Sexual diversity conference brings fifty women together

POSTED: 10/21/15 1:28 PM


Regional LBT activists1aParticipants of the Caribbean Woman and Sexual Diversity conference. Photo Contributed

St. Maarten – All participants have hailed the third Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference 2015, hosted by United and Strong Saint Lucia/CariFlags Eastern Caribbean Hub and Womantra, with support from the Women’s Caucus of Trinidad and Tobago, as a success. The conference, held at the Kapok Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad, from October 5 to 11 saw over 50 lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) participants, as well as straight allies, from the Caribbean and Latin America, from a variety of feminist, LBT and women’s organizations in attendance.

Members of St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE) on St. Maarten/St. Martin were among those participating and feel, “proud that they were able to attend a regional LBT women’s event of this magnitude. So much was shared and so much was learned. We definitely look forward to sending a delegation again next year and we have to thank the organizers, Body, Mind & Spirit of Saba and COC Netherlands for making our trip possible. We will definitely put the knowledge we acquired to good use,” says Lysanne Charles-Arrindell.

Kenita Placide, Executive Director of United and Strong, said it was interesting to see the politics and diversity in action between the groups. “Being able to pull it off and have over 50 persons in the room was a new high for the conference. We were able to also involve persons from Latin America with translation and their involvement brought a wealth of knowledge that was not present in the English-speaking Caribbean. The challenge going forward is how do we continue to improve, including ensuring the agenda reflects the needs of the people attending.”

The participants attended several facilitated seminars on a variety of subjects, including community grassroots organizing, negative stereotypes and violence, fundraising, both locally and internationally, media and advocacy, creative activism, self-care, analysis of some of the international law relating to women, security of women’s human rights defenders and LBT women’s movement building through feminism.

Each year United & Strong partners with an organization from one of the participating territories based on a voting system. The idea behind this is to increase the capacity of organizations throughout the region and build solidarity through sharing resources and knowledge. Womantra founder and co-director Stephanie Leitch said that, “co-ordinating a conference for some 50 people was definitely a challenge but at the end of the day you are not planning a one-time event but building a movement. We have to be responsible for the nature and direction of our movement toward equality and justice and I am particularly invested in how feminist lessons can be applied to LBT activism and how we are offering support to each other across difference.”

The conference was also an opportunity to gather factual data on the issues affecting LBT women and this was facilitated by the University of the West Indies through the Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), Cavehill. IGDS Cave Hill researcher, Shari Innis Grant, said “what both last year’s and this year’s conference provided was the opportunity to fill a gap of documentation of LBT persons’ experience throughout the Caribbean. There is a lack of data across various areas in the Caribbean, we rely on anecdotal evidence but we’re now getting into a pattern of really firm, consistent, dependable documentation. I think having spaces like these is essential to collect further documentation and be able to put specific narratives to the lone statistics we have and get to see what’s causing these issues.”

The conference made a decision to host the 4th Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference in St. Croix with the support of Liberty Place. SaysLeitch, “I was honoured to have the opportunity to co-host the CWSDC this year and look forward to passing the torch to Liberty Place and my new comrades there, in continuation of a Carivision that dares not only to dream but to pursue the freedom and liberty of all women.”

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