Women’s Voice and Leadership – Caribbean – August 2023 Update

brightly coloured illustration of people
Gesiye Souza-Okpofabri

Dear Readers,

As a result of the unrelenting work of both WVL-Caribbean grantee partners and other activists in the Caribbean, we continue to see tangible progress made in the feminist movement and advocacy for LGBTQI+ rights in the region. The inspiring work undertaken in the Caribbean to build a more inclusive and accessible world cannot be overstated, especially as we experience an increase in anti-feminist rhetoric. As is the norm, our Caribbean activists are resilient and persevere in the face of many challenges and in this edition of the newsletter we are thrilled to share with you the impact of such determination. We will learn more on the importance of creating spaces for storytelling in modern times, lesson-learning and feminist convenings with a Caribbean flair! We hope you enjoy this edition of the WVL-Caribbean E-Newsletter as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

In solidarity – Tamara, Kristina, Meghan, Andrea, Karima and Neish

Amplifying Caribbean Women’s Voices

Photo from CDB: (L-R) Tamara Huggins, Director of Women’s Voice and Leadership- Caribbean; Ms. Nicole Pitter Patterson, international trade and gender expert; Ms. Michele Irving, President of the Belize National Women’s Commission; Dr. Halimah Deshong, Head and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Development and Gender Studies at the University of the West Indies; Ms. Judith Wedderburn, board director of Women’s Media Watch Jamaica.

Addressing Multiple Crises to End Gender Inequality in the Caribbean

During the recently held 53rd Annual Meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank in St. Lucia, a panel of gender experts were convened to share their views at a seminar entitled “Solutions on All Sides: Addressing Multiple Crises to End Gender Inequality.” The panel included two of our very own WVL-Caribbean Advisors, Michele Irving and Judith Wedderburn as well as Tamara Huggins, our WVL-Caribbean Project Director. 

The panellists all agreed that women and girls, youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous groups, and the elderly are disproportionately affected by the setbacks from recent challenges and crises which slowed progress on gender equality, social equity, and access to justice. Some solutions proposed included the need for gender-responsive approaches in relief and grant-based funding, introduction of comprehensive sexuality education, as well as the economic empowerment of women. Watch the recording of the “Solutions on All Sides: Addressing Multiple Crises to End Gender Inequality” here!

Connecting with our Partners in St. Lucia!

As part of the visit to St. Lucia in June, the WVL-Caribbean team took the opportunity to engage with grantee partner Girls of a Feather which was represented by Chelsea Foster, the Executive Director and Currica Clarke, their Programmes Manager. We also had the pleasure of being joined by WVL-Caribbean Advisors Michele Irving and Judith Wedderburn. As the group came together to share a meal and laughter (it’s the Caribbean way!), rich discussions on the current landscape of feminist work in the region were had and Chelsea shared with us the extremely positive impact that core flexible funding has had on small organisations such as hers. 

That evening, the small but mighty group of Caribbean feminists engaged in an invaluable and insightful intergenerational dialogue full of shared lessons, stories and thoughts about the future. A core element of the WVL-Caribbean project is to encourage network and alliance-building between and among its grantee partners. We are always grateful to our busy grantee partners for taking the time to engage with us and provide honest and robust feedback.

Join us Under the Sycamore Tree!

Launched in May 2023, Under the Sycamore Tree podcast is a collaborative effort between the Equality Fund, and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. It is a limited series Caribbean, feminist, archival podcast that documents women and LGBTQI+ led organizations across eight Caribbean countries. 

We believe that Under The Sycamore Tree is an important platform for Caribbean Feminist and activist storytelling. After a short summer break, Under The Sycamore Tree launched its second round of episodes featuring stories from our WVL-Caribbean grantee partners. Like the first half of the series, each episode in the second round is dedicated to a theme related to the work of Caribbean feminist and LGBTQI+ organizing, including language and leadership, land, sex work, Indigenous women’s activism, and more. Many of our WVL-Caribbean grantee partners were involved in the podcast. Check out the full list here. To learn more about the impact of the podcast read this edition’s MEL Magic and check out our blog.

Together We Are Stronger: Effectively Engaging in Parliamentary Processes

Screengrab from Parliamentary Processes Session featuring Sharda Ganga, Dylis McDonald, Tamara Huggins and Catherine Sealyls

On June 22, 2023, the Equality Fund hosted a session as part of a three-part training series on effectively engaging in parliamentary processes. Jointly offered by ParlAmericas, UN Women Multi-Country Office for the Caribbean, and the Equality Fund, this training series brought together representatives from three WVL-Caribbean grantee partners who engaged in a rich and powerful discussion on the importance of having a collective approach to achieve transformational change as part of parliamentary processes and the role that funding plays in this context.

Catherine Sealys from Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia touched on the long journey of perseverance and resistance that her organization underwent to get the now world-famous Domestic Violence Bill passed in Saint Lucia in 2022. She spoke about the allyship from both local and international communities and capitalising on the national elections to get the Bill passed. In terms of next steps, Catherine noted that training for this Bill remains critical and that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Sharda Ganga from Stichting Projekta shared her organization’s experience with convening people, calling others for collaboration and alliance building for joint advocacy as a core strategy for social change, sharing valuable tips and tricks. She spoke about the power of bringing many voices together, the richness of having different voices, as well as representatives from different constituencies. She also spoke about the intersectionality of women’s rights organizations’ work, providing some key advice including looking for partners in unusual places and bringing everyone on board, as women’s issues are not only a matter of women’s rights organizations.

Dylis Mc Donald from Caribbean Women in Leadership (CiWiL), shared interesting opportunities for immediate and longer-term collective work in common policy agendas in the Caribbean, including work around climate change and gender; ending violence against women and girls, including violence against women in politics; addressing issues around the care economy and the gender pay gap; addressing issues around the multiple debt crises and their impact on women; as well as the crisis of trust in democracy and governance, which is widespread across the region.

The session ended with a rich and honest discussion about the role of funding in parliamentary work, with panellists speaking about the special importance of flexible funding given the nature of the work that women’s rights and LGBTQI+ organizations do, and how this type of funding allows them to do what is necessary to remain relevant and responsive. In Sharda’s words, “flexible funding gives you the ability to be agile, to jump into things that are happening; it lightens your anxiety; it is also important because an organization that has some amount of flexible funding can develop leadership”.

We thank Catherine, Sharda and Dylis for taking the time to share their knowledge and stories with us. To see the full recording on effective engagement in parliamentary sessions, click here!

Regional News

Source: Pride Barbados Facebook

On June 25th 2023, Barbados hosted its third annual Pride Barbados Parade, led by Pride Barbados, a committee of local organsisers, including Ro-Ann Mohammed, one of our WVL-Caribbean Advisors. In the lead-up to the parade, Pride Barbados hosted a series of events in commemoration of International Pride Month including a hike, health and wellness fair, and other social events. During a segment on the local morning talk show “Mornin’ Barbados”, Ro-Ann noted that support of the LGBTQI+ community and the celebration of International Pride Month has increased since the first Pride Barbados Parade in 2018. She also said there has been an increase in support not only from individuals but also from local businesses both financially and/or in-kind.

During a recent Equality Fund TownHall, Ro-Ann shared that she was been struck by the magnitude of warmth and support for the LGBTQI+ community in Barbados and across the Caribbean region. 

When asked about the reason behind coordinating a Pride Parade in Barbados, Ro-Ann noted that oftentimes, when people think of Pride celebrations they think of such celebrations in the context of the Global North, i.e exclusive to white, thin, able-bodied and cis-people. However LGBTQI+ people in the Caribbean have been modelling Pride in different forms of expression throughout the region for decades. Participating in International Pride Month draws on the ways in which the community has organised and shown resilience throughout history. Ro-Ann also noted that one of the purposes of coordinating a Pride Parade in Barbados was to create a safe space for members of the community since there are not a lot of diverse safe spaces in the country and the region. 
Learn more about the work of Pride Barbados here and get a taste of the energy of the third annual Pride Barbados Parade here!

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Magic

Harnessing the Power of Podcasts: A Tool for Advocacy

Podcasts have emerged as a powerful medium for digital storytelling, sharing of ideas and promoting social change. With their unique blend of storytelling, personal narratives, and expert insights, podcasts have revolutionized the way we consume information and engage with important social, cultural and political issues. 

In May 2023, WVL-Caribbean launched the “Under the Sycamore Tree” podcast, which explores feminist and queer organizing in the Caribbean through the lens of our grantee partners. In the series, they draw on their personal experiences and share achievements, setbacks and learnings from the work of their organizations in advancing gender justice in the Caribbean.

The first six podcast episodes were released between May and June 2023, with the remaining four episodes slated for distribution in July 2023. Each episode is approximately 40 minutes, and there have been 375 episode plays to date. The podcast has largely been promoted through social media, including on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, resulting in over 19,958 impressions and an engagement rate of 3.8 percent. The statistics are encouraging, with a steady listenership base for this emerging podcast series. 

We are learning from our own experience of launching “Under the Sycamore Tree” about the value of podcasts as a tool for advocacy. Here are four key reflections on what we have learned: 

  1. Amplifying Diverse Voices: Podcasts provide a platform for diverse voices and perspectives that are often underrepresented. Through interviews and group discussions, marginalized individuals and communities share their stories, experiences, and expertise directly with audiences. In “Under the Sycamore Tree” we have featured the voices of those grantees working with diverse populations, at the intersection of multiple thematic areas, including advancing gender equality and LGBTQI+ rights, gender-based violence, and environmental sustainability.
  1. Informative and Engaging Storytelling: Podcasts, with their narrative structure and intimate conversational style, have the power to evoke empathy and spark meaningful discussions. Episode 4: The Kids May (Not) Be Okay delves into the work of the Sweetwater Foundation (Grenada), Girls of a Feather (St. Lucia) and EVE for Life (Jamaica) in supporting the psychosocial needs of children and adolescents who are survivors of abuse. By sharing personal stories, lived experiences, and expert perspectives, advocates can shed light on complex issues. This storytelling approach fosters understanding, empathy, and a desire for change among listeners.
  1. Community Building and Grassroots Movements: Podcasts foster a sense of community among listeners, serving as a catalyst for grassroots movements and collective action. They provide a space for like-minded individuals to connect, share ideas, and mobilize for change. In Episode 5: Stats & Storytelling (Fi Di Dolly Dem) we learn about feminist and queer organizing in Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, and Belize. In this conversation, the grantee organizations – Intersect, WE-Change, and Our Circle – speak about data benchmarking and documenting the experiences and needs of their communities; and how this informs their community-centred work. The collaborative approach of this podcast encourages listeners to become active participants and engaged advocates.
  1. Access and Flexibility: The accessibility and flexibility of podcasts contribute to their effectiveness as advocacy tools. They can be accessed at any time, allowing listeners to engage with advocacy efforts at their convenience. Podcasts can reach audiences across geographical, cultural, and socio-economic boundaries. We have seen this reflected in the listenership of “Under the Sycamore Tree” where it has extended beyond the region to reach audiences across the Caribbean diaspora in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. 

Moreover, podcasts offer in-depth discussions and analysis, allowing for a more nuanced understanding of complex issues compared to traditional media formats with time constraints. In Episode 3: Setting Precedent: Positive Rights, we learn more about the Caribbean’s inherited colonial laws, the formation of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final appellate court in the region for member states accepting this jurisdiction, and about its landmark ruling in 2018 that deemed Guyana’s “cross-dressing” law as unconstitutional, signalling a victory for trans and gender non-conforming persons across the Caribbean. This democratization of information and access allows for a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand, empowering underrepresented groups to reclaim their narratives and challenge the status quo.

Storytelling is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Caribbean culture, serving as a means of preserving ancestral knowledge, as well as fostering learning and a deeper understanding of shared history. WVL-Caribbean has been intentional in amplifying the use of storytelling. Recently, we hosted a workshop on using storytelling for monitoring, evaluation and learning. As feminist funds, we value women, girls, and gender non-conforming persons as knowledge holders and recognize the importance of honouring diversity, context and going beyond “western” hierarchies of what counts as evidence or knowledge. With podcasts, advocacy is no longer confined to traditional platforms but has found a new frontier that empowers us to all advocate for a better world.

Resources

UNDP Launches National LGBTI Survey Report in Barbados

Photo: UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean/Amanda Haynes (sourced from UNDPBarbados and Eastern Caribbean website)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus (UWI,) and Equals launched the Barbados National LGBTI Survey Report on July 13, 2023. 

The National LGBTI Survey Report is the culmination of extensive research conducted by UNDP in partnership with local organizations, activists, and community stakeholders. The report provides essential insights into the lived experiences, and challenges of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community in Barbados. It explores various dimensions of their well-being, including citizen security, health, education, employment, housing, violence, access to justice, and political participation.

UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Poverty, Governance and Monitoring and Evaluation, Cluster Manager, Mr. Jason LaCorbiniere expressed enthusiasm for the publication of the Survey Report. “The National LGBTI Survey Report will serve as a vital tool to help identify gaps, address challenges, and shape evidence-based policies and programs that foster equality and inclusion for the local LGBTI community.”

Read the full report here!

Show up with us, Support our Movement

We show up for each other. It’s the essence of feminist philanthropy, and we bring it to life in countless ways. We volunteer and speak out. We give money, advice, and encouragement.

In a world of grief and cynicism, we dare to love each other and ourselves. And then we act from that love. Across communities and cultures, dreams and disappointments, progress and pushback, feminist philanthropy sustains and connects us.

We invite you to join our movement today. Gifts of any size are an incredible act of solidarity, actively contributing to the advancement of gender and LGBTQI+ justice in the Caribbean and beyond. 

Watch the video below to hear WVL grantee partners, along with Equality Fund’s partners from other regions, speak on the power of feminist philanthropy…

Women’s Voice and Leadership – Caribbean is a partnership among the Equality Fund and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice to resource the leadership and transformative agendas of women’s rights and LGBTQI+ organizations in the Caribbean region. It is funded by the Government of Canada.

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