CWSDC strengthens Caribbean LBTQI advocacy


St. CROIX – Lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LBTQI) activists are set to make an even greater impact in advocacy in the region following the 4th annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference (CWSDC).

Under the theme, “Starting here; starting now: Setting the foundation for sustainable engagement,” CWSDC2016 presented knowledge and tools to strengthen activists to have a greater impact where they are located.

From October 4-7, facilitators from a range of backgrounds and feminists approaches engaged participants in sessions targeted to meet them at their current level of advocacy. Human rights, documentation, media, advocacy and community building strategies were among the topics explored. Some of the tough issues of the week include youth involvement, LBTQI visibility and accountability to self and community. Among the thought-provoking presenters were Dr. Gloria Josep, womanist and partner to the late Audre Lord, Dr. Beverly Bain of the University of Toronto, Carolyn Carr and Rev Qiyamah Rahman.

Hosts, Liberty Place, welcomed 42 LBTQI activists from 19 countries to St. Croix for the week-long capacity-building and empowerment conference. More than 21 organisations and a range of approaches to LBTQI activism were represented.

As conference guest speaker Steve Letsike of Access Chapter 2, South Africa noted: “Our work will not just change our own lives, it will change that of others as well. It is very critical that we think about how the theories learned are implemented. We have to think about the intersecting issues – if we want to incite social change.”

Inciting change is exactly what participants intend. Already there is tangible evidence in the conference itself.  Of the five returning participants from previous years, three served as organisers and facilitators.

In 2016 Lavonne Wise of St. Croix, Afifa Aza or Jamaica and Lysanne Charles-Arrindell of St. Maarten continued the trend established over the past three years of the conference.

The CWSDC will also affect change-making across diverse communities as participants representation includes both male to female and female to male transgender people. There is also diverse representation across age range with a full 38% of participants being youth and 21% over the age of 50.

Kenita Placide, Executive Director of ECADE, stressed, “The CWSDC will help to solidify and enhance the work of change-makers where they are located. The CWSDC is crucial to developing sexual rights initiatives in the Caribbean towards a more inclusive and equitable society and we look forward to the continuing contribution of CWSDC participants to this goal.”

The CWSDC seeks to increase the level of LBTQI engagement in activism, with the aim of advancing the full recognition of the rights of LGBTQI community. It engages active women human rights defenders working in a Caribbean context.

The conference was previously co-hosted by FOKO in Curaçao, WomenSWay in Suriname and Womantra in Trinidad. The CWSDC is vested in the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE).