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Dozens of Caribbean activists gather for LBTQI empowerment

Dr. Tonya Haynes addresses the opening session of the fifth annual  CWSDC. (Photo courtesy of CWSDC)

Dr. Tonya Haynes addresses the opening session of the fifth annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference. (Photo courtesy of CWSDC)

“It is important that voices from the entire Caribbean are heard,” Jassica St. Rose of Saint Lucia said about the just-ended LBTQI Caribbean activists’ conference there. “We do our best to embolden and energise as many activists and organisations in as many countries as possible.”

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE) reported about the conference:

Caribbean LBT Women’s Conference Marks Historic 5th year

CWSDC working session (Photo courtesy of CWSDC)

A CWSDC working session: CWSDC is, in more than one aspect, the premier event for LBTQI people to network and to develop their skills. (Photo courtesy of CWSDC)

(Saint Lucia, Oct. 10, 2017) From October 5 to October 9, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LBTQI) activists from across the region gathered on Saint Lucia for the 5th annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference (CWSDC). The groundbreaking pre-eminent networking event for LBTQI activists was convened under the theme ‘Self-Development for Community Empowerment’.

“The first ever Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference was held on Curacao in 2013. Since then the event has traveled the Caribbean from Suriname to Trinidad to St. Croix and now, because of the steadfast involvement of United and Strong, to Saint Lucia,” organiser Kenita Placide says.

Maria Fontenelle, co-coordinator of the event since its inception, notes “The CWSDC is, in more than one aspect, the premier event for LBTQI activists to grow their skills and network. It has grown in recognition and scope around the region, particularly because of the work in which activists engage post-conference. It is now vested in the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE), which as a regional organisation is better poised to maintain it.”

Conference organisers say over the years the conference has focused on empowering activists to better serve their communities and region. This empowerment is reflected not only in the work that activists return home to do, but also their growing involvement in the conference as presenters and organisers.

“Human rights and the extension of human rights to LBT women and other vulnerable groups across the Caribbean remains a strong focus of the conference. As organisers who are activists ourselves, we understand that empowerment must take a holistic approach; thus catering to both organisational development, but also personal development,” organiser Lysanne Charles of ECADE and St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE) says.

Some 50 plus activists and presenters from 20 countries were [signed up for] the regional conference and come from islands and countries spanning from the Bahamas in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south and Belize, Guyana and Suriname on the mainland.

Logo of United and Strong of St. Lucia

Logo of United and Strong of St. Lucia

“For CWSDC, diversity is always a key component; this includes nationality, age, physical ability etc. It is important that voices from the entire Caribbean are heard and we do our best to embolden and energise as many activists and organisations in as many countries as possible, because it is great if individually we are strong, but we know that together we are always stronger,” says organiser Jassica St. Rose of United and Strong.

With the aim of creating change through individual development, #CWSDC5 celebrates the significant contribution of Caribbean LBTI people to their diverse communities. The 2017 conference explores how women and LBTI people live and love at the intersection of the personal and political, their commitment to maintaining our collective bonds of family, culture and identity while creating spaces for self-actualisation and expression beyond hetero- and gendernormative structures. The conference focussed on creating change through individual development and community mobilisation. The CWSDC engages active women human rights defenders working in a Caribbean context.

ECADE logo

ECADE logo

The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc. (ECADE) is a network of organisations working across the eastern Caribbean. Drawing on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”, ECADE works to increase the competence of activists and conscientise the people of the eastern Caribbean for the advancement of LGBTQI and marginalised populations in the region.

Learn more at www.ecequality.org or follow @EC_Equality on Twitter and Instagram.

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