SAINT LUCIA – From October 5 to October 9, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LBTQI) activists from across the region gathered on Saint Lucia for the 5th annual Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference (CWSDC). The groundbreaking pre-eminent networking event for LBTQI activists was con- vened under the theme ‘Self-Development for Community Empowerment’.
“The first ever Caribbean Women and Sexual Diversity Conference was held on Curacao in 2013. Since then the event has traveled the Caribbean from Suriname to Trinidad to St. Croix and now, because of the steadfast involve- ment of United and Strong, to Saint Lucia,” organiser Kenita Placide says.
Maria Fontenelle, co-coordinator of the event since its inception, notes “The CWSDC is, in more than one aspect, the premier event for LBTQI activists to grow their skills and network. It has grown in recognition and scope around the region, particularly because of the work in which activists engage post-conference. It is now vested in the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE), which as a regional organisation is better poised to maintain it.”
Conference organisers say over the years the conference has focused on empowering activists to better serve their communities and region.
This empowerment is reflected not only in the work that activists return home to do, but also their growing involvement in the conference as presenters and organisers.
“Human rights and the extension of human rights to LBT women and other vulnerable groups across the Caribbean remains a strong focus of the conference. As organisers who are activists ourselves, we understand that empower- ment must take a holistic approach; thus catering to both organisational development, but also personal develop- ment,” organiser Lysanne Charles of ECADE and St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE) says.
Some 50 plus activists and presenters from 20 countries are expected at the regional conference and come from islands and countries spanning from the Bahamas in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south and Belize, Guyana and Suriname on the mainland.
“For CWSDC, diversity is always a key component; this includes nationality, age, physical ability etc. It is important that voices from the entire Caribbean are heard and we do our best to embolden and energise as many activists and organisations in as many countries as possible, because it is great if individually we are strong, but we know that to- gether we are always stronger,” says organiser Jassica St. Rose of United and Strong.
With the aim of creating change through individual development, #CWSDC5 celebrates the significant contribution of Caribbean LBTI people to their diverse communities. The 2017 conference explores how women and LBTI people live and love at the intersection of the personal and political, their commitment to maintaining our collective bonds of family, culture and identity while creating spaces for self-actualisation and expression beyond hetero- and gender- normative structures. The conference focussed on creating change through individual development and community mobilisation. The CWSDC engages active women human rights defenders’ working in a Caribbean context.