In a historic court battle initiated in 2011 Urgent Action Fund–Africa (UAF – Africa) grantee, Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA) has been handed a landmark victory in Kenya’s high court.

After being denied the right to register as an NGO, the organisation working for transgender rights sued the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination board for discrimination and violation of their fundamental human rights.

The group had previously been denied permission to register by the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination Board because three transgender women listed in the application – Audrey Mbugua, Maureen Muia and Annet Jennifer – did not have names that “reflected their gender”.

Justice George Odunga stated that in failing to register TEA, the Kenyan NGO Co-ordination board had acted in a manner that is “ unfair, unreasonable, unjustified and in breach of rules of natural justice.”

He further found that Ms Mbugua, Ms Muia and Ms Jennifer had provided sufficient evidence that they had legally changed their names via deed poll.

The Kenyan NGO Co-ordination board has been ordered to register the organisation immediately and provide compensation for legal costs incurred over the three year-long legal battle.

Audrey Mbugua welcomed the ruling, stating “This is a watershed moment for the transgender community in Africa and a show of the capabilities of the transgender community to extricate themselves from State sponsored discrimination and marginalization. Through the support of the UAF – Africa, a team of dedicated legal practitioners and transgender people we won a very hard battle and the TEA will continue to exert more effort to see the implementation of the judgment. We pray that transgender people across Africa will be able to access more resources to build firm architectures to eradicate transphobia and discrimination “.

Urgent Action Fund – Africa is a feminist women’s human rights fund, working across the African continent to rapidly resource the work of activists and civil society organisations focusing on women’s active social-political participation and visibility by leveraging resources and opportunities for critical engagement that advance women’s human rights.

UAF – Africa has from the outset, provided resourcing and advisory support for TEA’s legal battle, when time was of essence, and recently also stepped in with an emergency protection grant when one of TEA’s leaders came under attack.

UAF – Africa, Executive Director, Ndana Bofu-Tawamba stated, “This court ruling is not only instructive and precedent setting as to how the judiciary should approach such issues, it is a breath of fresh air and an absolutely clear message to countless marginalised communities that it takes courage and conviction to pursue what is rightfully within our latitude of human rights. Today, at Urgent Action Fund-Africa we celebrate with TEA on this landmark delivery of social justice and become even more strengthened to pursue human rights for ALL with URGENT vigor”.

However, despite the win, across Africa, the battle to secure LGBTI rights continues.