Nessakem Vanessa Nwosu

In her own words…

London 29th June 2020

They say your life begins when you find yourself because then you see your path clearly but is finding yourself easy?

I’d call that a rhetorical question because nothing on the surface of the earth is easy. Growing up wasn’t easy, In fact I had the type of childhood you would see in the Willoughby’s but not that it ended in me rescuing my parents lolz.

When you grow up in a family that’s all about reputation, religion, education you automatically want to do everything to be that or fix that box even when you were made to stand out. Everyone who knew me from way back knows I wasn’t like the other girls, I was a tomboy or girl boy like they call it and it wasn’t that I wanted to be a man and get all the girls, I just loved dressing up like that, with no makeup I was comfortable that way. Under that whole tomboy I was the most feminine woman you can imagine with hips I couldn’t escape lol … To be honest I’d never trade my hips or bum for anything and no, it’s not for a man. I mostly wore shirts, trainers and trousers and when I wore a skirt I still looked like a tomboy.

Talking about being a tomboy, there was a point in my life where I would get angry if you called me that partly because I had not accepted that I love women and because of the stereotype. My excuse would be I grew up with imaginary boys around and I adopted their behaviour and style well I mostly had boys around me but it wasn’t because of them. I just was a tomboy. If I ever looked at a guy I did so because I wanted to copy his dress style or make mine.

My mum hated that I wouldn’t wear heels and dress up, make my hair and all that comes between and I would tell her “guys love me like this”. Well they did I must tell you and if you ask me I don’t know why. That part of me (being a tomboy) I struggled with because no matter how feminine I tried to look you can tell by the way I walked, I was hiding who I was and it’s safe to say you can call me a TOMBOY and I won’t blink because I finally love myself.

Another part of my life I struggled with was and is my sexuality, it has been there right in front of me even when I try to run from it. I started off thinking I was just having girl crush like the one I had for Genevieve Nnaji where I imagined meeting her and we would talk and she would like me and blah blah! Some say when you go to an all girls secondary school you become a lesbian and when I hear that it sounds funny to me because before secondary school I had started having these feelings even if I didn’t know what to make of them.

Every LGBTQ person must have at one point tried to pray away who they are or given in to religious talks because apparently religion rules our thinking. No matter how you see me I love JESUS and at that I felt like me being myself was driving him from me or I was the worse sinner on earth. I went to church, prayed and even fasted but still it was like GOD kept saying “don’t run from who you are”.

At a point I put my hands up and gradually I started to accept myself, sounds easy but there were and are still moments I fall back because of homophobic comments and all that stuff but I always come back stronger after I look within.

It’s a gradual process that should not be rushed at all, live your life, doubt yourself, question yourself but never belittle yourself or try to change who you are for anybody and I’ll say the way I accepted myself was I said to myself if it’s Love then it’s not a sin. If you love who you are, you are who you are meant to be. Accept yourself and others will keep up…

Nessakem Vanessa Nwosu​, Assistant Social Media Coordinator at African Rainbow Family, speaks up about the issue of the UK Government’s intention to outsource asylum interviews and what we can do about it. African Rainbow Family supports African LGBTIQ people seeking asylum including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people.

Last month, the Independent reported the intention of the Home Office to outsource asylum interviews. African Rainbow Family is saddened by this news and would like it to be addressed as we celebrate Black History Month.

The problem of outsourcing asylum interviews

Outsourcing asylum interviews means allowing private companies and/or organisations not related to the immigration system, and/or have no experience in asylum and immigration application decision processes, to conduct substantial interviews for people seeking asylum.

The purported reason for this action is to reduce the backlog of awaiting interviews.

While this might sound reasonable, it’s very worrying. Many of the companies in the running for this new contract have been embroiled in previous scandals over their handling of immigration services.

“This is another way that the Home Office seeks to continue to deny people seeking asylum access to justice and setting them up to fail. We are watching another hostile environment akin to the Windrush Generation scandal develop. This decision is unreasonable, and the Home Office should rescind it.” – Aderonke Apata, founder of African Rainbow Family and human rights activist.

According to the Independent, outsourcing asylum interviews was a failure: it was unjust and excluded people from the system. “Sopra Steria, which was contracted to run the UK’s visa processing system in 2018, was accused last year of overseeing a “substandard” operation that risked unlawful decisions and excluding people from the system because of “inflated prices and inaccessible services”.

This same company is among the contractors in the running to conduct substantial interviews again. We know this decision has many negative outcomes for people seeking asylum, increasing their anxiety and stress.

One of the other contractors being considered, Serco, is just as problematic. Serco manages the notorious Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, which used to house women on behalf of the Home Office. In September 2013, Serco’s staff were alleged to have sexually assaulted women in the centre to whom they owed a duty of care. More recently, in 2018, the company prompted outrage when it introduced lock changes in asylum accommodation in Glasgow. The company was locking out those whose claims had been refused by the Home Office, leaving them destitute.

There’s a great fear that there would be bias when to conducting interviews and/or assessing applications of Black LGBTIQ people, including LGBTIQs from the Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, and not just LGBTIQ people, but everyone seeking asylum.

And there’s a concern about how interviews would be conducted by individuals who have not received any training on immigration matters, or being run by companies that have shown a lack of compassion for people seeking asylum in the past. The Home Office has received complaints about its processes before; who is to say this will not be worse?

Reported in Stonewall in the article African Rainbow Family: Ask the Home Office to stop outsourcing asylum interviews 20 October 2020

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