The CWSDC: Securing the future of LBT rights advocacy
I recently had the pleasure of attending the United & Strong 3rd Annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference (CSWDC) between October 5 and 11, 2015. This weeklong conference created a platform for fostering regionalism on which best practices and experiences could be exchanged. It was a week of reinforcing lessons that I had already garnered in my capacity building exercises with Women’s Empowerment for Change (WE-Change) and J-FLAG; with this built capacity I was able to grasp readily the topics being discussed, and fuel discourse with my own input.
Through active discussions and participatory learning activities, I learnt about the challenges affecting LGBT rights advocacy work (with specific relation to LBT women’s rights) in the various territories, and was able to draw comparisons to Jamaica’s own human rights situation. Most pertinent of all matters discussed was the session on Security for Human Rights Defenders presented by Mindy Michaels of Human Dignity Trust. Discussed here were the issues relating to personal, organizational and digital security and measures – if any – taken by each organisation and/or individual to mitigate against breaches of the aforementioned. The information shared by participants on their best practices and approaches to securing their organizations’ premises and their person, demonstrated how similar the territories were in terms of operational procedures that were used to effect safer human rights activism. These anecdotes also served as testament to the varying levels of tolerance that existed in these communities and the dangers faced by human rights defenders, especially LGBT activists.
Kim Vance, Director of ARC International delivered an enlightening presentation on United Nations Mechanisms, including the Commission on the Status of Women. I found this session be most engaging, useful, and offered a lot of valuable key takeaways. Learning about the United Nations’ processes and understanding the ease with which I can access these services on a personal and organizational level was quite impactful given how daunting the process seemingly was initially.
Outside the conference formalities, there were planned entertainment sessions that helped to boost camaraderie among the participants in lighter atmosphere and facilitated cultural exchange which I found to be an added benefit to personal networking efforts. These conversations also facilitated informal and friendly conversations that could not have been had in conference discussions.
The sense of pride invoked by constant references by other organisations to the work of WE-Change and our accomplishments over the few months since officially launching, served as a personal motivating factor to continue my commitment to building what I know will become the standard bearer for the women’s rights movement in Jamaica and the region, in the immediate oncoming years. I am grateful for this opportunity to network and share my professional and personal experiences with persons within the region and I’ve definitely learnt lessons that I will use to fortify my own advocacy in Jamaica.