Thursday, August 29, 2013

Journalist Leon Suseran comes out as gay
Posted By Staff Writer On August 29, 2013 @ 5:28 am In Local News | No Comments
After years of deliberation, journalist Leon Suseran has decided to come out as gay, saying that he believes that openness is the path to making the country a safe and welcoming place for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons.
“Given the current social climate of our society in terms of how persons perceive homosexuals, I have reached a point in my life where I could care less of what people think.
Today, I am living my best life ever and I owe it to myself as well as society out there to come clean as it were,” Suseran, 29, told Stabroek News in an interview.
He stated that while he hopes his coming out would improve the public image of the LGBT community in Guyana,
Leon Suseran
Leon Suseran
he was also unsure if it has a strong enough presence in the public sphere.
“I’m afraid that we cannot classify such a group since many gays and lesbians—as well as bisexuals—are on the down- low and choose not to even be honest with their own selves,” he said, while saying he hoped his coming out could be inspirational for other LGBT youth.
He recalled seeing other gay friends struggle with their sexuality and said it made them miserable. “To mess up people’s lives just—because of the pressures of society, family, even religion? No way! Not worth it. I prefer to be happy and be in charge of my own happiness; not let others be in charge of it for me,” he added.
Suseran also noted that Guyana’s social setting consistently promotes gender norms and a prescribed masculinity for young men. He concluded that ascribing a negative connotation to homosexuality has consistently been used to steer young men into behaving like perceived “real men.”
“You see, a lot of Guyanese males are caught up trying to promote that masculine image to the public.
And rightfully so! If they do not, they will be called homos and sissies by their buddies and society! They will not measure up to what it means to be a man—‘a real man,’” Suseran stated.
He also noted that new derogatory names for gay men, like ‘Chi-Chi man,’ have been invented through the Caribbean lexicon and dialect that springs forth from anti-gay music, such as dancehall, and he questioned the effectiveness of the current gay rights organisations within Guyana.
“I believe there is a gay rights group—if I may even call it that—in Guyana. But who are these people? Who are the members? What are they about?
What are they fighting for? Why do they appear to be in hiding? Surely they too are afraid of being identified with the homosexual community!
This cannot take us anywhere if we are to make Guyana a safe and welcoming place for gays and lesbians,” he said, while noting that he has never reached out to the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), which has been working as an advocacy group since 2003.
As a practising Catholic Suseran acknowledged that the church does not and will never condone homosexual lifestyles and sexual habits. “…But the church has always been a home of both saints and sinners, in the past and very much so in the present. I guess I will have to draw the line of the teachings of the church right there for me,” he said.
He also said that he was ready for the ramifications of coming out. “I am fully aware that persons I know might want to disassociate themselves from me; some will act like they never knew me; others might withdraw their friendship slowly,” he noted, while adding that there are also people throughout Guyana that will support and understand his need to be honest.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Consultation on Participatory Governance across the Americas (Caribbean and Canada)

Consultation on Participatory Governance across the Americas (Caribbean and Canada)
Hosted by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre/Commonwealth Foundation
Castries, Saint Lucia
April 16 - 17, 2013

Representative for the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD- Guyana): Alana Da Silva
The following were the objectives of the consultation:
1.      To gain a deeper understanding of the expertise, strengths and comparative advantages of existing and potential partners across the Americas (Caribbean and Canada).

2.      To gain a deeper understanding of the issues, gaps, opportunities and leadership in participatory governance across the Americas (Caribbean and Canada).

3.      To  develop a regional snapshot of the MDG acceleration and post 2015 framework building base on research undertaken by the Foundation in the Commonwealth (including the Caribbean).

4.      To facilitate the identification of regional priorities on participatory governance and development.

Day One – April 16, 2013
The consultation was opened at 8:30am by Shantal Munro-Knight, Moderator and Chief Executive Coordinator, Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) – and subsequent remarks were made by the following persons:

1.         Renrick Rose, Chair – CPDC
Renrick Rose said that, “We are good talkers in the Caribbean…”

However, participatory governance “is a fundamental aspect of democracy and an aspect of civil society… and whatever we come to within these two days, how does it translate in individual response and implementation?”

2.         Shantal Munro-Knight, Executive Coordinator - CPDC
According to Munro-Knight, the Commonwealth Foundation was founded in 1965 and is governed by member states to strengthen the capacity of civil society in the Commonwealth. She also stated that the organization was re-launched in November, 2012 – as it cannot remain in London. Instead, it also needs to hear the voices of the Commonwealth people.

3.         Dr. Anthony George, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Lucia
According to Dr. Anthony George, the year “2013 is characterized by changes and diversity…”
“We also acknowledge that power, wealth and status are inequitably distributed... and the government of Saint Lucia supports active and inclusive participation of civil society, even in the advocacy of human rights…” Therefore, “Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be achieved without the active participation of Civil Society Organisations…” He also said, “You can hold governments and institutions responsible” for human rights violations. Furthermore, “The cost of inaction will likely to be high, and the longer the inaction on your part, the higher the cost will be.”
Dr. George also said that, there is a need to “encourage partnerships and networking” as an integral part of building the capacity of civil society across the region and to protect human rights and equality.  

4.         Amy Bartlett, Programme Coordinator, Canadian Council for International Cooperation
Amy Bartlett issued a reminder to participants that, “The Canadian Development Agency (CIDA) is gone… and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have little or no influence and funding for development” in Canada. Therefore, it is critical for CSOs to seek innovative ways to build and strengthen partnerships; connect and share ideas and experiences; and to remain active in resolving humanitarian issues affecting their region and the global environment.

Working Session 1
Four (4) working groups were facilitated to discuss what is participatory governance, its elements, level of CSO and non-state actors’ (NSAs) influence on development at the governmental level, and their outcomes.

Working Session 2
Four (4) working groups discussed the various opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses of participatory governance in the region and at the national level; and how these issues can translate into meaningful and sustained collaboration between civil society, NSAs and the public sector, in order to create positive human development at all levels.

Working Session 3
Three (3) working groups were facilitated to discuss some of the most important regional priorities in achieving participatory governance, inclusiveness, and partnerships between NGOs, CSOs, and governments, as well as international donors and organisations.

Evening Working Session – April 16, 2013 at 7:30pm to 9:30PM
Panel Discussion on “The Social Conjecture: Social Movements! Social Media & Individual Resistance: Whither the organized NGO Movement?”

Ms. Maribel Gonzalez, Manager – Programme Development, Development Workshop
Mr. Cecil Ryan, Managing Director, Project Promotion Ltd.
Ms. Judith Wedderburn, Director, Freidich Ebert Stiftung
Mr. Giles Romulus, National Coordinator, GEF SGP UNDP (Saint Lucia)

There was a general consensus among the panelists and participants that, social media is a tool as well as a space that should be effectively, efficiently, and strategically managed by CSOs, NGOs and other NSAs to create awareness, advocate, and to interact with their constituents and other organisations throughout the region and internationally. There should be no barrier to this free movement and communication.
Emphasis was also placed on engaging youth in advocacy and adapting to changes in social media in order to build a larger audience and to collaborate at various levels and platforms. However, according to the panelists, social media should never be used as a substitute for organising and coordinating activities at local and grass-roots levels. Instead, these two must work in unity in order to effect changes in the lives of groups and individuals throughout our countries and regions.
Day Two - April 17, 2013
Three working groups were facilitated throughout the day to discuss the findings of the regional MDGs review, identify loopholes in the process, and propose recommendations for implementation of the post- 2015 framework – and in particular, the opportunities for building equitable relations between governments, CSOs, and NSAs.

Culminating from the working groups, it was agreed that while there are many limitations for CSOs and NSAs to engage the government in meaningful discussions to effect policies at the national level, human rights organisations also have a responsibility to organize themselves into an official body that can collectively advocate on behalf of each member, which should also include supporting human rights initiatives within each country, across the region, and internationally.
It was also agreed that CSOs must engage regularly in self-analysis and introspection in order to maintain a collective vision of how to proceed with the work of advocacy, and to remember that the fight is for “human rights,” and it is a personal and lifelong struggle that requires dedication, commitment, and many times, voluntary work.

Post – 2015 Regional Priorities, Processes, and Activities

The regional priority areas below were agreed upon by all participants of the consultation and will serve as a proposal by the CPDC for drafting the main focus of the post-2015 regional framework agenda. As such, the target groups for addressing these areas of development were listed as: Women and girls; children; LGBTI people; People Living with HIV (PLHIV); People with disabilities (PWD); Men; Immigrants (Re: Human Trafficking); and Youth.

1.      Human Development, Poverty Reduction, and Economic Empowerment.

2.      Governance, Citizen Participation, and Inclusiveness.

3.      Environmental Development and Sustainability.

4.      Gender and Women’s Empowerment.

5.   Social Development (Equity and Justice), including the Eradication and prevention of discrimination against marginalized groups.

6.      Promotion of entrepreneurships (for youth).

In closing, the CPDC provided a list of their immediate priorities, following the consultation – some of which have already been realized subsequent to this meeting. These included:
§  Incorporating this agenda into regional spaces (like CARICOM, etc.)
§  Dissemination of the agreed outcomes of the consultation.
§  Setup working groups to structure the framework for continued consultations and collaboration with regional partners, NGOs, CSOs and other NSAs.
§  Work at global level to increase collaboration between international donors/organisations and CSOs.
§  Issue a full report of the workshop within two (2) weeks from the closing date (April 17, 2013).