Women's Voice and Leadership — Caribbean Advisory Group

Judith Wedderburn, Jamaica

Judith Wedderburn is the recently retired Director of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, (FES) Jamaica and for over 30 years, has worked as an educator, trainer, advocate and researcher in the field of gender and development in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. Programmes were developed for and in collaboration with a diverse range of partners in the academic community and the public sector, in civil society, and with trade unions and political parties nationally and regionally. Specific development challenges were addressed through training programmes which utilized both traditional and participatory learning techniques such as drama-in-education. The main themes addressed include human rights, governance and corruption, transformational leadership for young women and men, and a range of gender-related themes. These include gender-responsive policy, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights, gender-based violence, gender issues in the media, in poverty, in trade and globalization, and in climate change. As a dedicated civil society activist, Ms. Wedderburn has also supported lobbying and advocacy activities for legislative reform and policy development, has served on a number of public sector and civil society boards, and is a founding member and currently, a Director of WMW Jamaica. She also served as the Jamaica Country Expert for the Bertelsmann Transformation Index published by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, Germany.

Michele Irving, Belize

Michele Irving has been a community worker and advocate for over 25 years. This community activist and human rights defender resides in Dangriga, Belize. In 2019 she received the MBE award in recognition of her community work with POWA (Productive Organization for Women in Action) the organization she coordinates and helped found in 2003. POWA is a community based women’s group born in 2003 to fight for the rights of women and girls to exist peacefully, free from genderbased violence and gender discrimination. Under Michele’s leadership the group has grown into a very vibrant peer to peer education women’s group reaching far into communities and working to transform the lives of women and their families. Under Michele’s leadership POWA has developed projects and programs based on principles of respect, human rights and equity to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and all forms of violence against women. These objectives are achieved through education, advocacy and services that POWA provides directly and through linkages with other organizations. In 2010 POWA received the USAIDS Red Ribbon Award and the award for the empowerment of women and girls. In 2011 Michele and her daughter founded and coordinate GirlPOWA the girl/youth arm of POWA. In 2018
the group received an award for its work from Star Foundation “With and for Girls”- GirlPOWA is a member of UN Foundation GirlUp Club. POWA is one of the women’s group that pioneered advocacy and support for LGBTIA rights, supporting and networking with UNIBAM early on as well as others such as PETAL and EMYSM.

Rawwida Baksh, Trinidad and Tobago

Rawwida Baksh is a feminist activist, researcher, writer and policy adviser. She has over three decades of experience in the field of women’s rights and gender equality in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, the Commonwealth and internationally. She was the first Coordinator of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) in the pre-Beijing decade of 1985-1995. As Head of the Gender Section at the Commonwealth Secretariat (London, UK) in the post-Beijing decade of 1996-2006, she led the Secretariat’s support to Commonwealth governments and civil society in areas including gender mainstreaming; gender-responsive budgets; gender and human rights; and gender, democracy, peace and conflict. She was also Programme Leader of Women’s Rights and Citizenship at the International Development Research Centre (Ottawa, Canada) from 2006-2011, where she led IDRC’s support to feminist academic and policy researchers across the global South in areas including sexual and reproductive rights; women’s economic rights; decentralization and women’s rights; and gender and democratic governance. Since her return to the Caribbean in 2011, Rawwida has been working independently with governments, NGOs, regional and international agencies on areas including national gender policies; gender and democracy; gender-based violence; LGBT discrimination; and gender and climate change mitigation/ adaptation/ resilience. She has been engaged in the publication of numerous books, manuals and reports in the field of women’s rights and gender equality over the past three decades, including the Oxford Handbook of Transnational Feminist Movements (a collection of essays on global feminist organizing since the 1970s). And she currently volunteers with two feminist NGOs – the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA); and the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership (CIWiL).

Ro-Ann Mohammed, Barbados

Ro-Ann Mohammed is a Caribbean feminist and LGBTQ activist, based in Barbados. She has been a community organiser for nine years and is passionate about decolonising the narrative surrounding gender and sexual minorities in the Caribbean and the invisibility of Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer women and Transgender people in both feminist and LGBTQI+ advocacy. She is currently the Director of Sexuality, Health & Empowerment (SHE) Barbados, the only platform in Barbados dedicated to LBQT advocacy, movement building and research. Her advocacy has focused on facilitating safe spaces and platforms for empowerment for local LGBTQI+ communities, facilitating access to resources for local LGBTQI+ communities, the need for policy and legislative reform in Barbados, promoting women’s leadership in Caribbean LGBTQI+ discourse, combatting religious intolerance, public education and comprehensive representation of Caribbean LGBTQI+ realities. She is a Director of Pride Barbados and coordinator of Barbados’ annual Pride Parade. She is currently a board member of Equals Barbados which is an organisation working to provide LGBTQI+ people with direct access to services and resources. She is also 2020 Beijing +25 Fellow with OutRight Action International. Over the years she has co-founded Barbados – Gays, Lesbians and AllSexuals against Discrimination (B-GLAD), served as Grantmaking Advisor for at FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund and she is a Women Deliver Global Young Leader alumni focused on the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for LGBTQI+ people.

Robyn Charlery White, Saint Lucia

Dr. Su-Anne Robyn Charlery White is a Public Health research scholar, consultant, facilitator, and women’s rights advocate, who has avidly championed women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for over a decade. She holds a PhD in Health Promotion and Behavior, Masters of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences and B.A in Psychobiology. Her interdisciplinary work in gender and health operates at the intersection of research, education, policy, and advocacy. Additionally, she is certified in Interdisciplinary Qualitative research methods, where her expertise in qualitative methodologices is particularly useful when working with vulnerable populations such as female sex workers and LGBTQI persons, and sensitive topics such as sexual violence. Dr. White’s sexual health work in Black/ Caribbean youth, emerging adults and women, focuses on gender disparities in sexual health, and on exploring the interrelationships of cultural norms, gendered roles and gendered power in intimate relationships. She extensively researches and works with sexual health in Caribbean populations, and her evidence-based work has been presented and recognized at international conferences, policy briefings, governmental and NGO convenings. As a passionate believer in the power of translating research to practice, she emphasizes the importance of research in informing relevant programming and policies that affect women. As such, she tirelessly dedicates her efforts to assisting with the development and facilitation of evidence based SRHR projects and programming in schools, communities, NGOs and at the United Nations. Additionally, she has facilitated sexual health and sexuality courses to medical students to adequately prepare them to holistically address SRHR issues and concerns of patients they may encounter within future medical practice. Dr. White is the Founding Executive Director of the HERstoire Collective, which centers Caribbean women and girls sexual and reproductive health and rights through Health Education, Empowerment, Research and Stories. She currently serves as a National Steering Committee Member for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme –where she lends support for grants and projects on micro business, rural development, culture, communitcation and education using her competence in gender and public health. Ultimately, she prides herself on being a passionate Caribbean Feminist, women’s sexpositivity and self-care advocate who intends for her work to continue permeating and breaking down the boundaries of harmful cultural gendered norms, particularly in the Caribbean and other communities with women of colour.

Stephanie Leitch, Trinidad and Tobago

Stephanie Leitch is a fierce feminist organizer, LGBTQ+ advocate and nonprofit leader from Trinidad and Tobago. In 2011, she founded the digital platform WOMANTRA, which remains the premiere hub for Caribbean and Diaspora social justice activists and cyberfeminist advocacy. In 2015, Stephanie transitioned the digital space into a registered nonprofit and has headed the organization for the past five years. Her activism largely focuses on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, the mentorship of young feminists, and social policy development. Having worked within the Caribbean context over the past decade and risen through the ranks of being mentored by local ‘giants’ in the field to becoming a leader herself. Stephanie brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the landscape of women’s rights movement building, grounded in the realities of a diverse region. Her work, a combination of scholarship and activism, has taken her to Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica and Curacao, and she continues to cultivate the dream of a Carifeminist future, with collective action and priorities. Commenting on her new appointment she shares, “Having led and grown a successful organization for almost a decade with neither formal business training nor core funding, I am intimately familiar with the challenges associated with maintaining efficient operations and how these can prohibit an organization from achieving its full potential. Because of this, I also recognize the importance of empowering organizations to become sustainable beyond donor investments. I look forward to supporting WHRDs who can demonstrate their commitment to gender justice beyond the capitalist imperative, embracing shared challenges and opportunities.” In addition to her role at the Equality Fund, Stephanie serves as Regional Advisor to UN Women, NARO Trustee to the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) and member of the Spotlight Civil Society National Reference Group for Trinidad and Tobago.

Vanda Radzik, Guyana

Vanda Radzik is a Guyanese feminist activist and gender equality advocate. She has over 35 years of experience in the field of social and sustainable human development. Her varied career falls within three main areas: Literature and the Arts; Women’s Rights, Human Rights and Civil Liberties; and the Environment/Indigenous Peoples. She is a fierce feminist of the Women & Development Organization (WEDO). She is a founder member of Red Thread, where she also managed the organization’s press, and has served as an Advisor to the National Toshaos Council (highest decision-making body of the Indigenous Peoples in Guyana), as a Commissioner at the Women and Gender Equality Constitutional Rights Commission, and as a Lecturer at the University of Guyana. She is currently an independent consultant on Social and Sustainable Development, focusing on access to Gender Justice for Indigenous Women, and works as a trainer/facilitator for REDD+ Readiness in Guyana for Indigenous Peoples organizations. Vanda is a recipient of a Golden Arrow Achievement: National Honour for Distinction as a Guyanese conferred by the President (2015). She is also a recipient of an Iwokrama Award from the International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation & Development (2019), and a recipient of the Guyana Woman of Distinction Award. She holds a BA in English and a M. Phil in English from the University of West Indies (Cave Hill Campus). She also holds a Certificate in Conflict Resolution, Negotiation and Arbitration from the Commonwealth Foundation in association with Harvard University. In addition, she has completed several other professional level courses/ certificates in Participatory Methodologies, Policy Development, Results-Based Management, Gender and Development Programming, Gender Analysis, and Environmental Project Assessment. She is currently enrolled in a MSc. in Climate and Development at the University of London

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