MAAYGO will work with members to develop formal business plans and mentor them in terms of entrepreneurship.  In addition, they will promote HIV testing and access to treatment and make referrals to testing and treatment sites MAAYGO has already trained in GMT-friendly health care.

Kisumu 008.JPGVictor with MAAYGO’s catering equipmentBeyond the project, MAAYGO takes economic empowerment seriously.  As a community-based organization, they have purchased chairs and catering equipment that they  rent out for various functions.  Thus, they can use the chairs and catering items for their own events, while also generating income for MAAYGO by renting them out.  In the year since they purchased them, they have already paid for themselves fourfold.  Sunday in Kisumu was “market day,” where local farmers and sellers come to town to sell their vegetables and meat or peddle their wares. The chairs were rented out very quickly, as MAAYGO’s office is directly across the street from a market square. 

MAAYGO believes strongly that if young GMT have choices in their life, they will make healthy ones.  Poverty is a major factor that increases HIV vulnerabilities among GMT because at times MAAYGO members rely on sex work to survive.  MAAYGO is helping these young folks in Kisumu be informed about HIV, as well as have a range of options in their life – all of which helps motivate them to be healthier and to avoid HIV infection or to remain adherent to HIV medication if they are already living with HIV. 


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