ST. LUCIA-SINT MAARTEN - “Inspiring women to leadership” is the theme under which activists from across the Caribbean will convene next week in Suriname for the second Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference. An initiative of United and Strong Inc. Saint Lucia, the CWSDC is supported by CariFLAGS and WomenSWay Suriname.
"St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE) is pleased to be able to participate in what is anticipated to become an important regional LBT women's event in the coming years. Our organization is eager to network with and learn from other organizations representing countries throughout the Caribbean. We look forward to sharing the knowledge gained with other interested organizations on St. Maarten and the neighbouring islands, whether they are LGBT or ally. We appreciate the hard work of the organizers and thank them for every courtesy they have extended to our representative," Safe President Lysanne Charles - Arrindell said.
Now in its second year, the CWSDC targets activists in the area of lesbian, bisexual and transsexual health and rights, with the aim of increasing Caribbean women’s visibility in the movement. This year’s collective is drawn from thirteen countries, from Bahamas to Suriname and points in between.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to connect women across the region, in what we aim to be a lasting movement,” says Executive Director of United and Strong Inc. Kenita Placide. She adds, “The women’s conference was conceptualised to enhance the LGBTI movement in the region by amplifying the voices of LBT activists.”
For one week from October 5 to 12 in Paramaribo, Suriname, twenty-four participants will explore ways to improve their advocacy including proposal writing, international mechanisms, community mobilising and media. They will also learn from each other’s varying knowledge and experience in advocacy.
Sessions will be presented by facilitators from Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Suriname. Facilitators are also drawn from the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus), Arcus Foundation, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Astraea Lesbian Foundation and Women’s Health in Women’s Hands.
Faye Ferdinandus of CariFLAGS (Caribbean Forum for the Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexuality), says the mix of presenters will add to the value of the conference. “We want to build networks, which we the organizers did last year, and continue to build upon that foundation. We want to do so this time also. Caribbean presenters bring an understanding of the culture and live the lives so will bring a knowledge of the nuances to the training.”
The CWSDC runs parallel with Suriname Coming Out Week celebrations organised by LGBT Platform Suriname and participants will attend events as part of the conference. Suriname’s annual Coming Out Week is one of the most vibrant pride celebrations in the region, with Suriname’s first lady hanging out the rainbow flag in 2013.
UNITED AND STRONG:
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.
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.