United and Strong Inc Launches “758 Do You Dare” Campaign

The re-imagined concept of the “Truth or Dare” game undertaken by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) aims to challenge people, governments, key populations (KPs) and civil society organizations to be change agents in reducing/eliminating the impact of HIV and AIDS on our region.

However dealing with the reality of HIV and AIDS and the related issues is more of a “Truth and Dare” as pinpointed by this campaign.

“758 Do You Dare”- United and Strong’s version; has at it’s core objective just as the regional campaign, of utilizing a range of communications strategies to challenge people, government, key populations (KPs) and civil society organizations to be change agents.

Ahead of World AIDS Day 2018 and the commencement of the 16 Days of Activism on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, United and Strong thought this to be the best platform to launch our #758DoYouDare Campaign.

As highlighted by the Communications and Advocacy Officer Mr. Bennet Charles;

Gender-based violence is a serious violation of human rights and increases the risk of HIV infection. This form of violence is a pervasive reality in Saint Lucia with both women and men from key populations being widely affected.

Women and girls along with men and boys have the right to live free of violence and inequities and to protect themselves against HIV. This is the very intention of the “#758DoYou Dare”.

To achieve the 90-90-90 targets by 2020 in Saint Lucia we have to be daring and we must realise it’s a collaborative effort, and challenge others to take the “Do You Dare Challenge”.

The 758Koudmen Campaign supported under the Regional Capacity Development Initiative of the EU through the Caribbean Policy Development Centre(CPDC) has certainly facilitated strategic partnerships and volunteers to facilitate the aims of the “758 Do You Dare” Campaign.

The first cohort of PSAs launched today, November 25th, highlights three partners taking the challenge. The PSAs feature the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College Peer Counselorsand Redcross students along with the team of the regional Talk Show “The Soup” asking others to support “758 Do You Dare” towards reducing gender-based violence and the stigma and discrimination targeting persons living with HIV and AIDS.

  1. Salcc Peer Educators PSA (HIV/GBV)
  2. Salcc Redcross Group PSA (HIV/GBV)
  3. GBV PSA 1- Alison Isebert
  4. GBV PSA 2 – Ayana Whitehead-Smith
  5. GBV PSA 3 – Heidi Z. St. Helen

Throughout the coming weeks and months leading into 2019, a number of PSAs will focus on other vulnerable populations along with commuity based interventions including meetings with various policy makers and Ministers.

United and Strong believes these dares provides an opportunity to build a conducive environment for not just reaching the 90-90-90 targets, but fostering a a reduction/elimination of various human rights abuses and laws that impede access of vulnerable persons to health care as well as other social services.

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United and Strong turns 18

When one attains the age of 18 years old, it is a gateway age that takes them across the border from childhood to adulthood. Similarly, achieving 18 years of age is a milestone for any organisation, particularly one that focuses on the LGBT community- whilst also operating in a constitutionally homophobic society.

For eighteen consecutive years, United and Strong has been the lead human rights organization, echoing the pains, struggles and triumphs of LGBT St. Lucians and of lately other marginalized populations.

Experience over the past years has bestowed upon us a greater understanding of the many struggles experienced by other stigmatized and discriminated groups. The ridiculing of a differently abled person or the dismal of one based on their HIV status are just a few of the many situations that fuels our need to build new relationships and alliances.

This year brought with it, a plethora of differences within the political and governance structures of this nation. Such differences seem to have revived the advocacy spirit of many civil society organization, who seem to have been mute to a number of human rights related issues, from health to education among many more.

According to the Communications and Advocacy Officer of United and Strong Inc;

“Iit is in the direct and immediate interest of Saint Lucia to support the advancement of human rights and freedom of not just LGBT persons but, every citizen of this nation.”

United and Strong will continue to utilize all means in achieving our mission which is to:

“Provide an enabling environment for the advancement of human rights for the LGBTI community in Saint Lucia.”

However, we also recognize the need to strengthen our culture of human rights, we need to rediscover our shared space between advocacy and human rights. Recognising that human rights need to be promoted and taught, we shall continue to explore building strong alliances with diverse advocacy groups built on ground rules for shared understanding.
To move forward we call for greater human rights literacy among our civil society partners and the various political and governance structures.

We are indeed thankful to the LGBTI community and allies who charged the organization with this mission and have placed their faith and trust in the management and Board of Directors to lead. Gratitude to our various national, regional and International partners, who continue to provide both technical and financial support to our cause.

United and Strong shall in the coming weeks, reveal a myriad of plans and campaigns geared towards celebrating this milestone and forging a more accepting society towards the LGBTI community.

Hon. Sarah Flood-Beaubrun’s Anti-LGBT and Hate Agenda

sarah split

1 John 3:15 “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him”

The weekend of November 17th – 18th 2017 was the stage for the very homophobic and anti-LGBT group World Congress of Families (WFC).

This fifth World Congress of Families Caribbean Conference, under the misleading theme “The Family Development – Strong Families, Prosperous Nations”, provided a platform for the continued persecution of not just LGBT persons but our Saint Lucian citizens.

Organized by the Hon. Sarah Flood-Beaubrun,  Minister, with responsibility for External Affairs and founder of the Caribbean Centre for Family and Human Rights (CARIFAM).  The Congress brought together the most fringe activists engaged in anti-LGBT extremism and sort to promote messages of “the natural family”, “Marriage” is the cradle of civilization along with other anti-human rights notions.

United and Strong joins a number of regional and international colleagues in denouncing the hateful anti-LGBT campaign of the World Congress of Families (WCF) and Caribbean Centre for Family and Human Rights (CARIFAM).

We were also perplexed by the presence of the Acting Prime Minister Hon. Guy Joseph and Hon. Lenard Montoute at such a gathering which promotes a value of hate.  Even more disturbing to the organization is the view that CARIFAM/WCF seem to have been sub-contracted as the moral compass of our fair Helen.

We therefore call on the Prime Minister of this nation along with the Hon. Lenard Montoute, to answer this question “are the views expressed by the Hon. Sarah Flood-Beaubrun and her hate promoting colleagues, that of the government of Saint Lucia?”  Clearly, the Minister with responsibility for External Affairs has and continues to use her position as a Government Minister to push the hateful agenda of her organization CARIFAM  and WCF.

The Hon. Sarah Flood-Beaubrun seems to have adopted the posture of being “Split in the middle” speaking on behalf of CARIFAM as a seating member of parliament in the government of Saint Lucia and a Cabinet Minister.  Mrs. Flood-Beaubrun needs to decide on, if she is serving the people of this country or her own anti-LGBT interest?

We call on the Hon. Flood-Beaubrun to show how she truly cares about the women and families of this country by:

  • Pushing for the amendments in our Criminal Code that currently recognizes marital rape only under certain circumstances;
  • Speaking out when men of the cloth sexually abuse our young girls and religious bodies remain tight lipped to protect the image of their organizations;
  • Show support to the women who are beaten by their husbands but remain quiet so the “church” would not reprimand them for speaking out;

United and Strong will continue to be the voice of reason and change for the voice-less and the persecuted.  We shall not tire and we shall not go quietly into the night, the walls of hatred built by such organizations like CARIFAM and WCF shall tumble like the walls of Jericho.

ECADE welcomes new IACHR commissioners notes Caribbean States’ reservations on human rights

unnamed(Castries, June 22, 2017) On the heels of the 47th General Assembly of the Organisation of American Sates (OAS), the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc. (ECADE) welcomes several positive decisions coming out of the meeting. ECADE notes however, reservations expressed by eastern Caribbean governments in respect of the Resolution on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights.

The 47th OAS General Assembly 2017 was hosted in Cancun, Mexico from June 19 – 21, 2017. Of note is the adoption of the omnibus Resolution on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights; the election of three new commissioners to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); and the decision to double the regular funds assigned to the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on women.

“There is clearly a recognition among the majority of OAS members of the need to strengthen mechanisms to investigate human rights violations, secure justice for survivors of violence and others facing discrimination and ensure the protection of all peoples of the Caribbean,” says ECADE’s Communications and Advocacy Officer Maria Fontenelle, who represented the organisation at the OAS Assembly. “From conflicts in Venezuela and Brazil to human rights violations of marginalised groups in Barbados and Dominica, the IACHR has its work cut out for it.”

The new Commissioners elected to the IACHR are Joel Hernández García of México, Flávia Cristina Piovesan of Brazil and Antonia Urrejola Noguera of Chile. ECADE’s member organisations will seek to engage the IACHR to bring attention in the region to the discrimination against citizens based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex characteristics. This was notably addressed in the 2015 IACHR regional report on violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons or those perceived as LGBTI. The report, notes the IACHR, recognises “there are still high rates of violence in all countries of the region…this violence tends to be extremely brutal and cruel.

Moreover, the everyday violence that affects LGBTI persons is often invisible, as it is not reported to the authorities or covered by the media.” In light of this, ECADE, and the LGBTTTI Coalition at the OAS, is pleased with the adoption of the Resolution on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights but concerned about reservations by countries that include the Eastern Caribbean nations of Dominica, Saint Lucia and Barbados. While it includes important provisions that strengthen the protection of the rights of all people, our governments missed the opportunity to firmly position themselves as leaders on human rights.

ECADE calls on member states to clarify conflicting messages used to deny the protection of all citizens. The claim that it is impossible to commit to the Resolution as many of the terms used are not defined under international agreements and resolutions is in direct conflict to the stated decision to reserve the right to define discrimination according to our culture and our values.

We remind Caribbean governments of the commitments enshrined in all our constitutions that reaffirms equality of all persons, prohibits discrimination and recognises and protects the full human rights of all citizens. These are the stated values of our people that our governments are bound to fulfill for citizens at home. We further note that culture is not static or homogeneous. The OAS is united in the conviction that the human rights of all persons are universal and indivisible. We remind Caribbean governments that they have voluntarily committed to this as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states;

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “All are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to equal protection of the law”.

Having noted that governments are commitment to protect the rights of children as stated in the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child, we remind that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations; particularly in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. This includes protection from bullying; the right to education free from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and free of teachings of hatred and intolerance.

As Caribbean States seek to ensure protection for all families, we join in encouraging the necessary protection and assistance to allow all families to fulfill their responsibilities within the community. We note that this includes the families of LGBTQI people, which are often ripped apart by societal stigma fueled by criminalisation.  We agree that “no person should be subject to violence, attack or persecution for any reason” and remind our governments that when they fail to fully commit to the protection and promotion of human rights of all citizens, the consequence is violence and persecution.

ECADE recognises the countries that, through their unreserved support of the resolution, ensure the OAS honours its own values. We welcome the contribution of the government of Canada of almost $2 million to combating discrimination and violence against women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean.  ECADE members commit to continuing to work with the Equal Rights Coalition, a new inter-governmental forum committed to promoting and protecting LGBTI rights, as well as the LGBTI Core Group.

— END —

Click the links below for more information on representation at 47th OAS General Assembly

  1. Declaration of the Coalition LGBTTTI: Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law
  2. Coalition on Sexual and Reproductive Rights
  3. List of Chiefs of Delegation to the 47 General Assembly in Mexico
  4. 2017 OAS General Assembly. Third Plenary Session and Closing Session

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc. (ECADE) is a network of organisations working across the eastern Caribbean. ECADE works to increase the competence of activists and increase knowledge and awareness of the people of the eastern Caribbean for the advancement of LGBTQI and marginalised populations in
the region. Learn more at www.ecequality.org or email info@ecequality.org.

United and Strong’s Human Rights conversation with Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun.

United and Strong delegate meets with Minister Sarah Flood Beaubrun
United and Strong Inc’s Communications and Advocacy Officer – Bennet Charles; Minister with responsibility for External Affairs – Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun; United and Strong Inc Board Secretary- Jessica St. Rose and Permanent Secretary Dr. Alison Gajadhar

On the heels of the 47th regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) taking place on June 19-21 in the city of Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, United and Strong’s request to meet with Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun was accepted.  The meeting sort to provide the Minister with information on the work of United and Strong Inc, discrimination issues faced my LGBT persons and the government’s position on recommendations made at the 2011 and 2015 UPR cycles.

Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun, Minister with responsibility for External Affairs and accompanied by Permanent Secretary Dr. Alison Gadjahdar, hosted the United and Strong’s delegation of the Communications and Advocacy Officer – Bennet Charles and Board Secretary Jessica St. Rose.

United and Strong provided the Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun and her team with our Annual Summary 2016 and a briefing on current projects in 2017.  Both parties agreed  on the unacceptable nature of discrimination targeting women and members of the LGBT community. Conversation related to recommendations made in the 1st and 2nd Cycles of St. Lucia’s Universal Periodic Review saw both parties agreeing to have followup meetings to discuss these recommendations. The Minister and her staff made a commitment to extend an invitation to United and Strong Inc to be part of a national UPR consultation.

The various atrocities experienced by key populations in St. Lucia clearly highlighted the need for advocacy.  There was consensus that major changes in the attitudes of certain sectors of society needs to happen, however the  question still remains, whether such advocacy should be the role of the Government, or whether it should be carried out by organisations like United and Strong Inc?

United and Strong Inc will look to continue it’s consultative process and curtosy visits to other key Ministers within this new administration. We remain adamant in our call to have government state a clear position on the LGBT community, while at the same time recognizing our work and it’s positive impact.

We have FAILED our women and girls

Presentation1United and Strong Inc got the opportunity to view a recent “pornographic video” circulating social media, featuring some level of sexual abuse of a young lady.

While some may seem to have dubbed this a form of “pornography’ we prefer to refer to it as the humiliation, torture and abuse of a young woman.  We are not too concerned with whether this was a recent or past situation but more so the continued objectification, sexual harassment and abuse experienced by our women and girls in Saint Lucia.  Such treatment appears to be part of the fabric of a young woman’s life and seems to be an accepted norm.

Too often such behaviors are described as “normal stuff” that “men do” while at the same time fostering in our women a culture of tolerating what “just happens” and where they are criticized for not successfully maneuvering men’s aggressive sexual behavior.  We somehow accepted a behavior where women play into the myth that “men will be men” and that men are unable to contain their sexual desires the way women do.

As men, we must accept the reality that we have failed and continue to fail our women, our daughters and our mothers.  We have bought into the belief that such behavior is what makes us “men”.  Even crazier is the apparent reality that women themselves are not being each other’s keeper.  Too often victims are belittled by their peers, holding them responsible for their victimization.

What is most disheartening to United and Strong Inc is the fact women in our upper echelons of government are doing very little to curb the impact of such crimes on their fellow women.  We have seen the many comments of being “empathetic” to women during times of crisis or when it’s politically appropriate.

If indeed our elected female Members of Parliament and female Ministers are “empathetic” towards their fellow women then:

  • Why remain muted when a cabinet colleague was involved in an alleged sexual misconduct?

  •  Why make comments that the best place for a new born baby was at a make-shift nursery at the Bordelais Correctional Facility?

  •  Why is that Victoria Hospital can’t have a separate examination room for victims of sexual violence?

  •  Why is it so difficult to have a full-time Social worker/Counselor stationed at the Office of the Vulnerable Persons Unit (VPT)?

United and Strong challenges the female Parliamentarians and Ministers to reflect a difference in how they engage the electorate and not become tangled in the “boy clubs” persona of our political parties.  We urge you to cast aside your political colors and initiate realistic activities that would lend to the safety and security of women within your communities.

We further challenge you to be bold and recognize the work United and Strong has been and continues to do with not just LGBT persons but women.  We open our doors to you, so you can engage the many recipients of our Red Light Project and other initiatives.

As a civil society organisation, we are committed to creating a future free from sexual violence and believe every individual has a role to play in this vision. All forms of bias, prejudice and oppression obstruct the mission of ending sexual violence.  We look forward to your willingness in partnering with United and Strong Inc and creating a conducive environment for national growth and development.

Expanding the Rapid HIV/Syphilis Testing with United and Strong Inc

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Rapid HIV/Syphilis Trainer Ms. Hosier conducting a demo

Expanding Rapid HIV and Syphilis Testing- United and Strong Inc partnered with the Ministry of Health in providing Rapid HIV and Syphilis to staff of the various STI clinics and lab staff within the Ministry of Health. Participants also came from various partner agencies such as the Saint Lucia Planned Parenthood and United and Strong Inc supporters.

The 4 day trianing made possible through the Global Fund Project for the Prevention of HIV/TB was supervised by the Caribbean Med Labs Association and the OECS HIV Project.

This places the various organisations in a better position to provide Rapid HIV and Syphilis testing for key population including pregnant women. Congenital syphilis and HIV continue to be an issue among key populations and such an initiative puts Saint Lucia in a better position to curb the impact of HIV and Syphilis within our population.

Double Grant Award Winners -from Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)

red-lightThe strategic goal of the HIV Elimination Project is reducing the incidence of HIV infection in accordance with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, which United and Strong has dedicated to facilitating among key populations.  Facilitating access to services by key populations is undoubtedly a critical component of the work.  Hence, United and Strong Inc became a double grant recipient towards scaling the HIV response among key populations.

The two grants from the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, one of which falls under “Community Capacity Building and Campaigns to promote health and human rights” and funded under the CVC MACAIDS FUND  and other being the “Red Light Outreach Project” under OECS Global Fund HIV/TB Project  the will focus primarily on working with key populations within the LGBT and sex worker communities.

Some primary objectives of these project will be to provide HIV Rapid Test and phlebotomy training for members of the key populations.  Activities will also focus on enhancing the documentation of human rights violations of persons within key populations while also providing a level of security and personal safety training.  A key component of both projects will be the provision of sexual health services within a conducive environment.

Both projects are set to span over a nine month period ending in September of 2017. We anticipate a successful outcome where key populations will be empowered and equipped with the proper skill sets to provide peer education along with related sexual health and human rights services to colleagues.

The first component of the Red Light Project will be a Peer Education training for a cadre of 15 women in the area of Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV.  Mr. Bennet Charles – Communications & Advocacy Officer for United and Strong Inc shared the following comments;

“This is a most timely initiate on the heels on the 1 Billion Rising Campaign as we aim to bring focus and visibility on the exploitation of our women and girls, while enhancing their capacity to be more resilient”

United and Strong will continue to partner with other agencies to increase capacity and strengthen networks with health service provides to ensure the successful implementation of these projects.

United and Strong for “We Shall Not Tire”

United and Strong Inc was founded with the sole purpose of “PROVIDING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR THE LGBTI COMMUNITY IN ST LUCIA”.

The one matchepidemic of HIV in Saint Lucia and the region brought with it the epidemic of Stigma and discrimination fueled by the early myth that AIDS was a “gay disease” along with our uneducated and misguided information of LGBT persons. The presence of anti-LGBT laws within our criminal code made it even easier to turn a blind eye to the social injustice faced by the community.

Our perceived religious practices and beliefs based around persons of sexual orientations different from that of a heterosexual, created an even more anti-LGBT atmosphere. One which has resulted in both physical and psychological abuse of LGBT persons be it that their sexual orientation was perceived or real.

This is the environment which spawned the formation of United and Strong Inc and many other organizations across our region with the same goal. It was realized that governments of the region were not ready to fully address the issues affecting such population even when HIV statistics showed they should be at the negotiating table and given due representation, nationally, regionally and internationally.

Our region has seen a number of initiatives geared at giving a voice to the voiceless, structures such as CRN+, CVC, and PSI Caribbean all targeting the vulnerabilized populations of sex workers, LGBTI youth etc. These initiatives were developed because it was clear that critical groups were either left out of the negotiations when addressing how to curb the impact of HIV in the region. We can also view it simply as fear of a political backlash at the end of the five year term of a government.

Organizations such as United and Strong Inc with support from other international partners have ensured that representation when lacking by our governments, are given at the highest level of international structures. When politicians claim to represent the views of the region, we and our colleagues can paint the true picture at these international spaces.

Saint Lucia and the rest of the OECS region are set to implement the Global Fund for AIDS and Tuberculosis which includes emphasis on: combination prevention to key populations and community systems strengthening.   We as an organization look forward to the views of our government and the working relationship we hope they will establish with the LGBT community. We look forward to hearing our government’s national and international policies in relation to the LGBT community and related human rights issues.

 We have and will continue to express our concerns over such matters like the anti-LGBT/anti-human rights laws contained in our criminal code. It is critical we engage in dialogue with the governance structures of our government that give representation to Saint Lucia at the international level on matters of HIV and Human Rights related issues.

We shall as an organization continue to monitor the comments and views of various government ministers and the international policies of our government in relation to LGBT issues. We shall as an institution of this country continue to strive, for we shall not tire and we shall not remain quiet.

“Condomize De Mas” – U&S Joins Red Rebellion at Red Bikini Affair

Presentation1United and Strong Inc joins Red Rebellion Carnival Band & Mercury on June 19th , 2016 at Pigeon Island Causeway at what is set to be the most untamed beach rave yet.

The Red Unlimited Carnival Band, referred to as Red Carnival is best described as a party band with two distinguishing features – attracting Revelers with Energy to dazzle spectators and demonstrating innovation to keep the band on the cutting edge of the revelers’ experience.

United and Strong Inc is a registered non government organization, focused on LGBT and HIV/STI Health Education for marginalized communities in Saint Lucia and the OECS islands. A major component of the organization’s work is to eliminate stigma and discrimination, reduce inequality, and protect human rights and lives.

During the Red Bikini Affair and other Carnival events, U&S team members’ urges revelers and patrons to “Condomize De Mas”. Peer Educators will disseminate safe sex information, male and female condoms and lubricants to the public. The organization recognizes that persons engage in risky behaviors during the Carnival Season and so felt it necessary to heighten the awareness of safe sex practices.

This Carnival Season U&S urges the public to get tested so you can know your status.  Remember More Condoms, More Love!!!!!  For more information about the organization, visit our facebook page: United and Strong Inc or search for us on Instagram: @unitedandstrong.slu