Thursday, November 26, 2015

Actioning Women’s Leadership

- SASOD attends Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference 2015

By Alana Da Silva - Secretary, SASOD’s Board of Directors

Photo courtesy: Melanie Grant
Over 50 lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) women, feminists and heterosexual allies converged as a community at the 3rd Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference, from October 5 to 11, 2015. The conference was held at the Kapok Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

As LBT women and feminist allies of the Caribbean and Latin America, part of the joy (and challenge) of participating in the conference was in sharing our experiences and incredible stories of love, friendship, and ways to build a supportive and sustainable community that challenges and increases the leadership capabilities of women - regardless of our sexual orientations and gender identities. At the same time, we learned how to navigate the social, political, and religious structures that designed to control women’s sexualities, which is inherently diverse but often criticised and criminalised due to fear, ignorance, and oppression.

The discussions were thought-provoking and sometimes deeply emotional, as one participant recalled her struggle with suicide, anxiety and depression. Others have overcome similar challenges with lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia, while manoeuvring through self-care and acceptance. Our shared bond is that we continue to strengthen our resolve by advocating for the most vulnerable in our communities. This is achieved through various actions across the region, including LGBT-focused research; housing and security for victims of domestic and gender-based violence; training and information sharing; literacy programmes for children, or providing a safe space to share each other’s rich artistry and creativity, as in the case of Afifa Aza, Jamaican Artist, as well as Founder and Creative Director at SO((U))L.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Civil Society Now Ready for Advocacy with New Government

Last Friday, October 30, 2015, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) officially closed the Civil Society Public Policy Advocacy Training Programme, following two three-day workshops at the Regency Suites Hotel, Georgetown, over the past two months.
In providing an overview of the project, Caribbean Public Policy research and Training Consultant, Deborah Nurse shared that, “the project, which started eight months ago, commenced with a research phase consisting of two components.  The first component included a data gathering element designed to be an input into the training phase; it served to ascertain the policy objectives, existing capacities, needs, challenges and training/skill needs of GEF member and partner organizations.  The second component was a mapping study, which was designed to document governmental policy and decision-making processes in Guyana.  The information gleaned from the baseline and mapping studies was used to design the Civil Society Public Policy Advocacy Training Programme.”The project was essentially 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 through SASOD and the GEF in decision-making processes of the state.
The entire training programme provided an intensive and focused introduction to the principles and practices of effective public policy advocacy. It focused on how to conduct evidence-based advocacy and how to strategically communicate with decision makers.  There was a practical component to the training, which allowed participants to conduct ‘strategic inquiry’ – or intelligence gathering - with politicians and other key decision makers on issues that they were advocating for.  Nurse highlighted that, “there are some very important and exciting policy issues that participants focused on such as: Key human rights and equality issues that should be included in the government’s upcoming Gender  Policy; Increasing access to physical, sexual and mental health services in hinterland communities; Amending the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination; and Repealing the laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing laws, in Guyana.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

SASOD Mourns Loss of Outstanding Activist, Zenita Temall Nicholson

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is shocked and saddened by the news of the death of one our leading activists and former board member, Zenita Temall Nicholson. Zenita joined SASOD in May 2011 as a member and Coordinator of the “Human Rights Education for the Protection of Sexual and Gender Minorities in Guyana” Project.
Zenita was passionate about human rights and a fearless defender of the rights of vulnerable people. She applied this drive and commitment to her work, delivering exceptional results at SASOD to raise awareness and strengthen advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Due to her dedication and hard work, she became Secretary on the SASOD Board of Trustees in September 2012 – a volunteer position which she held for two years, until September 2014.
Zenita remained a member of SASOD and represented the organisation at the 45th Regular Session of the Organisation of American States General Assembly as recently as June of this year in Washington, D.C. Zenita was recognized for her outstanding leadership and courage by the United States Embassy in Georgetown in March 2014 when Charge d’ Affaires Bryan Hunt presented her with their first International Woman of Courage Award. The citation reads: “In recognition of your exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment and raising public awareness to protect the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

UN Committee Urges Guyana to Repeal Discriminatory Laws

On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, the USAID – Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Guyana Project and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted the second in its series of "Lunch Talks" at the APC office in Oleander Avenue, Bel Air Park, Georgetown. This “Lunch Talk” sought to examine the Concluding Observations from the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on Guyana’s recent review on September 28 - 29, 2015.
The Concluding Observations after Guyana’s recent review on September 28 and 29 were released on October 9, 2015.  The Concluding Observations contain the collective assessment of the state's record and recommendations for enhanced implementation of the rights under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
At the “Lunch Talk”, a team from SASOD including of Managing Director, Joel Simpson; Advocacy and Communications Officer, Schemel Patrick and SASOD Volunteers, Monica Brinn and Chase Gorishek, shared a summary of the SASOD’s Stakeholder Report accentuating pertinent topics that were highlighted by the Committee in its Comcluding Observations to the Government of Guyana. The discussion around the table interrogated the Concluding Observations and outlined a clear roadmap of how the Government of Guyana can meet its treaty obligations to fulfil the economic, social and cultural rights of all Guyanese.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

SASOD Charges Government to Repeal Discriminatory Laws through UN Review Process

SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simspon
On Wednesday, October 7, 2015, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) held a media briefing at the Guyana Marriott Hotel Georgetown to discuss Guyana’s recent review under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that was held in Geneva on September 28 – 29, 2015 during the 56th Session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and to share a synopsis of the Stakeholders Report on the Protection of the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons in Guyana which SASOD submitted to CESCR on August 30, 2015,ahead of the country review.

Speaking at the media briefing were SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simspon, and Advocacy and Communication’s Officer, Schemel Patrick, and the UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Dr. Martin Odiit.

In his opening remarks, Simpson provided a brief background on how the CESCR works. He noted that the Guyana signed ICESCR in 1968 and ratified it in 1977. Simpson lamented that Guyana had failed to meet its treaty obligation to report to CESCR every 5 years and charged the APNU+AFC Government to improve the abysmal treaty-body reporting record of the previous administration.