United & Strong Inc. says “stick to the issues”

 

Presentation1Call it the “Silly season,” and it has began to descend upon us in the lead-up to the next general election on June 6th 2016.

While Easter might have instilled hope for a better Saint Lucia, the recent announcement of the date for general election, has inevitably resurrected negative campaigning in ways that reminds us that we are in the carnival season.

Hyper-partisanship reaches its apex at the national level and its potential for destructiveness is worrying to United and Strong Inc. The organization understands too well the impact that stigmatizing and discriminatory words have on persons of the LGBT community. Sadly, during an election season or what we call the “silly season” words are used back and forth between various political parties, more with the intent of detracting the electorate from the true issues.

Our political candidates have historically embraced a culture of mud-slinging and “mepwe”, where the electorate themselves get caught in the “bacchanal”. United and Strong believes that such behavior serves more to detract citizens from national issues that they are faced with on a daily basis.

During this election campaign we’ve only had one other mention of anything related to the LGBT issues, when LGBT persons were referred to as being “demon possessed”. However all the issues that affect LGBT persons, have never been discussed on a political platform by any of the political parties and that is indeed very concerning to the organization.

It is rather easy for negativity to go viral via social media, hence we call on the political candidates to be more concerned about how language is used during this 2016 election campaign. We call on the various political candidates who are the future government of this country to openly speak on the issues being faced by our LGBT citizens. If policymakers are truly supportive of the LGBT community, we call on them to engage their colleagues to explore the repelling of discriminatory laws such as Criminal Code Section 132 Gross Indecency Act and Section 133 Buggery Law.

If we’re truly concerned as a nation about the social stigma and discrimination faced by our LGBT persons, then help in creating an atmosphere that embraces persons no matter their sexual orientation or perceived orientation. We at United and Strong are well positioned to understand the many faces of stigma and discrimination experienced by persons at their various places of employment, within their congregation, by unemployed young LGBT persons, at schools and within their communities. We are too familiar with the myriad of situations where our community members are verbally and physically abused.

No political candidate has stood up openly on a political platform and supported the work that United and Strong has been doing over the past fifteen (15) years. We call on our political hopefuls, to address the relevant national issues affecting our nation such as those of HIV and AIDS and related increasing rates of infection among our males.

We do hope as the campaign continues that our various political candidates speak out on matters of substance that affect LGBT persons and every other Saint Lucian. We ask them to acknowledge United and Strong as an organization that has enhance the quality of life for our LGBT community both nationally and regionally.

Advertisements

Celebrating IDAHOT 2016 with “Acceptance” – Documentary of an LGBT person

IDAHOT-full-logoInternational Day against Homophobia and Transphobia is observed on May 17 internationally.   It aims to coordinate events that raise awareness of LGBT rights violations and work worldwide.  The 2016 celebration is being held under the theme “Mental Health and Well Being

The main purpose of the May 17 mobilization is to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBT communities worldwide.  This in turn provides an opportunity to take action and engage in dialogue with the media, policymakers, public opinion, and wider civil society.

United and Strong Inc the only LGBT organization in Saint Lucia will join the rest of the world and other activists in the region to highlight the various psychological and related issues faced by LGBT persons.  The recently held Caribbean Men’s Dialogue in Dominica from April 18-21st brought forth the myriad of issues faced by Caribbean men along with possible strategies to curb the social stigma and discrimination.

IDAHOT celebrations in Saint Lucia will be launched with the posting of a documentary developed under the What’s Your Position Project supported by UNDP – Social Innovation for Change Project.   The  film  dubbed “Acceptance”will highlight the various forms of social stigma and discrimination experienced by an LGBT individual and will be posted on various social media platforms of United and Strong Inc.

The documentary will also explore the many psychological challenges faced by the individual and the paths explored to acceptance and working through the various challenges at work and in her personal life.

Celebrations will continue into the month of June and will feature a number of panel discussions and debate involving stakeholders along with members of the LGBT community.  A major part of IDAHOT celebration is an opportunity for the community to celebrate their diversity with a Pride Stand.  The activity will feature LGBT allies and United & Strong members coming together to silently highlight the forms of social stigma and discrimination.

Saint Lucia as a small Caribbean nation has an important role to play in fighting for the basic human rights of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The struggle to end discrimination against LGBT persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the organisation’s commitment to promoting human rights.

Two LGBT activists murdered in Bangladesh — 76 CRIMES

In Bangladesh, two LGBT rights activists, including the editor of Roopbaan, the country’s first LGBT magazine, were hacked to death this morning in a flat in the country’s capital, Dhaka. The deceased are Roopbaan editor Xulhaz Mannan, 35, and his friend, Tonoy Mojumdar, also an LGBT rights activist. Bangladeshi LGBT rights activists expressed shock and […]

via Two LGBT activists murdered in Bangladesh — 76 CRIMES

Inaugural Caribbean Men’s Dialogue 2016

 

Caribbean Men's DialogueThe high rates of HIV infection along with the large percentage of men enrolled in HIV treatment and care in Saint Lucia and other OECS islands, have certainly been a concern for United and Strong Inc (Saint Lucia) and DomCHAP out of Dominica.

These two partners believe that the absence of an enabling and supportive environment often drives key populations such as members of the GBT community underground.   This translate into a  disconnect from social support and other important resources that could help improve their general health opportunities and quality of life. This ultimately formed the basis for this inaugural Caribbean Men’s Dialogue 2016, taking place in Roseau Dominica from April 18-21st 2016.

With varying levels of resources available for HIV and AIDS programming and health system capacity across the different countries in the Caribbean, the region faces an array of challenges to not only sustain but to scale up their national HIV and AIDS responses. The challenge implied by a 90-90-90 scale up scenario, as well as decreasing funding levels and/or shifts in funding priorities among international donors, requires countries, and the region as a whole to carefully examine programmatic priorities to determine the most efficient way to achieve impact.

In light of such the Caribbean Men’s Dialogue will endeavor to:

  • Create a forum for in depth dialogue on sexual diversity, health and human rights issues.
  • Identify strategies to help surmount the main challenges of key population advocacy in the OECS.
  • Strengthen Regional key population groups and individuals partnerships and collaboration towards stronger regional key population networks, thereby contributing a more valuable voice to the global effort.
  • Examine strategies for engaging other sectors and movement with a view to informing a more positive narrative. Engaging the media is one area that may prove useful and it may be interesting to hear the view of the participants in this regards.
  • Scale up HIV prevention and treatment strategies for key population within the OECS, and convene dialogue on the status of key population behavioral health and promotion in the OECS territories.

Dr. Stephen King from Saint Lucia is set to be the keynote speaker on the human rights issues of GBT persons within an HIV context, at this inaugural meeting of men from the French and English speaking Caribbean region.  This will be followed by a number of panel discussions,  presentations and working sessions by various regional and international partners over the next four days.  Helping to meet the expected outcomes, organisations such as Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)Men Who Have Sex With Men Global Forum (MSMGF),  UNAIDS CaribbeanOutRight Action International OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS,  Premiere association franciase de lutte contre VIH/sida et les hepatitesAfrican Men For Sexual Health and Rights AMSHeR and MiRiDOM will be engaging participants at the various forums.

In addition to the development of a strategic plan to enhance interventions among GBT men within the OECS on the heels of the OECS GFATM Project , participants hope to get consensus on a Caribbean Men’s declaration position paper to be presented by its representatives at the  UNAIDS 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS taking place in New York from June 8-10 2016.

United and Strong Inc and DomCHAP looks forward to this dialogue helping in the transformation of our region within the context of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

Expanding Community Reach – through education

Presentation1United and Strong Inc fully embraces the belief that people are more likely to hear and personalize messages, and thus change their attitudes and behaviors, if they believe the messenger is similar to them and faces the same concerns and pressures.  Hence the utilization of peer education continues to be a major service offered not only to members but other populations in Saint Lucia.

Realizing the success of the first cohort of peer educators trained with the collaboration of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities and MAC AIDS FUND, these partners have decided to foster the training of another cadre of educators.  The increased in the number of trained personnel provides the opportunity for United and Strong Inc to make true its theme for 2016 “Expanding community response, through dignity, love, respect, protection and equality for all”

This training being conducted by master JHPIEGO trainer Patricia Joseph, will see an additional 10 young educators.  The second phase will also include a new component to improve the quality of service delivered by the educators and will factor in Productivity Enhancement Training which will be conducted by the Advocacy Officer of United and Strong Inc, Bennet Charles.

The new cohort of educators are indeed elated to have been selected to not only receive this level of training but to be part of the national response toward influencing behavior change among Saint Lucians while fostering personal growth and development.  According to one educator “this is a major opportunity to work with other partners in Saint Lucia and expand the reach of our services”

The impact of HIV & AIDS along with other STIs among marginalized youth and other vulnerabilized population especially males will continue to increase if interventions are not target specific.  This new cadre of educators further positions United and Strong Inc as an organization critical in ensuring that Saint Lucia can achieve the 90-90-90 targets set by the international community.

United and Strong hopes to partner with other national stakeholders such as the Bureau of Health Education within the Ministry of Health, UNDP Barbados and the OECS, Saint Lucia Association of Social Workers, Saint Lucia Planned Parenthood Association along with others, as we continue to work towards enhancing the quality of life of LGBT persons in Saint Lucia.

UnS contributes to Saint Kitts/Saint Lucia UPR statements

(Geneva, March 18, 2016)  “We remind the Government (of Saint Lucia) that human rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and we therefore urge the Government, to repeal laws that criminalise persons based on their gender Identity or sexual orientation and affirm the rights of LGBTI persons.” So ends the statement to the 31st session of the Human Rights Council from United and Strong Inc and Sexual Rights Initiative.

The statement on the occasion of the Universal Periodic Review Outcomes for Saint Lucia, called on government to fulfil it’s international obligations, especially as it relates to the full recognition of the rights of all citizens .

See the statement here: Saint Lucia statement

UnS also contributed to a statement during the discussion on outcomes for St Kitts and Nevis, collaborating with Saint Kitts Alliance for Equality, and CariFLAGS. The statement urged the government to “recognise a popular mandate is not needed to ensure security, justice and equality for all, in particular its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and disabilities communities.”

Find the statement here: Saint Kitts Nevis UPR statement

— ENDS —

Love Responsibly: Knowing Your HIV Status Valentine’s Day 2016

test

Those working in the field of HIV, from policy makers to programmers, and national governments to community-based organisations, operate within the framework of global HIV targets.   United and Strong Inc and other national stakeholders have also embraced the targets of 90-90-90 which are the geared to ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.

The first 90 target represents those living with HIV would know their status, this is certainly achieved by stepping up the availability of HIV testing nationally.  Valentine’s Day 2016 provided the opportunity for United and Strong Inc to continue it’s collaborative relationship with other national partners through two HIV Rapid Testing Outreach sites leading up to Valentine’s Day on 14th February 2016.

The first outreach was conducted on Wednesday 10th February 2016 in partnership with the Gros-Islet Polyclinic, Bureau of Health Education- Ministry of Health.  This outreach saw a collaborative relationship between staff of the various institution including United and Strong Inc.  United and Strong Inc supported the initiative by making available VCT providers and Peer Educators who have all been part of the Peer Education Project funded by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.

United and Strong Valentine’s Day testing outreach rest on the belief that nothing says “I love you” like knowing and sharing your status with your significant other or any other special person in your life. Hence if you really wanted to impress your date this Valentine’s Day, protect their health — and yours — by getting tested.  Therefor the continued HIV Rapid Testing outreach in the community of Soufriere on Saturday 13th February 2016.  This activity was initiated by a young man, Luigi Edgar after reaching out to United and Strong and seeing the need to step up the presence of testing in his community and a way of showing love during the Valentine’s Day celebration.

The partnership with the Bureau of Health Education – Soufriere Office ,  Community Health Educator- Ms.Simone Mondesir including the Soufriere Regional Development Foundation along with the Saint Lucia Planned Parenthood Association made this a most successful activity.

While HIV has become one of the most critical issues of our time,United and Strong Inc continues to be a very effective space for reaching women and men with HIV services. This is essential because many people living with HIV are unaware of their status and show no symptoms.  Therefore we will continue to expand our reach through such activities to facilitate the process of Saint Lucia meeting the 90-90-90 targets

Love is not limited to Valentine’s Day. Similarly, this message is not limited to February 14. We can love and live in great health at the same time, if we love smartly.  Get Tested..For You..For Us!!

 

Call for Application: O.E.C.S. Men’s Dialogue 2016

new save date banner dialogue 2

United and Strong Inc Saint Lucia and DomCHAP of Dominica invites applications from Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Men from the O.E.C.S. to attend the the first ever O.E.C.S. Key Population Men’s Dialogue which will be held In Dominica on April 18th-21st,2016, under the theme “Beyond Where We Are”, It’s our turn to make a difference for what matters.

The goals of the OECS Key Populations Dialogue will endeavor to:

  • Create a forum for discussions on sexual diversity, health and human rights issues.
  • Identify strategies to help surmount the main challenges of key population advocacy in the OECS.
  • Build capacity and strengthen regional key population groups and individuals towards stronger regional Key Population networks.
  • Scale up HIV prevention and treatment strategies for key populations within the OECS, and convene dialogue on the status of key population behavioral health and promotion in the OECS territories.

Local and Regional expertise will be used to facilitate the 2016 Men’s dialogue and will focus on the following areas.

Health and Security

  • Addressing Key Population, Physical, Mental and Psycho social Health.
  • Personal Safety/ Safe Spaces for Community Interaction and Growth.

Human Rights

  • Adressing Human Rights issues for Key Population within the HIV context.
  • Socio-Cultural Stigma and Discrimination
  • What does investing in communities look like.

Capacity Building/ Effective Community Mobilization towards a regional key population specific response.

Modeling and sustaining Community Based HIV interventions for Key Populations.

  • The Panel Discussion will be working towards a common OECS Key Population in post 2016 outcome: consensus statement from panel discussions on moving past the Men’s Dialogue 2016.

The conference will end with  the hope of establishing a more unified O.E.C.S. key population partnership to foster effective communication and advocacy mechanism.

Application deadline for scholarships to attend the 2016 Dialogue will be February 20th, 2016

Application form can be completed online via the OECS Men’s Dialogue Application and Scholarship request form 

For more information email us at uns.mensequality@gmail.com; read our WordPress Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

VII ILGA-LAC Conference – save the date!

The date has been set for the 7th regional conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean. ILGA-LAC VII will be hosted in Saint Lucia by  United and Strong Inc and CariFLAGS from August 1 – 4, 2016.

Check back for more information on United and Strong’s blog or on the ILGA-LAC website.

Save the date - ILGA-LAC 2016, Saint Lucia
Save the date – ILGA-LAC 2016, Saint Lucia