Caribbean Women Recommit to Advocating for Diversity

(October 15, 2014) Advocates for lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in the Caribbean have been encouraged to commit to enhance their advocacy at the second Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference. Staged in Paramaribo, Suriname, the CWSDC is organised by United and Strong with the support of Women’S Way and the pan-Caribbean network CariFLAGS.

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Officials, organisers and LBT activists at CWSDC opening ceremony

“CWSDC 2014 brought brilliance, intelligence, motivation and support. The resilience and energy and the spirit of teamwork was evident. The engagement in self-development of each participant made me feel fulfilled and accomplished,” says Executive Director of U&S Kenita Placide. She says, “This conference, which was held for the second time had the effect of a rude awakening. The need for support, networks, shared experience and the need for space to be comfortable and free was evident. A lot of work has been done but there is so much still to do and we, as a collective, have committed.”

More than thirty women from thirteen countries and eighteen organisations participated in the week-long capacity building conference. Throughout the week participants explore areas as intimate as sexual health and as broad as United Nations mechanisms. The conference also served to gather data about LBT experiences in the region, an essential component of strengthening activism.

The CWSDC opened with an official ceremony that was attended by representatives of the Netherlands and United States embassies, and was addressed by Suriname’s Minister of Internal Affairs Edumund Leilis, parliamentarian Noreen Cheung and representative of the United Nations Population Fund Judith Brielle.

Capacity building for more than thirty LBT activists
Capacity building for more than thirty LBT activists

The CWSDC received financial and technical support from several quarters, most notable the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Global Fund for Women, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Arcus Foundation, Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights, MADRE, Institute for Gender & Development Studies (Nita Barrow Unit – University of the West Indies) and Women’s Health in Women’s Hands.

With the aim of “Inspiring women to leadership”, the CWSDC also gave participants an opportunity to add their presence to Suriname Coming Out Week celebrations.

As Tieneke Sumter of Women’S Way stated at the opening ceremony of the second Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference, “According to the goals we have set for this conference it is clear that we are not planning to be invisible. We are here, we are open and will continue to inspire women of all sexualities and gender identities into leadership.”

CWSDC 2014 in pictures

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Background Information:

United and Strong (U&S) is the strongest and most vocal LGBTI representative organisation in the small island Caribbean and houses the eastern hub of the Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS). The CWSDC was conceptualised by this woman-led organisation, which has executed several regional human rights and advocacy based training for civil society and government. Among its activities are distribution of safer sex commodities, empowerment, education and social activities.

Women’SWay Foundation (WSW) is inspired to make women who love women more visible in Suriname and the Caribbean. Formed in 2008 it was registered in 2011. The group aims to be a dynamic, cultural, creative and intellectual platform for women who love women in Suriname.

CariFLAGS, (Caribbean Forum for the Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities) is a unique regional network endorsed in 2011 by 19 groups in 15 countries. It pursues a mission of coordinated advocacy and strengthening of communities and organisations.

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Legally and constitutionally, Saint Lucia and Suriname are very different. Saint Lucia is one of the Anglo-Caribbean islands left by the British with anti-sodomy and gross indecency laws that still formally criminalizes male homosexual relations, while Surinam in inheriting the Dutch European continental (Napoleonic) law system, never had those laws. This difference allows for the opportunity to do comparative research on LGBTI tolerance, homophobia and government and societal attitudes between the two countries, which can be very educational for the rest of the Caribbean island states.

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Contact: Maria Fontenelle

Communications and Advocacy

United and Strong

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