"I remember while in Canada in the winter of 2019 someone was amazed we have skyscrapers in Nairobi after I showed them pictures of the city on Google. They had internet access but they found it easier to operate on their internalised bias about where I'm from and subsequently who my people are. We need to tell our stories. Our stories are important for the world to see us clearly," said Onyango Otieno.
Otieno is a Kenyan trauma therapist, strategic digital advocacy trainer, mental health advocate, podcaster, writer and poet. His work centres on African masculinity and its role in ensuring gender equity, especially championing African men’s involvement in sexual and reproductive health and rights. He also facilitates trauma healing circles of boys and men and leads a 200-member mental health online support group where members use storytelling as a tool for tackling mental illness stigma.
His $1500 grant will fund the publication of Poems to My Father, A book is he also creating as a case study in African masculinity. "I'll be able to tell my story to the world broadly. For the many boys and men trapped in their childhood wounds who think they are alone, they finally get a chance to humanise themselves by reading these pieces.”Creating forums for conversations with African men on their identity in regards to gender roles, emotional intelligence, and childhood trauma."
He also wants the book to lead to more safe spaces for men. "I'll network with African men in the continent through the distribution of the published poems. I foresee the establishment of masculinity clubs around the continent where young men commune to discuss their issues and create safe spaces for each other."