It certainly feels as if the month of June has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, full of ups and downs for the women’s rights and LGBTQI+ movements.
On one hand, we celebrated Pride Month in many parts of the world, and our LGBTQ+ family and allies in the Caribbean used this month to educate and create awareness about what it means to be a member of the community. WVL–Caribbean and Astraea grantee partner Tamukke Feminist Rising in Guyana created a space for its members to uplift and shine a spotlight on queer voices, while another grantee partner, Our Circle in Belize celebrated International Family Equality Day with members. Caribbean societies remain repressive on many issues, especially as it relates to sexuality. Therefore, seeing our grantee partners and the wider community unapologetically celebrate themselves, while advocating for their right to exist authentically in this world, is inspiring and worthy of recognition and applause. We at WVL–Caribbean salute you all!
On the other hand, on Friday June 24th, 2022, the U.S Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which protected a woman’s right to abortions in the U.S. The overturning of this case sent shock waves around the world, with UN officials and global leaders such as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Belgian Prime Minister, and Canadian Prime Minister opposing the decision and accurately referring to it as a step backwards for women and gender equality.
The WVL–Caribbean team and feminists across the ecosystem share the emotions and sentiments echoed. We are furious. And we are hurting. We know that this decision places women in the Caribbean at increased vulnerability, particularly within countries where abortion remains illegal, and access to sexual and reproductive health care services undergo constant challenge. However, we also know that our solidarity is strongest when we move together. For this reason we acknowledge the pain and anger stemming from this attack on bodily autonomy, but also know that as we process and regroup, we will continue the fight for the advancement of human rights and the right to choose. The WVL–Caribbean team stands in solidarity with activists everywhere who continue to push for women’s rights and LGBTQI+ rights. We know that when things appear to be going downward, the strength of the feminist movement will bring us back up once again, taking us forward on the journey to a just, equitable, free, and fair world.
In solidarity – Tamara, Kristina, Meghan, Karima, Raviva, and Neish
Amplifying Caribbean Women’s Voices
Our Circle Commemorates International Family Equality Day (IFED)
For the past four years, WVL–Caribbean grant partner Our Circle has utilised its International Family Equality Day (IFED) Campaign to positively influence social norms in support of long-term, sustainable shifts in behaviour and changes in attitudes regarding diverse family structures. Every first Sunday of May LGBT+ families celebrate the International Family Equality Day – an annual LGBT+ awareness day that amplifies the work being done to ensure family equality, and promotes human rights for everyone. Around the world, IFED has been officially commemorated for the past 11 years.
In its fifth year of joining the global commemoration, Our Circle planned and designed a Family Camping Weekend Trip at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. The weekend was designed to bring together LGBT parents and their children to engage in action packed activities,as well as workshops to build both parents’ and children’s resilience. Our Circle recognizes that these desired values, attitudes, and behaviours can only begin to be inculcated within the family and home environment, and later reinforced in our schools and workplaces, and thus continues to organise events around IFED to raise awareness and build community. To learn more about the International Family Equality Network and how you can become a member visit https://internationalfamilyequalityday.org/
Final activity at Cockscomb Basin – IFED 2022
Tamukke Feminist Rising Celebrates Pride Month!
During Pride month, WVL–Caribbean and Astraea grantee partner Tammukke Feminist Rising collaborated with LGBT organisations such as GuyBow, Proud to be Trans and Equal Guyana for Pride activities. On June 15th, the organisation hosted a successful Open Mic Night, centering queer women. The scene, the performers, the pieces, the energy created a magical vibe enjoyed by all who participated. Their celebrations don’t end there! On July 30th, Tammukke Feminist Rising will also be hosting a Pride treasure hunt.
Tamukke Feminists Organising Team celebrating Pride Month
We-Change – Let’s Talk Abortions
WVL–Caribbean and Astraea grantee partner WE-Change has been working on revamping their abortion advocacy to focus on informing the public on abortions, and combatting myths around the practice. One of the ways they have done this is through their virtual TownHall, hosted on YouTube. WE-Change’s TownHall included information and practices about multiple methods of abortion care as a necessary healthcare procedure in many cases, and by extension, a human right.
Within countries with restrictive abortion laws that are punitive in nature, people who are most in need of access to safe abortions are unable to do so. This is due, in particular, to the influence of morality politics, often upheld by government bodies. WE-Change notes that this practice effectively hinders the citizens of these countries from accessing the relevant services to make informed choices about their bodies.
WE-Change firmly believes that abortion empowerment and access is integral to the work that they seek to do with regards to women’s empowerment. Learn more about WE-Change’s work here!
WE-Change Officers Kristeena, Kristina, Tajna and Shantae discussing reproductive justice.
Helen’s Daughters – First Public FarmHers Market
On June 25th, 2022, The “FarmHers” of WVL–Caribbean and Equality Fund grantee partner Helen’s Daughters hosted their very first public Farmers Market at the Courtyard of Alliance Francaise building in Castries, St. Lucia. The members of the FarmHer network had everything under the sun, from fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices to kombucha and vegan pastries! It was also more than a Farmers Market since patrons could also engage in face painting and learn to play the drums. The turnout was spectacular and Helen’s Daughters hope this venture expands and becomes a fixture of its activities. Learn more about the work done by Helen’s Daughter here!
Regional and International News
St. Lucia Star
Antigua and Barbuda became the first country in the Caribbean to ratify the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190). Antigua and Barbuda’s ratification of this landmark instrument demonstrates its commitment to ensuring that everyone has the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment. It becomes the 14th member State to ratify this ILO Convention.
Convention No. 190 is the newest ILO Convention and the first to address violence and harassment in the world of work. Together with the Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019 (No. 206), it provides a common framework for action for addressing violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence, and for shaping a future of work based on dignity and respect.
This is certainly a step in the right direction since according to the Human Rights Watch, who noted, “Women around the world are disproportionately impacted by gender-based violence including sexual harassment and assault at work. Millions of female workers are forced to work in an intimidating, hostile or humiliating environment, and experience various unwelcome forms of sexual conduct.”
Continue reading more on the Convention here.
The United States Supreme Court Overturns Landmark Roe v. Wade Ruling
Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation
In a massive blow to gender equality and human rights, on June 24th the United States Supreme Court overturned the landmark case Roe v. Wade, which constitutionally protected a woman’s right to abortion. While this decision has left many of us feeling angry, shocked, and hurt, it has also furthered our resolve to stand together in solidarity as we continue to fight for the right to autonomy over one’s body.
It is also important to recognise that throughout history, the Caribbean has been influenced by events that take place in the US. The old saying that “when the US sneezes, the world catches a cold” could not be more applicable to the Caribbean region. There is growing concern among regional activists that the recent ruling in the US is a threat to the Caribbean’s progress on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), access to contraceptives, and eliminating gender-based violence.
In a statement released after the decision, the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) calls on Caribbean governments to collaborate with women’s rights organisations to advance health and wellbeing, uphold the dignity of women and girls, and unequivocally defend the need to safeguard their reproductive rights under Caribbean law. Read the statement from the CFPA here.
We encourage you to read this statement from the Equality Fund, which outlines five ways you can add your voice and demand change.
Equality Fund and Astraea Activities
WVL–Caribbean Project Steering Committee
For the first time ever, the entire WVL–Caribbean Team including staff from the Equality Fund and Astraea, one of our amazing WVL Caribbean Advisors and a representative from Global Affairs Canada, had the chance to convene in person! From June 8th – 12th 2022, the Project Steering Committee of WVL-Caribbean met in Antigua and Barbuda to conduct our annual Project Steering Committee Meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to review accomplishments and challenges faced over the last fiscal year, and look towards the future as we endorsed and approved the team’s plans for the upcoming Fiscal Year 4.
Since it was the first time the whole team came together in person, it was also an opportunity to further deepen relationships already established in a remote work environment. The team left Antigua feeling rejuvenated and inspired to continue the important work of supporting women’s rights and LGBTQ+ organisations within the region. We are so excited for Fiscal Year 4!
From L – R: Amina Doherty (Outgoing WVL–Caribbean Program Director, Tamara Huggins (Incoming WVL–Caribbean Program Director, Karima Bouchama (Financial Analyst), Kristina Mena (WVL–Caribbean Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Officer), Neish Mclean (Astraea Project Officer – Caribbean) Deborah Duperly-Pinks(Senior International Assistance Office – Global Affairs Canada) Cynthia Eyakuze (Co-VP – Global Programs), Stephanie Leicht (WVL–Caribbean Advisor), Meghan Theobalds (Global Programs Coordinator)
Astraea Caribbean Tour
Earlier this month, members of the Astraea team travelled across the Caribbean to meet with grantee partners and conduct site visits to scope out potential venues for the upcoming Caribbean CommsLabs. The CommsLabs is scheduled to take place the week of Sept. 19th across multiple hubs in the Caribbean.
The team started their journey in Guyana, meeting with several Astraea and Equality Fund grantee partners. After spending a few days in Georgetown, they travelled to the interior of the country to meet with indigenous activists from Wapichan Women’s Movement and Makushi Research Unit. The team then made their way to Barbados where they found a great venue for a CommsLabs in-person hub. The trip ended in Jamaica where the team was fortunate enough to meet and spend time with members of Red Thread and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC). Meeting with grantee partners outside of a Zoom screen was a highlight for everyone!
Members of the Astraea Team and the Wapichan Women’s Movement during a site visit in Guyana
Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Magic
“PRIDE & Purpose”
Each summer, several cities celebrate Pride to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other gender expansive (LGBTQI+) individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. The origin of Pride, which is rooted in the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, is widely considered the watershed event that transformed the LGBTQI+ liberation movement and the fight for LGBTQI+ rights.
In recent years, Pride celebrations have gained momentum across the Caribbean, with commemorative events being held in the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. There has been significant progress in expanding LGBTQI+ rights, including pro-LGBTQI+ rulings along with the expansion of services for LGBTQI+ people. Every day, activists are challenging the constitutionality of discriminatory laws and policies across the Caribbean.
Decades of work from activists have resulted in some tangible wins over the last few years. In 2016, Belize became the first Caribbean country to decriminalise sex between consenting adults through its legal system. In April 2018, a similar challenge was launched in Trinidad and Tobago, which ruled that sexual activity between consenting adults should not be criminalised. In November 2018, Guyana Trans United was an applicant in a legal case before the Caribbean Court of Justice, which unanimously ruled that the “cross-dressing” law in Guyana makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in a public place while dressed in clothing of the opposite sex for an “improper purpose” is unconstitutional.
Recently, in June 2022, a gay rights advocate and a women’s rights organisation brought forward a case to challenge the law that criminalises consensual same-sex relationships in Antigua and Barbuda. The case went to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, where it ruled that a section of the Sexual Offences Act is unconstiutional, as it offends, “the rights to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of expression, protection of personal privacy and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex.” Currently, there are five legal challenges against laws that criminalise same-sex relationships in Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
Our WVL–Caribbean grantee partners are at the forefront of legislative reform and system change advocacy. Raise Your Voice St. Lucia was one of the leading civil society organisations to spearhead gender inclusive provisions to the Domestic Violence Act, adopted into law in St. Lucia in March 2022. This legislation is significant in that it provides legal protections to persons in same-sex relationships who experience domestic violence. Under the provisions of the law, LGBTQI+ people are able to access protection orders from the court, and other resources provided under the Act.
In Jamaica, WE-Change, an intersectional feminist organisation committed to increasing the participation of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in social justice advocacy, has been leading the charge for the expansion of sexual and reproductive health rights. A key area is their push for the decriminalisation of abortion. WE-Change has made submissions to the Jamaican Parliament to advocate for access to safe abortion and post-abortion care, as well as the removal of policies and barriers restricting the right to safe abortions on request. In Antigua and Barbuda, Intersect, a Queeribbean feminist collective, has been using digital advocacy to call for systemic changes, particularly in relation to addressing violence against the LGBTQI+ community. Many WVL-Caribbean grantee partners are exploring issues of gender inequality and its intersections, organising for change on issues that affect those most vulnerable, while advancing justice for all.
As we commemorate Pride, we recognize that institutional and legislative reforms are critical to the assurance of equal rights, and this celebration is rooted in the recognition of activists who agitated for change in places where discrimination was deeply rooted and systemic. We recognize and celebrate the monumental work and sacrifices of our grantee partners, whose voices, advocacy and fight for justice have and continue to strengthen the LGBTQI+ movement in the Caribbean and across the globe.
Expansion of Sweet Water Foundation Regional Helpline
WVL Caribbean grantee partner Sweet Water Foundation, in partnership with Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC), is offering free, confidential, anonymous, online counselling services to key populations of the Caribbean.
Reaching out to Sex Workers, MSM, Transpeople, People living with AIDS, undocumented migrants and the general LGBT community, particularly from Guyana, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.
Sweet Water Foundation and the CVC (Caribbean Vulnerable Communities) are partnering to ensure marginalised communities in the following islands of the Caribbean: Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica, have access to professional counselling services during the Covid-19 pandemic through funding made available via the Global Fund Caricom regional grant.
If you are a member of a vulnerable community in the focus areas – Belize, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica, please reach out. Telephone, Text, WhatsApp or Email. Learn more about this opportunity here!
- Alex P Vega: Belize and Guyana. 501-615-1455. Spanish and English
- Cyrus Sylvester: Trinidad and Tobago. 868-318-6937
- Jhanah Haynes: Trinidad and Tobago. 868-319-9350. Email: [email protected]
- Robyn Charlery White: Jamaica. 473-410-4445
- Griselda De Souza: Spanish Speaking Caribbean: 473-459-4445
General Information: Sweet Water Foundation [email protected] / 473-407-4445.