Onyango Otieno (Rixpoet) is a trauma coach, writer, poet, mental health advocate, podcaster, and healthy masculinity ambassador. Part of his work centers on African Masculinity and its role in ensuring gender equality and equity, especially championing African men’s involvement in sexual and reproductive health and rights. He is a facilitator of trauma healing circles, managing a safe space for African boys and men who have been raped or sexually abused. He founded a 200-member mental health online support group where members utilize storytelling as a tool for tackling mental illness stigma and hosts the Afro-Masculinity Podcast where he interrogates the complexities of African Masculinities. He also manages a male support group for healthy masculinity with 150 male members.
Onyango is a 2019 Kumvana Fellow from Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB). EWB’s Kumvana Program congregates 10-15 dynamic African professionals for leadership development and network building while enhancing Canadians’ understanding of sub-Saharan Africa’s development realities. He is also a 2019 alumnus of The Moth’s Global Community Program that brings storytellers together from all over the world, and a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) East Africa Fellow.
Onyango is the co-founder of Fatuma’s Voice Foundation. A forum using debate, open dialogue, and other creative tools to encourage expression, picturing an inclusive and politically conscious Africa, with a voice that will dismantle false narratives and involve every community member in the process of social change. Since the organization was launched on 12 July 2013, it has hosted over 142 themed community forums, hosted 1,420 artistic performers, and brought together 30,000 community members, and counting.
He has worked as a writer, digital storyteller, social media strategist, communication and advocacy consultant, trauma healing, and gender workshop facilitator with The African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Mastercard Foundation, Aga Khan University, Council of Governors, Groots Kenya, International Commission of Jurists (Kenya Chapter), Green String Network, AWAN Africa, among others.
He is passionate about community cohesion, justice, and mental wellbeing for Africans. Early Life, Education, Career Onyango Otieno (Rixpoet) is the firstborn of three children. He started schooling at Noonkopir Nursery School in Kitengela, traversing seven primary schools before sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams at Makini School in 2002. His father, a teacher, moved from school to school searching for greener pastures leading to their family moving a lot.
He joined St. Joseph's Rapogi High School in 2003 for his Form 1, earning an expulsion after a year at the institution. His tumultuous adolescence, stamped by growing up in a violent home, destabilized his childhood. It was during the period after expulsion that he discovered his knack for poetry as a way of coping with his mental and emotional struggles as a 16-year-old. Poetry and Mental Health Adolescent years His first poem was dedicated to his late sister, Jael Apondi, whom he watched die at five months old. It was the imagination that had she been alive she'd be there as a shoulder to lean on during this tough time that "Rix", as he is commonly known by friends and fans, decided to pen his first verse celebrating his sister]. He was enrolled at AIC Athiriver Secondary School in September 2004. By this time, he had run away from home twice, once becoming a street child in Nairobi Central Business District. Surviving mob justice on June 20, 2004, after being caught shoplifting, Rix became suicidal at the end of that year; 16 years old, fleeing to Mombasa to self-destruct. But his plans were cut short by his thoughts during the journey, opting to find his friends who lived in Malindi, who took him in for a month that December.
Rixpoet then joined Pumwani Boys' Secondary School in mid-May 2005 where he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams, later crossing to Uganda for his Advanced Level Education from Bugema Adventist Secondary School. It is in these two schools that his gifts flourished, being an integral part of the forming of Journalism Clubs, playing football for the school teams, and reading his poems at the school parades. His courage for justice and passion for truth earned him both adoration and torment from the schools' administrations. Rix came back to Kenya in 2009 and joined Daystar University in January 2011. Dropping out of University He had to drop out after a semester because of family instabilities. To keep busy, he'd listen to the university's student radio, SHINE 103.1 FM, and went to campus to spend time at the computer laboratory where he taught himself blogging while connecting with Kenyan poets online. Apart from learning the essentials of social media, it is this period that he came across the Kenyan Poets Lounge Facebook group, in which he'd post his poems every day.
His consistency made him get noticed by the group's founder, Chris Mukasa, who approached him for collaboration. This partnership led the two founding Fatuma's Voice in July 2013, a month after publishing The Power of Words, a poetry anthology by contemporary Kenyan poets. Fatuma's Voice grew into a massive movement across Kenya and continues to inspire many young activists and artists in Africa. His time networking at Daystar University created an opportunity for him to work with Dj Mas, co-hosting Friday Flavour in 2012 at SHINE FM 103.1.
Passion for Radio
His passion for radio led him to work at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's sister radio, Venus FM, producing poetry for a radio drama program in 2014. Rix has performed in all major Kenyan poetry events, including a paramount stint at the Supreme Court of Kenya before Kenyan Magistrates and the then Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga. He has also graced the annual Babishai Poetry Workshop in Uganda, SpokenWord Rwanda & Transpoesis in Kigali.
His poetry is featured in Breaking Silence: The In-depth Words of a Poet Anthology published by James Robert Myers in Ghana, and Badilisha Poetry X-Change; an online audio archive and Pan-African poetry show delivered in radio format, based in South Africa. Rixpoet has gained traction over the years exploiting the effectiveness of social media to share his work, growing into an accomplished social media strategist, later undergoing an International Course on Engaging Online Media from Radio Netherlands Training Centre. He's plentifully passionate about African feminism, social justice, mental health, family, and spirituality. Having experienced depression, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety at different phases of his life, he is spreading mental health awareness in Africa.
Rixpoet has authored Touring My Mind, a collection of his quotes in an e-book. He says, "Words are living things", heavily inspired by the lives and works of Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Field Marshal Muthoni Wa Kirima, Rumi, Osho, bell hooks, Fela Kuti, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Angela Davis, Yoko Ono, Toni Morrison, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Samora Machel, Miriam Makeba, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Bob Marley, Mary Oliver, Dorothy Day, Nas, Ukoo Flani MauMau, Juliani, Tupac Shakur, Muhammad Ali, Ken Saro-Wiwa, among others.
His love for music travels back to his boyhood in Kitengela. His father would put him on their living room table, play African Soukous and tell him to dance. He'd grow up dancing on tables to tunes from Koffi Olomide, Wenge Musica Maison Mère, Extra Musica, Kanda Bongo Man, Aurlus Mabélé, Yondo Sister, and many more Lingala superstars. He loves sports and is an ardent football player and fan. Ekklesia Mixtape is his first music and poetry collection. A production in which he interrogates the church institution highlights issues on relationships, social beliefs, mental health, politics, and self-awareness. It involves indigenous voices from Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, and South Sudan.
Sexual Assault & Masculinity Advocacy
Rixpoet was raped by their housekeeper at 20 years old. He came out with his story in November 2019, urging more men who had been sexually abused to come out from the silence and shame associated with male vulnerability. From the overwhelming feedback that ensued, he created a safe space support group for sexually abused African boys and men, aiming to later build physical wellness centers and safe houses for this often neglected lot. He employs storytelling and embodied practice as healing tools to face and tackle stigma, encouraging men to own their stories and not be afraid to be side-lined by society.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Onyango opened the Afro-Masculinity Podcast to dig a keener examination into the complexities within African Masculinities. The podcast intensifies conversations on the intricacies of existing as African men, the impetus of their beliefs, perceptions; the historical, structural, religious, and socio-political underpinnings of their behavior.
Supported assessment activities for the Border Security Training Program (BSTP) Team at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). This support entailed conducting semi-structured interviews & collecting data with officers in the Border Police Unit (BPU).
Planned periodic welfare workshops and debriefings for all BOMA (Mental health app) artists and counselors • Developed and managed campaigns to boost brand awareness • Staid up-to-date with digital technology trends • Monitored, tracked and reported on feedback and online reviews pertaining the BOMA App
Creating an authentically African sex positive space for candid conversations about healthy, conscious sex to help Africans experience joyful sex • Our core values are free expression, integrity, respect, collaboration, compassion and responsibility • We aim to eradicate the shame associated with sex • Sessions are held on a weekly 3-hour Instagram LIVE and we operate a Telegram community for members to interact beyond the Live sessions
Supporting sexually abused African boys and men with their healing journey. We're using storytelling to create safety and everyone has space to humanize their experience since it's the first time for majority of them to be in such a community • The goal is to later create physical safe houses and wellness centers for them • I provide them with resources and tools to help them cope, including patient referral to partner mental health organizations I work with for counseling and therapy
Provided structured space holding for trauma healing workshops with Kenya Police Service under Muamko Mpya Program • Wrote, edited & managed copy across digital channels
Successfully completed projects with the creatives team • Created layout and campaign proposals • Organized the flow of work for the creatives team • Oversaw the first #SRHRDialogues in 6 African countries • Oversaw first African women's convening to discuss SDGS #FemmeAfricaSDGs
Main social media partner for the 4th Annual Devolution Conference (2017)
Created blog content on the implications of International Criminal Court (ICC) cases on Kenya ahead of 2017 General Election
Managed Nairobi, Mombasa & Nakuru events • Outlined digital promotional material for artists. • Developed topics and strategy for tweet chats • Writing & Editing event reports for the website • Proofreading articles by website blog contributors
"Therapy with Onyango helped me understand a pain I had struggled with for many years. I'm grateful I started the journey."
"Thank you for using your courage and gifts to support me through a difficult time. It was hard in the beginning but you made it feel so easy. Keep doing what you are doing."
"Onyango is a brilliant storyteller. Working with him to develop our company digital media strategy was so much fun with mind blowing results."
"We hope to have you in Nakuru again for the storytelling workshop."
Organisations and Institutions I have worked with.
KENYA Mathari Hospital - 1199 Kenya Police GBV - 0800730999 GVRC Kenya - 0719 638 006 Usikimye - 0800 000 0999 National GBV Hotline - 1195 Mombasa County GBV Situation Room Hotline - 0800 720 587 LVCT Toll Free Number - 0800 720 121 Wangu Kanja Foundation - 0722 790 404 UGANDA Mulago Hospital - 041 454 1589 Case Medical Centre - 414 250 362 Counter Terrorism Unit - 0800199699/ 0800199139/0800122291 UPF Headquarters- 414233814/256414250613 Butabika Hospital - 414 504 388 TANZANIA IST Clinic Dar es Salaam (24 hours): +255 754 783 393 Mnazi Mmoja Hospital Zanzibar: +255 242 646 895 AAR - +255 754 760790 (Dar es Salaam) Aga Khan HospitaL - +255 22 2115151 (Dar es Salaam)