So much has happened since my last blog post! I’ve been drafting this post for a while, because I’ve been pretty busy helping out with several projects and events.
Firstly, an election update: The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won, winning 32 of the 63 seats.
Shortly after my first blogpost, I took part in a two-day training around providing HIV and other Health Services for Transgender persons. The workshop took place up at St. Ann’s Bay, and there were about 30 healthcare providers taking part in the training. The training provided space for two individuals from the transgender community to share their experiences and voice how difficult it is to access public healthcare (because of discrimination by healthcare workers or from other patients, or because of the lack of knowledge around issues that affect transgender people). Having two speakers from the transgender community talk about their lived experiences was helpful in humanizing real issues for the healthcare providers. Aside from this, the participants were able to learn about HIV vulnerabilities and risks for transgender persons, MSM, and sex workers in Jamaica; and understand gender and sexual orientation (the genderbread person served as a great tool for clarification).
What stood out to me throughout the training was the iteration of the importance of community in Jamaica and how influential communities can be. It was mentioned that “community affects how you treat an individual”. In many instances, transgender persons are accepted by their family/ friends, but are pushed away by the community (i.e. threats of violence). While communities can be a source of inspiration, it can also be a big challenge to enacting change.
I also had the opportunity to take part in a three-day LGBT Youth Social Justice Advocacy Training in Falmouth. It was so incredible to be among 11 very passionate youth and 7 inspiring facilitators, all very empowered to change Jamaica and see it as an inclusive place to live. The training was part of a year long youth programme for LGBT and ally youth, organized by J-FLAG. The three days stressed the importance of self-reflection, experiential learning, reporting/ tweeting, peer review, and partnerships when it comes to advocacy. We learned about different domestic legislations and international mechanisms, covenants, treaties, and procedures. On top of that we learned how to formulate call to actions, policy briefs, and position papers. There was a lot of helpful knowledge, tools and skills to equip young LGBT/ ally advocates and activists.
It was great to learn about the Yogyakarta Principles. Developed in 2006, the Yogyakarta Principles define sexual orientation and gender identity, and has 29 principles that address international human rights standards and their application to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
There were also two parts in the training around social justice movements, in particular in Jamaica. Here are the things that stood out for me:
- Social injustice occurs when “discrimination has been normalized”, and is a result of the historical absence of freedom/ justice, violence in institutions and structures, and the absence of agency (no voice or control over choice)
- Jamaica was not a settler-colony: Jamaica served as an important colony to Britain for the purpose of extraction, but very little to no infrastructure and institutions were set up.
- The Jamaican Constitution, 1962, was European and elite led, so it did not dismantle the status quo of injustice, violence, classism, racism, etc.
- Facilitators also emphasized that “there are missed opportunities when intersections are not recognized” and that “activism is a process”. So it’s important to find linkages, and to be patient/ optimistic.
On March 10th, I attended #HerLegacy, which was an amazing event organized by Women’s Empowerment for Change (WE-Change) and UNWomen to celebrate women in Jamaica and the Caribbean. There were gallery viewings, tributes, readings, music performances, spoken word poetry, stories, and overall celebration. WE-Change is a rights-based, women-led, community-based advocacy group committed to increasing the participation of lesbians, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) women in social justice advocacy in Jamaica and the Caribbean. WE-Change facilitates the empowerment of women to increase participation in local and regional social justice advocacy, because they know that empowered women transform communities.
Aside from #HerLegacy, WE-Change organizes and participates in other events related to empowering women, organizes twitter chats, and was recently part of the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women #CSW60. Follow WE-Change on Facebook and Twitter.
That’s it for now, more updates to come!