Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Civil Society Charged to Hold APNU-AFC Government Accountable to Manifesto Promises

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) officially opened its three-day Civil Society Public Policy Training for the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project, funded by the Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.  The project was designed to contribute towards the equitable treatment of all peoples in Guyana by supporting efforts to strengthen the participation of vulnerable persons and their representative organisations in decision-making processes of the state. The three-day training, held at the Regency Suites/Hotel, Hadfield Street, Georgetown, marks the second phase of the three phase project.
The official opening was chaired by the Secretary of SASOD’s Board, Alana Da Silva, and was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of United Nations agencies, other special invitees, in addition to the civil society participants.
John Quelch, Project Coordinator, presented an overview of the project by highlighting the objectives and the intended outcomes of the training. Quelch stated that, “the training programme we are opening today marks a substantial part of the training phase,  and is intended to bring together a wide cross-section of civil society stakeholders from the length and breadth of Guyana and to provide them with a thorough and focused introduction to and appreciation of the principles and practices of effective public-policy advocacy and to prepare them for successful involvement in Guyanese public-policy consultations and decision-making which affect their lives and the communities they represent.” 

BRIEF REMARKS by Raphael Trotman, Hon. Minister of Governance

by Raphael Trotman, Hon. Minister of Governance
Official Opening of the Civil Society Policy Policy Advocacy Training

Greetings, and congratulations to SASOD and GEF for recognising the need for training to enhance the engagement among stakeholders on matters that affect everyone.  The Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project funded by the EU recognises the importance of Civil Society organisations specifically targeting those with the most need, those who may be forgotten in our haste to achieve development targets and increase the economic wealth of our country and those existing on the fringe of society, unsure of their way in. 

An active, vibrant, well informed populace is critical to ensuring that its interests are addressed by its leaders and civil society’s advocacy is the vehicle through which this goal can be achieved.  Advocacy should not be seen however as an excuse for the trampling of the rights of others in an effort to achieve group goals but rather must be exercised with the intention of building relationships and strengthening democracy.  Civil society organisations that actively work with the most vulnerable are best positioned to inform and guide the process towards the creation of public policies that are inclusive and effective.

The Government of Guyana is one for all peoples in this land and embraces active, respectful engagements with representatives of civil society in the creation of policies and in their implementation.  The right to access to information and participation in the formulation of policies and programmes is enshrined in a number of our critical laws including the Access to Information Act and are being upheld by this new administration. 

The development of Guyana depends largely on the ability of its diverse groups to collaborate and make decisions that move the country forward.  As such, I call on each of you participating in this capacity building exercise to envision over the next two days how you can positively influence and impact the creation of a better Guyana, a more informed and cohesive Guyana. 

We look forward to future engagements that will see public policy advocacy that result in Guyana achieving the greatest good for its people. 

Best wishes for fruitful discussions and tangible outcomes. 

Feature Remarks by Mr. Benedikt Madl, Head, Bilateral Cooperation

Feature Remarks 
delivered by Mr. Benedikt Madl, Head, Bilateral Cooperation
Public Policy Advocacy Training 
for the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacity Strengthening Project
September 16, 2015 at the Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street, Georgetown

Madam Chairperson
Members of the Head Table
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives of Civil Society Organisations

Mr. Benedikt Madl, Head, Bilateral Cooperation
Good morning.

It is my honour that I today represent the European Union to deliver the feature remarks at this opening session of the Public Policy Advocacy Training.  This training forms an integral part of the European Union funded Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project which is being executed by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).

First, I would like to congratulate and applaud Joel Simpson and the team at SASOD for this initiative which aims to strengthen and further empower the many civil society organisations present here in their approach and engagement with the decision and policy makers in Guyana.  Coming on the heels of the baseline and mapping studies earlier undertaken in the project, this Public Policy Advocacy Training having been informed of the needs of your organisations, will provide you with the principles and practices of effective public policy and for effective public consultations with the policy makers in Guyana.   

Guyana Vulnerable Capacities Strengthening Project Overview

By: John Quelch
at the Opening of the Civil Society Public Policy Advocacy Training 

John Quelch, Projects Coordinator

Head of Bilateral Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Mr. Benedikt Madl, other members of the head table, members of the media, colleagues, good morning to you all. It’s my distinct honour to share with you a brief overview of the Guyana Vulnerable Capacities Strengthening Project.

The EU-funded Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project was designed to contribute towards the equitable treatment of all peoples in Guyana by supporting efforts to strengthen the participation of vulnerable persons and their representative organisations in decision-making processes of the state. This is continuously being achieved through strengthening the capacities of marginalized groups in Guyana, with the strong alliances of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF), and other Civil Society Organisations and partners, to effect key social, legal and policy changes in the country which advance full equality and citizenship for the vulnerable people in Guyana.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

As Suicides Rise, Documentary and Discussion Highlight Gaps in Guyana's Mental Health Approach

 Attendees engrossed in the film
(Georgetown) – The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with Depressed Black Gay Men (DBGM), Inc., with support from the United States Agency for International Development – Advancing Partnerships and Communities Project hosted a screening and discussion on the widely-acclaimed documentary “You Are Not Alone” on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at the Dutch Bottle Café in Georgetown.
The documentary, breaking a taboo in the Black and Black gay communities, was screened at a time when the numbers of suicides in Guyana continue to rise. As a film looking at depression, often an immediate precursor to suicide, it explored and provided a backdrop for many who attended the screening to learn about the underlying factors, such as culture, that contribute to the high rate of suicide in Guyana. Although the film, produced by US-based Guyanese Antoine Craigwell, looks at the factors leading to Black gay men experiencing and descending into depression and thoughts of suicide, attempts and completion, many of the issues expressed found ready applicability to the Guyanese socio-cultural context.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

YAM-GRPA, SASOD Launch Advocacy Blogging Competition at Youth Conference

In observance of International Youth Day, the Youth Advocacy Movement - Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (YAM - GRPA) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) launched an innovative advocacy blogging competition at the one-day Youth Interaction on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at the Cara Lodge in Georgetown.
Lucella Campbell, IPPF Senior Advisor delivering her remarks
The Youth Interaction was opened by International Planned Parenthood Federation Senior Advisor Lucella Campbell, United Nations Population Fund Assistant Representative Patrice La Fleur, United Nations Resident Coordinator Khadija Musa, Regional Councillor Ryan Belgrave, on behalf of the Minister of Social Protection, Hon. Volda Lawrence, and Technical Officer Theresa Gaime, on behalf of the Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman.
In her remarks, Campbell underscored the importance of engaging the Minister of Education to incorporate comprehensive sexually education in schools, in cultivating strong family relationships that would facilitate the sharing of pertinent information from parent to child and the amendment of laws to align the age of consent and the age of access to sexual and reproductive health services for young people.
La Fleur commended both SASOD and GRPA for coordinating such a timely and important conference. She noted that we fail our young people by denying them access to accurate information and friendly health services, which in turn will support them in making informed and responsible decisions.  According to La Fleur by empowering youth with the necessary information, they are better able to live a life of happiness and pleasure.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Years have gone by and I still feel the burning pain of scars inflected by moral whips.
Freedom, yet like steel bars wrapped around me I feel the cold shackles of rules gagging me to keep quiet. Pinning me to the ground like a common criminal .

Freedom, but the mere touch of a hand that makes my world feel complete causes me to live in exile. Tearing our flesh apart forcefully with threatening disgusted stares.
Freedom, but my voice still screams from behind a prison wall created in their minds, where I remain until eternity. Wishing me away into nothingness.
Freedom, but I still walk around lifeless, I still walk around voiceless, our blood still haunts the streets, I still live in fear of my "masters", freedom but I'm still not my own, I'm owned.
Trapped in the lines you've drawn for me to not walk between. Freedom.

Freedom, when only my hidden half makes me whole. When you break me every day with your one tracked minds.
Freedom, when every day I'm forced to rest in peace. Bidding me farewell when you tell me who I should have been. Firing bullets when I'm forced to see who you see.  
Freedom, but your definition of freedom is defined only by you. You say I'm free but I will never be free until you release your fears. Until the fear of something you know nothing of, releases you. When you are free, only then will I be allowed freedom.
Freedom does not come with conditions. I can never be free if the sight of  my affection shatters your world.

When the lifeless body of stranger hangs because of the jabs you aimlessly throw, that can never be freedom.

When death is the only life I see for me because I live in vain, because what I feel and I should have felt conflicts my very existence .

When I have nothing worthwhile to say because you hear nothing worth listening to. I'm worthless but not only to you .

How can I ever be free when I'm forced to fight for the rights of a human as If I'm nothing more than a beast. When will you ever let me be free. To feel, to live, to laugh, to love? When will you set me free so that I can finally be me

I pray everyday to be emancipated but you hunt me down with every step I try to make. Every time I try to break free I'm sentenced to fifty lashes of ridicule, hate and injustice. You sever my legs so that I know there's no running away from the truth. I'm not free.

I pray for the day I hold my lover's hand not pull away like reflexes when I feel someone approaching .

I pray for the day I stand beside my lover and not hope that we don't look inappropriately close.

I pray for the day I get to breathe and not feel overwhelmed with the secrets I'm forced to keep, or the lies I'm forced to speak every time I try to show who I am.

I pray for the day I get to pray and say "thank you father " and not whisper in fear," protect me please..." Only then will I be free, freedom for me will not only be a day.

- Anonymous.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Inaugural Meeting on LGBTI Political Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean

Caribbean delegation at the conference
The Inaugural Meeting on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Political Leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Lima, Peru from September 4 – 6, 2014. The meeting, organized by PromSex (Peru), Caribe Afirmativo (Columbia) and The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute (United States), saw more than 150 attendees representing organizations in more than 20 countries across Latin America and  the Caribbean including Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia,  Peru, Columbia, United States, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Barbados, St. Lucia and others.
Over the course of three days, we were engaged in stimulating discussions on a number of areas in which LGBTI persons can contribute towards a political movement in their respective countries. We were specifically challenged to use the knowledge as best as we can to increase our political involvement.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SASOD Closes LGBT Pride Month with Fundraising Cabaret Show

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is bringing the curtains down on the celebrations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride Month in Guyana with its Spectrum Cabaret Night this evening, Saturday, June 27 at the Dutch Bottle Café at 10 North Road, Bourda (between Light and Cummings Streets) in Georgetown, Guyana.
The two-hour stage show will start at 19:00 hrs and is expected to be an edgy, sensational and provocative event. A number of talented Guyanese singers, poets, dancers, designers and musicians are slated to entice the audience with their spectacular performances. These include Gavin Mendonca, LLoyda Nicholas, Keimo Benjamin, Travis Bowen, Royston Glasgow, Elsie Harry-Ross, Ryan Berkeley, Dominic Alleyne, Raphael Marcus and other talented Guyanese entertainers. 
 Destra Saul and Raphael Marcus, two of the talented Guyanese youth slated to perform this evening
Tickets cost $1,000 in advance and are available at That Look Boutique, 235 South Road, Oasis Café, 125 Carmichael Street, and SASOD’s office, 169 Charlotte Street. Admission costs $1,500 at the door. Special cabaret-themed cocktails and mocktails will also be on sale.  All proceeds go directly to SASOD’s LGBT Community Centre Fund. Free, onsite HIV counseling and testing, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – Advancing Partnerships and Communities (APC) Project, will also be available to all attendees.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Painting the Spectrum 11 Closes with Films from Uganda, Mexico and Guyana

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) will bring the curtains down on its eleventh lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) film festival, “Painting the Spectrum 11,” next week with three poignant films exploring homophobia, sexuality diversity and resistance  in the developing world.

The final week begins with a documentary based in Uganda which explores the dangers of imported homophobia.  On Tuesday, June 23, the international award-winning documentary “Call Me Kuchu,” which was donated by the High Commission of Canada to Guyana,  will be screened. In Uganda, the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. The late David Kato, Uganda’s first openly gay man, and retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo work against the clock to defeat state-sanctioned homophobia while combating vicious persecution in their daily lives. But no one is prepared for the brutal murder that shakes their movement to its core and sends shock waves around the world.