Friday, March 24, 2017

“Women, Wine & Words” – The Launch of SWAG

On Friday, March 10, 2017, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted the fourth women’s empowerment session, titled “Women, Wine & Words”, in celebration of International Women’s Day and to officially launch the SASOD Women’s Arm at its 203 Duncan Street, Lamaha Gardens location.

The women’s empowerment series was birthed as a collaboration between SASOD and the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA). The intention of the series is to educate and empower lesbian, bisexual (LB) women and women allies about issues related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Previous sessions have focused on the basics of SRHR, self-care, wellness, body image, gender-based violence and rape culture.The women empowerment sessions are intended to create a safe space for women to ventilate pertinent women and gender issues and to share their own lived-experiences or observations. The sessions also serve to give women the information needed to make informed decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health and their own rights.

“Women, Wine & Words”, the fourth session and the first for 2017 brought together a group of 19 women for conversations on the dynamics of consent, particularly the power of NO in intimate partner relationships; the importance of being bold for change and the changing world of work for women, in keeping with the themes for International Women’s Day 2017. Presenters for the evening included: Chelauna Providence, Programme Manager, GRPA; Akola Thompson, SASOD Member & Co-Founder of the Student Society Against Human Rights Violations and Collette King, SASOD Member and Construction Worker.

Chelauna shared with the group the power of no and the power that persons have to say no to behaviours and activities that they do not wish to participate it, either in an intimate relationship or not. She underscored the challenges faced in relationships because of culturally-ingrained misconceptions about what should obtain in intimate relationships. She stressed the importance of saying no when uncomfortable or not ready to engage in any activity, regardless of if it’s with your partner.

Akola, a bold and self-motivated young woman, in her presentation underlined the what it means to really be bold for change, why being bold is important and the little steps we can take to contribute to change ad to speak up about issues affecting women and girls and other marginalized groups. She shared how she and others at the University of Guyana are being bold for change, noting the creating of the advocacy group, Students Society Against Human Rights Violation (SSAHRV). She also spoke about the “March for Girls” organised by the SSAHRV in solidarity with the regional ‘Life in Leggings’ movement to mark International Women’s Day.
Akola Thompson encouraging the participants to #BeBoldForChange during her presentation 
Collette, a SASOD Member extremely passionate about the field of construction shared her experiences and challenges as a woman working in a traditionally male-dominated sector. She noted the fact that her aptitude is often questioned and in some situations she is underpaid simply because she is a woman. Needless to say, she is never deterred and will continue to develop her skills and remain persistent in her quest to succeed in the profession.

The group was very interactive and the conversation flowed throughout all presentations. The women’s empowerment sessions are essentially a learning and sharing event with women keen to ask questions and eager to share their own experiences and insights.
After the presentations, SASOD Women’s Arm Guyana (SWAG) was officially launched. The women-led, rights-based and social justice advocacy arm of the SASOD movement will be dedicated to empowering lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LBT) women and women allies and advancing their rights.

Organiser of the group, Schemel Patrick, in outlining the scope of the group noted that SWAG will promote gender equality and women’s rights, advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, women’s leadership and political participation, community mobilisation, economic empowerment and socio-cultural initiatives that create safe spaces and propel the voices of LBT women and women allies. She emphasized that the group itself will be a safe space for LBT women and women allies, and will serve as a catalyst for greater involvement of women in the pursuit of social justice and human rights by and for LBT women and women allies in Guyana. SWAG will seek to further promote and continue the advocacy work done by SASOD with a greater focus on women and gender issues.
Participants listening keenly to the objectives of SWAG
Membership of SWAG is open to all LBT women and women allies. Interested persons will be required to fill in an application form, after which they will be contacted for an induction meeting to discuss their role in SWAG.

The “Women, Wine & Words” event would not have been successful without the contributions from corporate sponsors, namely; Massy Distributions Guyana, Inc., Leading Edge - Guyana and Bettencourt’s Food Inc. SASOD would like to express its sincerest appreciation to these businesses and certainly looks forward to more fruitful partnerships with the private sector. 

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