This month we speak to Festus Kisa (pronouns: he/him), Executive Director of Q-initiative and member of the Global Board of MenEngage Alliance.
‘Meet a member’ is a regular feature in the global MenEngage Alliance newsletter. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter. The newsletter has been developed together with the global Communications Working Group. It aims to be a small snapshot into ‘men and masculinities’ work around the world and across MenEngage Alliance.
What do you work on?
I am a Social Worker by training and I specialize in human rights, sexuality development, sexual reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence prevention and response, HIV programming, mental health and women’s empowerment geared towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming youth. I design programs around these themes using rights-based approaches and intersectional feminist principles.
How did you get involved in this work?
I became a Social Worker because I really wanted to work with communities/people to create change, be it at personal or community levels. I got involved with the LGBTIQ+ community because I believe in making the world better for younger LGBTIQ+ persons. They should not have to go through the same challenges I did while figuring out my sexual orientation. I became interested in the men and masculinities space to challenge the deliberate exclusion of queer men and others who express their masculinities differently. Queer men are not seen as ‘manly’ or ‘masculine’ enough because of our sexual orientation and/or gender expression. This is the norm in the general society and is reflected in the queer community.
A resource you can share from Q-Initiative?
Q-Initiative implemented a project titled ‘Deconstructing Gender, Normalizing Diversity through clothes.’ We used the hashtag #ClothesHaveNoGender to evoke conversations about gender identity and expression while linking it to human rights violations. I am very proud of the work we did where we used photos and clothes to challenge society’s perception of masculinity and femininity. I can share a film about our gender-neutral fashion show and a short documentary where we speak to the artists and organizers of our photo exhibition in Eldoret, Kenya in 2021.
What keeps you motivated in this work?
This work affirms and challenges me every single day. I am not the same person I was when I started this work. I have been stuck, I have failed, I have had successes, most importantly, I have grown. That is my motivation. This area of work has allowed me to critically analyze my upbringing, my values, my identity. I am continually seeking new knowledge that will make me a better human being and a better community member. A bonus is the fact that i get to work with amazing people from all over the world to achieve the change we desire.
Do you have a recommendation for fellow members of MenEngage Alliance?
What do you hope to achieve working together as part of an alliance?
I hope that we will amplify the voices of women, girls, queer people, trans persons and other marginalized communities for the realization of their rights. By showing solidarity across the communities, countries and continents, we will engage men to interrogate negative masculinities and end patriarchy.
A quote you would like to share?
“What we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe.” bell hooks
An aspect of the MenEngage Core Principles that resonates with you?
“We believe that transformation must begin with ourselves”. This is the ninth core principle and I wholly resonate with it. It is a principle that has guided my advocacy. I cannot fight patriarchy without acknowledging the role I play in it. I cannot claim to fight for equality when I do not believe in women’s rights. I have to be free for others to be free.