Archive for September 2015

The Problem with Kenya … and my Hope!

In my last trip to Africa, I did have many excellent meetings with small groups of open-minded Kenyan leaders

In my last trip to Africa, I did have many excellent meetings with small groups of open-minded Kenyan leaders

As many of you may know from my website, I am involved with starting a non-profit community cultural center in Mtito Andei, one of the poorest and most neglected medium size cities in Kenya. (Link to project summary) In previous trips to Kenya, a most wonderful country with a rich culture, fantastic wildlife and wonderful people, I have met with youth advocates (youth being defined as under 35 years old) and senior government officials. Many of these leaders are well trained and educated with Masters and Doctorate degrees from top universities in the USA and the UK.

In my discussions with these leaders, they often shared a vision of Kenya as a country seeking to become “the shining star of sub-Sahara Africa” with a growing modern economy. They have the natural resources, the international standing and the educated leaders to move them in that direction. Yet in my opinion, that will not happen unless some severe issues are addressed.

The Kimer-Kamba Cultural Centre in Mtito-Andei is now open and providing workshops for local leaders to address issues of discrimination and diversity.

The Kimer-Kamba Cultural Centre in Mtito-Andei is now open and providing workshops for local leaders to address issues of discrimination and diversity.


Even as I had this blog outlined and on the drawing boards earlier this summer, President Obama in his trip to Kenya in July broached some of these same issues. (see link at bottom.) Will the leaders of Kenya listen with open minds and take the right actions to move Kenya forward, or will they continue to deny the problems, stick their heads in the sand, relegating Kenya to being a second class nation?


The two major issues are corruption / nepotism and discrimination / inequality.

1) Corruption and nepotism. In my travels across Kenya, I saw many examples of leaders trying to secure money for projects to benefit their communities and tribes to the detriment of the rest of the country, or even worse, siphoning off significant funds for personal use. Enlighted national leaders need to rise to the occasion of providing ethical leadership that moves the entire nation of Kenya forward. For example, Kenyan leaders need to address the totally inadequate (and in my opinion disgraceful) Nairobi airport. Dirty, hot, inefficient (one customs agent on a recent trip took over 20 minutes to process each single person) and with no internet connection, the airport is not appropriate for a country trying to become a global modern travel and commerce hub.

2) Discrimination and Inequality. First, many Kenyan leaders relegate an entire half of their population (women) to second class citizenry while the rest of the world understands the great resourcefulness of women and fully empowers them to help lead their national economies. Some ancient traditions like forced marriages and genital mutilation (and see video link below) hold Kenya back as a tribal country instead of a modern nation. And second, many older Kenyans in power continue to demonize their LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) citizens, virtually making them unemployable and unable to contribute to their national economy.

I realize this blog may anger many Kenyans, but I earnestly implore Kenyan leaders to take a deep fresh look at what kind of ethical and open-minded leadership they need to provide to lead Kenya in becoming a 21st century leader on the African continent. My truest hope is that this country will use its vast natural resources and 100% of its talented population to become Africa’s shining star.

LINKS: ONE ARTICLE, ONE BLOG AND ONE VIDEO

Associated Press article on President Obama’s trip to Kenya in July: “Obama: Kenya is at a Crossroads.”

My blog about how demonizing people hurts a country’s economy,“The Macroeconomics of Gay Bullying.”

A recent superb video from Global Roots (a non-profit partner in Kenya) on the female mutilation issue and an innovative troupe of young woman performing to raise awareness.

The Perfect “Trans-storm”

Please see and use the many links featured in this blog to read additional details.

Raffi Freedman Gurspan, the first openly transgender employee of the US White House (AP Photo / National Center for Transgender Equality)

Raffi Freedman Gurspan, the first openly transgender employee of the US White House (AP Photo / National Center for Transgender Equality)


Many people are familiar with the term, “The perfect storm” that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will impact a situation drastically. I truly believe we are now in “a perfect storm” for the fight for equality including workplace and health benefits for transgender people. Many positive recent happenings have now all aligned so that is there is a tremendous focus on understanding and appreciating this misunderstood and often maligned segment of our population.

As a diversity consultant with a deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity, when I have presented an LGBT Diversity workshops to Human Resources Professionals throughout 2015 (see my blog about this), a vast majority of questions during the Q and A time are about the transgender segment. Just last week I delivered a workshop titled “Corporate and Organizational Support for Transgender People: The Whys and Hows” at the monthly meeting of the HR Management Association of Greensboro (North Carolina) to a sold out crowd of over 150 engaged HR practitioners. Yes – we are not talking New York City nor San Francisco, but here in North Carolina!

Here are the five items in chronological order which I believe have contributed to what I have termed this “perfect trans-storm:”

1) The 2009 “coming out” of high profile celebrity Chas Bono, the child of pop singers Sonny and Cher.

2) The growing popularity of transgender television star Laverne Cox on the hit television show “Orange is the New Black” which premiered in 2013 and is still running. And this was followed in 2014 with a photo of Laverne Cox on the cover of Time Magazine with the story titled “The Transgender Tipping Point – America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.”

3) The executive order signed by US President Obama on July 21, 2014 making it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and explicitly adding discrimination against transgender employees within the federal government. Link to blog about this announcement.

4) The much publicized gender transition of Olympic champion Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn in July of this year.
SRHM Mag Cover

5) On August 19, 2015, The White house announcing the hiring of its first openly transgender staff member, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Outreach and Recruiter Director for Presidential Personnel.

Coincidentally, the day I presented my workshop at the Greensboro SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) chapter meeting, the September issue of the SHRM monthly “HR Magazine” was delivered to my home. And the cover story? “The New Face of Diversity – Transgender Employee Policies Are Gaining Support – Are You Ready?”

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