Advocates for lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (LBT) women in the Caribbean have returned to their countries to build the advocacy for LBT women’s issues, following a week-long conference in Curacao. The first Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity conference organised by the Saint Lucia human rights organisation United and Strong Inc (U&S) and Fundashon Orguyo Korsou/Curacao Pride Foundation (FOKO) brought together thirty-five women from fourteen countries to focus on advocacy around LBT women.
U&S Co-Executive Director Kenita Placide says the gathering sought to educate and empower women to stimulate and strengthen the movement. “Human rights are challenged by authorities, institutions and establishments that seek to suppress our right to express ourselves and articulate our opinions. LBT people should not be left behind in the growth of Caribbean society. This conference is about our duty to self, our duty to fight against the injustices and prejudices subjected to this minority group. The road to social justice is not an easy one and requires revolutionary change. It is still not without passion and great sacrifices.”
Under the theme “Strengthening the invisible woman and empowering her to leadership”, activists identified critical issues affecting LBT women in the Caribbean and defined action to address them. Facilitators covered topics that include self-defence, activism and movement building, proposal writing, media, law and history.
Essential to the CWSDC was the contribution of funding partners. The Caribbean Forum for the Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS), Arcus Foundation, ARC International, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Global Equality, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice and Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights, gave invaluable support and advice. CariFLAGS Co-Chair Tieneke Sumter highlights the network’s support. “CariFLAGS was happy to support the CWSDC. Giving support to LB&T initiatives is one of our priorities. As participant and facilitator at the CWSDC I took with me how important it is that L&B leaders and activist from the region have a space where they can share knowledge, learn from each other best practices but also empower each other. In many Caribbean countries the issues L&B women face are invisible and some leaders have to pioneer alone with no resources. The CWSDC created a space where we just could BE, make new friends and load up our energy to continue to strive for equal rights for all!”
The First Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference and Movement Building is supported by participants from Antigua’s Women Against Rape (WAR); Belize’s United Belize Advocacy Movement (Unibam)/Petals; Barbados Gays Lesbian and All Sexuals Against Discrimination (GLAAD) and Movement Against Discrimination Action Coalition (MOVADAC); DomCHAP out of Dominica; Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and Guyana Rainbow Foundation Incorporation (GuyBow); Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, Gays and All Sexuals (JFLAG), Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ) and Women for Women; St. Croix’s Liberty Place; Surinam’s Women’s Way; Saint Lucia’s United and Strong Inc.; WOMANTRA out of Trinidad and Tobago; St Vincent’s VincyCHAP; Grenada’s GrenCHAP; and Bahamas’ LGBT Equality Advocates. There was also representation from the Narrative Foundation of South Africa.
The event was staged alongside Curacao Pride celebration and incorporated several pride activities. Among these was the award ceremony recognising individuals who have contributed to the LGBT movement. Placide was recognised along with Mario Kleinmodig and Dudley Ferdinandus of FOKO and Faye Ferdinandus of CariFLAGS.
In acknowledging the award Placide notes, “This is a tribute to everyone who has worked and supported the movement and me. Thank you to deceased Robert Carr, Egbert Felix, Joan Didier for identifying and giving the opportunity for my leadership to shine. This award is a beacon of hope of a transforming world and a better Caribbean society. The movement is going forward and there is still much to be done.