Breaking Ground, Building Hope: INEND's Forever Home

On May 17, 2024, INEND celebrated the groundbreaking of their Forever Home in Shanzu, Mombasa. This new center symbolizes a brighter, more inclusive future for the LGBTQ community.

As long-serving partners at Heinrich Boell Foundation, Nairobi, we were honoured to be part of this great milestone

INEND Forever Home

Breaking Ground, Building Hope: INEND's Forever Home

The sun cast a golden hue over the coastal city of Mombasa as it rose on the morning of May 17, 2024. A sense of anticipation hung in the air, mingling with the salty, humid breeze that drifted in from the Indian Ocean. The mark of a big day. A day of promise. A day when dreams that lay dormant for years would finally start to take shape in brick and mortar. This was the start of INEND's new forever home on their half-acre piece of land in Shazu Mombasa. A great way to mark IDAHOBIT Day 2024.

INEND was holding its groundbreaking ceremony by laying the first brick for the start of its new office space. The brick-laying symbolises the organisation's commitment to laying the foundation for a more just and inclusive future for all. As long-serving partners at Heinrich Boell Foundation, Nairobi, we were honoured to be part of this great milestone. INEND office represents a physical manifestation of collective dedication to building bridges of understanding, empathy, solidarity, struggle and the fight for recognition and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

As the guests streamed in, a photo booth set up at the entrance gave was a welcome reception and an opportunity to anyone who wanted their image immortalized as part of this wonderful milestone. The hearty laughter in the background from attendees was a poignant reminder of the love that INEND Home will provide. The big tent, adorned with grass carpet, gave a cozy atmosphere to the day's ceremony. The new office complex's architectural design spread vividly around the space, creating a picture of what the state-of-the-art complex will look like. The smiles and beaming faces of those who came to be a part of the celebration surrounded the site, adding to the festive spirit of the occasion.

The MC of the day, Njeri Gateru, Executive Director at the Nation Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), officially kicked off the ceremony by welcoming everyone. As the MC, she ran the day's program, sharing tidbits of information with the audience and reminiscing about her first encounter with most of those in attendance.

INEND's Executive Director, Esther Adhiambo, aka Essy, gave a keynote speech on the journey and struggle towards a more equitable and inclusive society. Her voice was filled with emotion when she described how the perseverance and faith of those who believed in the dream had made this journey possible. Development partners, friends, allies and other civil society organizations who had representation in the room. We took a moment of silence to remember Geogina Adhiambo, Executive Director of Voices of Women in Western Kenya (Vowwek) who passed away recently and was a close friend to INEND. She would have loved to be a part of this celebration. A sentiment that resonated with the crowd.

"Today, as we gather here for the groundbreaking ceremony of INEND's Forever Home, we embark on a mission that breaks boundaries and challenges norms," she began. "The anti-gender movement is growing freely, spreading their hate and intolerance, while the world has declined on its commitments to the protection of human rights and human dignity. Despite the adversity, INEND has consistently innovated new strategies, served as a catalyst for more cohesive organizing, strengthened its capacity as an effective and accountable institution, and gained stature, respect, and acceptance from policymakers in Kenya."

Essy spoke passionately about the importance of community and each person's role in creating a safe and supportive environment, as evident with the INEND new milestone.

"Our Forever Home represents our unwavering commitment to championing equality and non-discrimination, as well as confronting the eco-system of violence and oppression that has emerged from historical, cultural, and structural factors that intersect to sustain injustices like patriarchy, colonialism, and homophobia," she added.

"As we break ground today, on IDAHOBIT Day 2024, let us not lose sight of the immense responsibility that lies upon all our shoulders. Let us harness the energy of this moment to propel us forward with determination and purpose. And let us never waver in our commitment to creating a world with inclusive societies and dignified lives for all," concluded Essy as she stepped back into the audience. The crowd enthusiastically applauded her words.

Other notable speakers,  Masafu Okwara, program coordinator of NGLHRC; Lorna Dias, Executive Director of Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK+); and Mukami Matere, co-executive director of UHAI, took to the podium to speak about their support and solidarity with INEND through this journey.

The highlight of the event was the ceremonial turning of the soil. INEND team, board members, civil society actors, members of the judiciary and representatives from the Mombasa County office donned protective gear and picked up shovels, excited to break ground on what will soon be a permanent place of residence for INEND and its wider community. The crowd cheered Essy on as she navigated the digger to be the first to break ground. As it pierced the ground, a cheer erupted from the crowd, an outward sign of the collective hope for a brighter future.

The crowd then enjoyed a buffet of coastal delicacies and refreshments.

As the sun descended, casting long shadows across the freshly turned soil, there was a sense that this day marked the beginning of something truly transformative. INEND's new center in Mombasa is not just a building; it is a promise kept, a dream realized, and a beacon of hope that will shine brightly for generations to come, especially for the members of the LGBTQ community.

Kweli Hayawi, Hayawi, Huwa! Congratulations INEND