‘Style is the vehicle of substance.’ –Amilcar Sanatan
I went to the #CWSDC2015 expecting a lot but expecting very little at the same time. I went in feeling like I was part of the ‘A team’ from WE-Change Jamaica and so a bit of the learning that would take place could possibly come from us, and we would speedily action that which was taught by our Caribbean colleagues. The learning that occurred for me was more of a latent than manifest function of the conference. Notwithstanding, the conference covered a lot of ground that I think is important for people who are just entering the advocacy world, those at the forefront, and those who want to make an impact even within the shadows.
In large parts the conference echoed ideas around what the keynote speaker challenged the group of 50 plus women to do, that is, working against sexist, capitalist, racist, heteronormative ideas and practices, and creating enabling environments where women, especially queer women can feel, and be free; this we can do by ‘decolonizing minds, bodies and spirits, and talking openly about sex and sexualities’ -Dr. Nixon.
A lot of useful information – theory and praxis – was shared on media (including social media) as a tool for advocacy. There was also quite a bit of theoretical and practical conversations about fundraising, self-care, UN Systems and international law, security for women involved in this very dangerous work, community grassroots organising, stereotypes, and violence. I think though, that the presentation on ‘how to make a presentation’ would have served well as an entre to the more substantive aspects of the conference.
Amilcar Sanatan did a stellar job at bringing the points across, one of which I think resonated with everyone: ‘style is the vehicle of substance’. Had that been precursory, I think a lot more could have been gleaned from the content shared, which was mostly relevant and therefore useful.
I learnt a lot of things about myself at the conference too, or at least I was reminded quite a bit about who I am at my core, and how much I am stepping out of my box to enter this realm of work. I don’t have people skills. And while I may be a Master of Sociology, a teacher and a ‘friend to more than a few people’, I score low on people skills. I am socially awkward and quite okay with not being the most likeable person in the room. But we were reminded by one of the presenters that likeability and respectability, one or the other, or a combination, can be very useful in this line of work; strong social and professional networks, and a good track record are vital if you want to reach not only the holders of the big bucks but the persons who you have in your various proposals as your beneficiaries.
The single most important lesson I learned was that though I believe I have a wealth of knowledge, passion and drive to support my community back home, I recognised at the #CWSDC2015 that the soft skills are perhaps lacking, and as Amilicar would have suggested, they’re equally important. This realisation was significant for me particularly because I have now become fully dipped (professionally) in the waters of social justice advocacy.
I am grateful for the organisers – United and Strong and Womantra who executed the third staging of the Annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference at the Kapok Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad. All the best to Liberty Place who will host the fourth staging in St. Croix 2016!