WE-Change is a community-based organisation committed to increasing the participation of women in social justice advocacy in Jamaica and the Caribbean. WE-Change was launched on May 15, 2015 out of a need to address and respond to the 'invisibilisation' of lesbians, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women in the LGBTQ rights movement in Jamaica. The organisation is women-led, women-focused and intersectional in its approach to advocacy, and guided by the outcomes of the Beijing 1995 Platform for Action.
If you’ve been following our #FeministLiteracy series (and if you haven’t…what are you doing with your life?) and the work that WE-Change has done over the years, the word “intersectionality” should feel like home: familiar. If you don’t have the pleasure of knowing us for that long, stay tuned as we take a dive into what intersectionality is and how WE have incorporated it into our advocacy and activism.
When Kimberlé Crenshaw enlisted the term, her point of reference was how gender, race and class discrimination overlap for African-American women, shaping their experience before the law. Subsequently, the term became a powerful method of qualitative analysis of how multiple systems of oppression (sexism, racism, homophobia, etc) work in tandem to prevent Black Women from receiving equal opportunities or access to quality education, housing, medical care, you name it. And though the context in which Crenshaw framed her theory is America, this analysis is extremely applicable to Caribbean women and that’s why WE use it to inform how WE design our programmes and go about our advocacy work.
One of our staple programmes, the Social and Economic Justice programme, was designed based on our understanding of the position in society that queer women occupy that not only shuts them out of economic opportunities, but relegates them social outcasts. Unaccepted. With this in mind, the programme equipped women with information on the ways in which women are economically disadvantaged, unpaid care work but also built the capacity of lesbian, bisexual and trans women to actively participate in advocacy.
In more recent years it has been associated with existing in multiple social groups and how they work together to construct your identity (for example, Jane is a Black Caribbean trans woman who lives in an inner-city community). But it does go beyond identities or a way to describe multiple identities. Intersectionality allowed Black women to describe how distinctly different their experiences were from White women – who, though they shared the experience of being discriminated based on gender, still had white privilege.
WE hope this was useful in understanding the concept of “intersectionality” (and so will use it correctly in the future lol). Next week WE’ll be at it again talking about Feminism vs Womanism!
For resources, take a look at the ones linked in our very first blog post in the series: What is Feminism?
For many, “da feminist ting deh” occupies a space on the long list of imported goods and services that wash our pristine shores every day or another aspect of American culture that we mindlessly took on. It’s something unnatural. Not original. A thing “undermining women” and a “threat to civilization”.
We explore this in this week’s episode 4 of our feminism literacy project.
Caribbean women have been practicing Feminism through bodily autonomy, creating spaces for themselves to critique their living and labour conditions and lobbying for greater economic opportunities for centuries. When they weren’t manifesting Feminist praxis, they were theorizing about their life experiences and those of their foremothers, analysing them through Caribbean lenses and locating these analyses in the Caribbean reality. This documentation has lead to the creation of Caribbean Feminism as a valid scholarship and mode of analysis and legitimised the narratives of Caribbean womanhood. Before 1974, the lives of women were effectively erased from the annals of Jamaican history. Dem neva exist. Their work on slave plantations, their lives, experiences and, importantly, their contribution to revolution and liberation were undocumented and excised. But one woman, Lucille Mathurin Mair, wrote her dissertation (now the book “A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica, 1655-1844), which was in and of itself a revolutionary undertaking. Mair’s seminal study characterized Jamaican women as audacious and gave the world its first insight into their daily lives. From her research and writings, we discovered that Jamaican women were natural insurrectionists and developed their own particular styles of resistance. It served as a springboard for wider research into the lives of enslaved Caribbean women which further introduced us to terms like gynecological resistance (*cough*abortions*cough).
Mair inspired a host of Caribbean women scholars in several fields (Economics, Sociology, History, Development, you name it), to critically look at the lives of women and the systems that need to be changed in order for them to more than thrive but to survive. Women like Judith Wedderburn who, as co-founder of the Association of Development Agencies and economist, was able to deconstruct Jamaica’s debt to the International Monetary Fund to demonstrate the disproportionate impact it had on women and their livelihoods. Remember Tambourine Army? The militant group of women and survivors who took to the streets to protest against violence towards women and the sexual abuse of girls? This movement was a result of the Feminist ancestral energy within us and groundwork that had been laid centuries before us.
So, Feminism in the Caribbean is neither new nor foreign. It has existed in practice for centuries and in theory for decades. WE-Change is a proud product and beneficiary of the Caribbean Feminism. And WE a go keep mek noise and keep mek trouble.
Join us next week as we take a dive into “Intersectional Feminism”. What is it and why we need it?
If you want to see some of the spiciest hot takes (Translation: uninformed opinions) and the most vitriolic commentaries on the internet, open Twitter dot com and search for “feminists”. Going as far back as 2010 in the digital space, the amplification of hate towards feminist identified people became more insidious. “Bitter”, “man-hating” (you may also notice that the insults have remained woefully…bland), “lonely”, “ugly” are some of the more common descriptors that are levelled not just at feminists, but at the very nature of Feminism and what it was founded on. With the digital space’s virality and penchant for giving a voice to the loudest empty barrels, these particular assumptions manage to remain tethered and synonymous to Feminism. Episode three of the #FeminismLiteracy Series is tackling these myths and assumptions in an attempt to lay them to rest…or at the very least to educate on their fallacy. This blog post, however, instead of looking at the “not all”, will explore the why. Why do these myths and assumptions exist and why do they prevail?
With that said, here are three reasons why these myths and assumptions have managed to find their way to freedom and STAYED:
Think of hecklers. Hecklers are known for their disruptive and interruptive behaviour during performances, events, sporting matches, you name it. At their core, they exist to draw attention away from whatever is being centred by using disparaging comments to either spotlight themselves or cause others to question the message, authenticity or credibility of the performer. When hecklers of Feminism and feminists call women/non-binary people “bitter”, “lonely” or “man-hating lesbians”, it is often in an attempt to magnify what they deem as a personal failing to partner with men, in a society that values cisgender heterosexual romantic pairings. If they can prove that the women who espouse Feminism are “undesirable” and have not conformed to what is the cornerstone of our society (🤮), then the message gets discredited and the focus is shifted towards the personal life of the individual feminist.
2. FEAR OF LOSING POWER.
WE’ve mentioned before that a major component of Feminism is to critique systems of power and that includes the people who hold them up. In a society built on hierarchies with people who are invested in maintaining them or aspire to climb their way to the top, a concept like Feminism that calls for its complete destruction incites fear. It’s why men, in particular, are the most vocal detractors. Under Patriarchy, men have and stand to benefit the MOST from it and this is especially true if they’re cisgender, heterosexual, white and from the Global North (think of America, Canada and Western Europe). Promoting and spreading assumptions ensures that their position at the peak of the social, political and economic pyramid remains unchallenged.
3. PLAIN OLD IGNORANCE.
People do not like to read. That’s it. That’s the explanation. 🤷🏾♀️
Next week WE take this closer to home! We trace the development of Feminism in the Caribbean, looking at the ways in which Caribbean women have moved women and their needs from margin to center!
Fun fact! There are about 10 different types of onions that exist in the culinary world. True story! There are sweet onions, red onions, shallots and Spanish onions, each of which adds their own distinct flavours, smells and taste to a dish. Each one very different from the other but having the same function. And much like onions, Feminism, as a discipline, theory and school of thought, has several different branches. This week, WE want to expose you to the types of Feminism that have existed throughout time.
Under the Feminism umbrella, there are several iterations that propose varying responses, solutions and perspectives to the problem that is women’s oppression. In episode two, WE described the more well-known types which are Liberal, Radical, Marxist/Socialist, Black, Eco, New Wave and Caribbean. “You see why you can’t trust this feminiblahblah? Look oomuch kinds deh deh (Look how many there are). Yuh nuh see dem confuse (Don’t you see that they’re confused)?”
The thing is, the different kinds of Feminisms were birthed at unique periods of time as a response to the very particular needs and desires of the women in that era and the discrimination they faced. However, as new knowledge and more critical analyses of women’s lived experiences and the structures (the social, political and economic circumstances/barriers) that prevent them from living, well, their best lives, occurred…a newer, more fitting perspective had to be conceptualised. For example, Black Feminism was created to address the cross-cutting discrimination that African-American women faced by including race as politics in the mix. It was a revolutionary and critical move for Black women who could not find a community among White feminists (*cough*White Feminism*cough*) or Black men who were political activists during the Civil Rights Movement. In the same breath, Caribbean feminists (And feminists from other Global South or formerly colonised nations) had to carve out space for themselves within Feminism to accurately represent their realities. For us, geopolitics, globalization and the impact of colonialism are significant when discussing the unique experiences of Caribbean women and their ability to navigate their home countries and the world.
So…no. Feminism as theory, politics and discipline is not cOnFuSeD. What it has done, specifically Black and Caribbean Feminism (WE make no apologies about where WE fall), is allowed us space and a base for which to constantly critique institutions, even the different Feminist leanings, and to constantly insert ourselves and our communities into the conversation. Marxist Feminists asked us to look beyond the individualism promoted by Liberal Feminists toward women’s labour under a capitalist structure. Black Feminists asked us to critique our societies through race, gender, class and sexuality lenses and Caribbean and Global South Feminists asked us to include colonialism and globalization inna the pot!
Stay with us where next week WE tackle the myths around Feminism!
Over the past decade, the word “feminism” has saturated our media, social networks, advertisements and even our t-shirts. Since this heightened recognition and hyperawareness of the political ideology, its definition has been twisted and contorted and bent out of shape; its application a bit…questionable. However, despite the fury towards Feminists and Feminism, it does not detract from the very real fact that Feminism, particularly Black Feminism, has given us one of the best understandings of this world, its systems, their effect on different groups of people and their influence on our interpersonal relationships.
Black feminism as a foundational theory can be accredited to the work of Dr Patricia Hill Collins who gave meaning and analysis to the everyday experiences of black women and the discrimination that we face. In her book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (1990), she introduced to us the conceptual framework “matrix of domination” which explained how our different social categories (race, gender, sexual orientation, class, geography etc) are interconnected and overlap to cause us to experience domination (or oppression) in different ways. For instance, Latoya, a light-skin lesbian woman, and Kristina, a dark skin bisexual woman both face discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender. However, Kristina faces an additional dimension of discrimination because of the colour of her skin. This model was a breakthrough in understanding the complexities of black womanhood and how we exist in this world. It also helped to inform how we (and WE) advocate.
Patricia Hill Collins. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil
But why is any of this relevant? Why should you care about or care to understand Feminism, especially as a Caribbean national? The fundamentals of Feminism allow us to critically think about our society and address the inequity and inequalities that exist and prevent people from living a fulfilling life and, the reality is, Caribbean Feminists have led and been at the forefront of social and economic development and change in our region. Joan French, a Jamaican born feminist, scholar and activist, is credited with leading and, eventually winning, the fight for unmarried teachers to have maternity leave in Jamaica. Caribbean feminists successfully advocated for parliament to unanimously pass legislation to outlaw the practice of child marriage in Trinidad and Tobago in 2017! Their work ensures that the legal marriage is 18, giving young girls opportunities which were once dictated by a conservative and patriarchal law. Feminists have LITERALLY changed the world!
So the next time you hear something negative about feminism – think critically about it. Nothing is perfect, including feminism – but WE’re challenging you to use feminism to help you think more critically about society, systems and power. Keep tuned to our #FeminismLiteracy project!
WE were born out of a need to include lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in Jamaica’s LGBT advocacy at the highest level. WE’ve been able to accomplish quite a lot over the years through partnerships, great sponsors and a committed team.
For the past 3 years we have worked with and for LBT women in Jamaica and the Caribbean region on various programmes and activities like:
All the work we do feeds directly into our mission to:
Increase the participation of LBT women in social justice advocacy
Create safe, alternative spaces for LBT women.
Address and reduce homophobia and transphobia
Promote gender equality towards the elimination of VAW
WE’re excited for the future. WE look forward to further expansion in the Caribbean region, continuing to build the capacity of our team and most of all serving and working alongside LBT women in Jamaica and regionally.
“We-Change commits unbridled support to the development of a Gay Agenda for Jamaica and pledges to contribute to its advancement, in respect to the constituents whom the organisation serves. WE recognises it is important that as our government works in partnership with the private and third sectors to push the National Strategic Development Action Plan, the positioning of the voices of Lesbian, Bisexual and women of Trans experience is critical to the conversation and actioning around the actualisation of the Vision (2030) – “Making Jamaica a place to work, live, do business and raise families.” The creation of a Gay Agenda will allow for the different sub-groups of the LGBT community to for themselves, collectively articulate a vision that will satisfy their desired quality of life.
WE-Change was borne out of the need to address socio-economic challenges affecting LBT women and since inception, has worked towards training them and allies in advocacy techniques, strategies, legal and financial literacy and challenging Gender Based Violence. Through our work, WE have conversely been impacted by the individuals who engage the organisation and constantly re-tune our strategies and add dimensions to our scope of advocacy. It is our operational ethos to apply an intersectional approach to women’s advocacy, this is done in acknowledgement of women’s issues being typically cross-cutting in nature; additionally, the work and importance of allies is recognised and embraced. This manifesto will not only provide a framework within which advocacy should be primarily centred, but demonstrate an emboldened community, working to wholly access their human rights.
The future for women’s advocacy requires and is dependent on ALL women having a voice in any area of development that may affect them and WE will act as a conduit through which these voices are channeled. This Gay Agenda will not only inform our advocacy, but bring us to closer with the LBT and ally communities and allow for more broadly informed strategies; it represents a renewed charge towards securing satisfactory socio-economic for well-being for LGBT people.”
Across the region, women’s rights activists are collectively concerned with the case involving Yugge Farrell unfolding in the Kingston Magistrate Court in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Though we have all breathed a sigh of relief at the news of her grant of bail, there is an equally shared sense of outrage at the manner in which the case has been managed by the Magistrate’s Court up to this point.
We vehemently question the the circumstances surrounding a charge of abusive language that led to Yugge being committed to a mental health facility on the mere suggestion of the prosecution that she was unfit to plea after she had already supplied the court with a plea of not-guilty. It is true that Section 115 of the Criminal Procedure Code of St. Vincent empowers the court to detain individuals to inquire into the fact of unsoundness of mind where “the court has reason to believe the accused may be of unsound mind”. However, we strongly condemn the manner in which this power was
exercised. If on January 5, 2018 the Magistrate had believed the accused to be so affected, it must be asked why she was allowed to be arraigned in the first place. There also remains the question of whether due process was followed, if the Magistrate relied solely on the position of the prosecution; what justifiable “reason” can be given for this course of action when consideration is given to the fact that the prosecution provided no evidence to support its request?
It is with great concern that we also note what appears to be a disturbing pattern in our region of unlawfully detaining and vilifying women who challenge the state and its agents, with little regard for their human rights. One such incident that remains fresh in our collective consciousness is the incident dubbed #blackmailfriday in St. Lucia, in which blackmail charges were brought against 18-year-old, Curshaby Alexander, for allegedly leaking the nude images claimed to be of the MInister of Finance in the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr. Ubaldus Raymond. Of concern with this case is the failure by the state or otherwise to investigate or make any pronouncements on the nature of the relationship between an 18-year-old adolescent girl and a government minister. It is important to consider the vulnerability of young, adolescent girls in relationships that involve such differential power dynamics, where their ultimate safety and wellbeing is not sought and ensured, but is instead negated when the relationship becomes inconvenient. While it is not our position to support any criminal acts directed towards people in positions of power or otherwise, there is an element of forceful silencing that appears in cases of this nature. It is troubling that no alternative course of action was sought, including finding non-punitive measures of responding to the alleged indiscretion of a teenage girl.
Another distasteful instance of injustice, which almost perfectly mirrors this current incident, occurred in 2012 when Cheryl Miller was forcibly removed from her workplace at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development in Trinidad and Tobago by mental health officials. This was in response to what was described as an “outburst” in a heated exchange with a senior ministry official. Miller was detained at the St. Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, where she spent 17 days before being released. Like Yugge, Cheryl was also allegedly administered strong antipsychotic medication against her will while in care. Upon demand, Cheryl was granted the right to seek an independent psychological evaluation—the same courtesy should be granted to Ms. Farrell, particularly considering the dubious circumstances under which she was arrested and detained.
Fortunately, justice was served in the case of Ms. Miller, who was successful in her pursuance of an unlawful imprisonment lawsuit against the North West Regional Health Authority. The invocation of Section 15 of the Mental Health Act used to justify her detainment was ruled to be unlawful and Miller was awarded $835,000 TTD in damages for the humiliation caused by the incident. Though monetary compensation does not right the wrong of injustice, Cheryl’s triumph over attempts to diminish her dignity stands testament to women’s resilience, which we hope Yugge can draw strength from in the coming weeks.
It is evident that across the region, we are unfamiliar with the process of upholding and ensuring the protection of human rights in cases involving marred private relationships between government officials and civilians. What is even more bothersome is the use of the stigmatised nature of mental illness as a tool of the state to inhumanely detain persons whose actions they deem inimical to their interests. The institutionalisation of persons considered a “threat” cannot be condoned, and is testament to the low regard in which mental illness is viewed regionally. Furthermore, the use of institutionalisation as a response to a petty misdemeanour is aberrant and inexcusable given the non-violent nature of the offence.
It is our firm conviction that Yugge, like all Vincentians, has a right to fair trial before an impartial tribunal as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. That these rights are being toyed with and young woman’s mental health is being endangered in the process is no simple matter. Women, the feminist community, and human rights defenders across the Caribbean are closely watching the further conduct of this case and stand ready to speak up at the slightest hint of malfeasance by any agent of the state.
The above statement is endorsed by the undersigned organizations and individuals:
Élysse Marcellin, Mental Health Advocate, Trinidad and Tobago
Erin Greene, Equality Bahamas, Bahamas
Nicole Hendrickson, Fire Circle, Trinidad and Tobago
Gabrielle Hosein (Dr.), Lecturer/Journalist, Trinidad and Tobago
Holly Bynoe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Jessica Joseph, Creative Strategist, St. Lucia
Khafi Weekes, Consultant, Washington DC
Marsha Hinds-Layne, NOW, Barbados
Nailah John-Prince, President/Founder- Leave out Violence in SVG.
Paula Lindo, Trinidad and Tobago
Ronelle King, Life in Leggings, Barbados
Simone Leid, The WomenSpeak Project
Soyini Grey, Trinidad and Tobago
Stephanie Leitch, Gender Equality Advocate, Trinidad and Tobago
Tonya Haynes, Catch A Fyah Network, Regional
On Saturday January 21, 2017, WE-Change, along with their partners Fi Wi Jamaica hosted the graduation ceremony for WE-Change’s #Equality360 Social and Economic Justice programme. To celebrate, we take a look back at some of our participants’ reflections on the 3-day the intensive residential training they undertook from September 16-18 last year. Congratulations, #Equality360 Cohort 1 graduates!
My experience at the WE-Change Residential Training last weekend was eye-opening to say the least. I expected to learn a lot, but I had no idea the number of questions that would have been answered for me. A few days before going I was actually having a conversation with a friend about gender identities, and many of the questions being asked, neither of us had answers to. Similarly, a week before we were also having a conversation on the details of the rape law in Jamaica and even after drawing for Google, there were answers that we still hadn’t figured out. But two days of training quickly filled in all the gaps, and answered all these questions for me, and even questions I did not even know I had. The entire experience was an amazing journey into acceptance of other persons’ varying viewpoints and personalities. I feel like I acquired a family of beautiful young women, and felt immensely close to everyone after just a few days! I hold each and every participant I met in the highest esteem. They have my greatest respect and I am truly honoured that they chose to share their stories with me. I know that I met a group of young women who are going to change Jamaica, and by extension the world, and I am so excited to see what we all execute in our advocacy plans. I want to use what I have learned to create meaningful change, and to continue to learn as much as I can along the way.
When I applied to be a part of the We-Change Advocacy program, I had no idea how much I did not know about Social Justice, Economic Justice and how Feminism really works in empowering women. It was not until the first day having listened to Nadeen Spence speak; did I realize that I was a part of a group of individuals that have been forced into a box from what seems like the beginning of existence; Women. She allowed us to see that we deserve the right to a choice and that we are in control of our own future and how we’re view by society. She also quoted some astonishing statistics that has rattled me out of my comfort zone and given me purpose. The weekend progressed and with each facilitator I was taught that there was so much more that I wasn’t aware of. Thanks to Alexia McFee, I was educated in how the law inadequately protects us as LBT women and how I need to break out of the silence and join my sisters in the fight to change these “struggles” that we are facing.
Thanks to all these speakers I’ve also seen the importance of self-love. How important it is to respect and appreciate self because that is were true empowerment starts. So thanks to this Advocacy programme and the SEJ, I can vocally live in my truth. Willingly joining the fight and adorning the struggles of society being Black, Woman, Pansexual and a Feminist.
P.S. The participants were bomb. Hella fun, articulate and passionate about the cause. I’m expecting great things from us and I think you guys should too.
Prior to the WE-change training I knew that I was passionate about the status of women in Jamaica but I didn’t have much direction and many tools to use outside of a more confrontational approach in everyday conversation. I also had a good grasp on the concept of intersectional feminism but mostly applied it to my position as a black, dark skinned, abled, heterosexual, slim, middle class, educated (I could go on) woman. The biggest takeaway from the training was the idea of advocacy revolving around inclusion. For example, I knew that I wanted to focus on the lax sexual offences laws in Jamaica and the dismal conviction statistics. I had never thought to expand my study and advocacy into how unprotected women in same sex relationships were and the virtual invisibility of transsexual women under these laws.
Before the workshop ended I had already shared the more shocking tidbits I learned with my circle of friends (women owning less than 10% of wealth, the limited definition of rape, the limited scope of DVA etc.). Since then I’ve had more conversations and started brainstorming/toying with the different and creative ways to effectively reach out to and empower the women of Jamaica while crossing boundaries of sexual orientation, class, education level etc.
Overall, I was most looking forward to meeting and hearing from a group of outspoken Jamaican women who are passionate about issues affecting women in our country. I was not disappointed.
There’s a fine line between knowing something and not knowing anything at all. I realized that everything I knew before barely even scratched the surface becoming an ‘Empowered Woman’. Yes, I’m young, and actually being a woman is an entirely new world for me, but this might just be the best possible start. I entered this programme knowing about general social issues affecting women, knowing that I did in fact consider intersectional feminism to be the most effective way to tackle gender based injustice. What I didn’t know, or what I was excited to learn about was the economic justice aspect of the programme and becoming ‘legally lit’. So boom, training proceeded and I learned so much more than I bargained for. Learning about the various economic injustices that women face in society became an eye opener for me. Becoming more intimate with aspects of laws affecting LBT women really made me realize how much of a change needs to be made. Many of the facts that I learned about existing in such an unsafe and unfair environment for LBT women made me cringe to say the least. If I ever chose a time to be willing to make a change, this would be it. Enough about what I learned (even though that was a huge part of it), let’s talk about the bonds that were made.
I speak only for myself when I say I have never before experienced the level of comfort around a group of women, or people in general, as I did over this weekend. The bonding went from 0-100 real quick, comfort was an understatement, but we’ll just keep that word for now. The fact that such a wide range of personalities could exist in the same space with no tension was amazing to me. This kind of environment really helped me to fight off the urge to withdraw as I usually do in social situations. I definitely see myself interacting with these women for a long time, I think by the time the programme ends we will have formed lifelong relationships. I gained from everyone around me and I’m ready to do something. I’ve already started to tell almost everyone I meet about so many of the things I learned, so it’s definitely a start. I’m ready to tell anyone who will listen about getting involved in what we have coming up, ready to speak up more. I can’t say exactly what I plan to do because it’s so much more than that (and also because I’ve never been someone with much directions and setting goals), but I can say that I’m ready to put my best into anything that’s going on, anything that I can add to or take away from, I’ll be there. Facilitators, you deserve a medal. I could tell that we might not have been the easiest set when it came to following the schedule, but you were all focused and kept us in line. The overall experience over the weekend was an amazing one for me. If the training alone can be considered one of my best life experiences, I can’t imagine what I’ll feel like at the end of the programme. I guess the most important lesson I learned at the end of the training was that a group of women can be a force to be reckoned with, and one word I could use to describe how I feel about the training is “Ready”.
Initially, I was reluctant in applying, as I was quite conscious of the fact that, during my time in Youth Project Program, I made very little contribution. I felt as though I had let down the facilitators and coordinator of the program. So entering into the Social Economic Justice Advocacy Program, I was a bit concerned in whether or not I would be a contributing member of the group. Additionally, I was nervous about meeting new people as meeting new persons was never as strong point as I am an introvert by nature. However, I found that I was completely comfortable with the other members, despite my nature; it was like a sisterhood of sorts.
The facilitators were excellent in distributing the information regarding the topics that we discussed. I liked that each individual was given the opportunity to express themselves using their skills and talents, in doing this, I was able to advocate using a medium that was within my comfort zone, this being poetry.
The sessions reinforced some of the knowledge I had as it relates to the Sexual Offenses Act and The Domestic Violence Act, and it also clarified some of the misconception that I had as it relates to Gender and Sexual Diversity and Feminism. Now understanding the scope of what Feminism is, I can truly say that I am a feminist and am more equipped with the tools (knowledge not weapons) needed to defend this statement should it ever be contested. I am also more willing to tackle and contest statements regarding “gender norms” that might arise within my family or at work.
With all this said, I am looking forward to what WE-Change and I can accomplish together as I embark on my mission to “Topple the Patriarchy”.
Prior to the Social and Economic Justice Program, my knowledge of the injustices faced by women in general and more so LBT women could be considered as minimal. However, I knew enough to understand that women suffer daily due to a lack of awareness and laws that fail to be amended. As such, I decided to be a part of the initiative, in hope that through advocacy, I could help to make a difference. I must say however that spending an entire weekend with beautiful, intelligent and passionate women, all with diverse personalities, my belief in building friendships and the power of sisterhood was enhanced. I realized that though we are all unique, we are connected through various aspects of our life and as such, we are similar.
The most important lesson I learnt over the weekend is that Advocacy is consistency because inequality and injustices are consistent. With this knowledge, it is now my intention to dedicate more of my time in raising awareness, using not only the thirty-day advocacy plan recommended by WE-Change but also through personal and social media interactions. I applaud the efforts of WE-Change who through their own works has truly motivated me to become more active in advocacy and resuscitate projects that I once started and didn’t have the discipline to see them through.
For the knowledge, empowerment, motivation and love, THANK YOU WE-Change! #lovenlight
Prior to the weekend training, I had a very limited understanding of the concepts of women’s economic empowerment, economic justice and social justice. These are all topics I feel passionate about, especially as I am currently focusing on securing my financial independence and intelligence. After the intensive training, I definitely have a better understanding of the concepts thanks to the well-coordinated efforts of the facilitators. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that women are passive participants/consumers in our market economy rather than producers and creators of wealth because I have noticed that the language of finance tends to be a bit more difficult for women to understand. While I don’t want to start a business (for the foreseeable future), I definitely want to be wise about personal finance and this training serendipitously has put me on a path to ensuring that this becomes an important goal. I’m talking to friends right now about financial empowerment and sharing tools and information I’ve learned about budgeting and investment. Taking a step to make this change personally and as a friend group makes me feel really empowered and in charge of what the future holds for me.
Thanks to this SEJ initiative, I also gained a new appreciation for the significance of sisterhood and how safe places for LBT women are important. There really isn’t anything like being with a group of women in a safe space, especially women who are LBT/allies. #Equality360 #AfterDark ended up being far more personal and poignant than I ever anticipated as everyone shared their incredibly inspiring stories. Friendships have definitely been built and I hope they continue long after the programme has ended. I never sat with the same people every time we ate and my roommate and I got on really well. We all had a lot of fun. I hope to continue to build on the skills and knowledge learned. I am especially interested in furthering a project on financial independence and economic empowerment for women, however, we will see what happens in that arena.
It’s definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. And if this is how we have started, I’m really excited to see what happens as we go forward! 🙂
Though silent and seemingly disinterested and distant, I am quite the contradiction. This is probably my biggest flaw (working on it); the weekend has done so much for me; I will make an effort to centre my thoughts and formulate my words to explain my blunt statement. Upon arriving at the seminar, I conditioned my mind to take as much from what was offered as what was given to get there. Considering I was forbidden to even be in the same place as “those people” as my passionately homophobic mother referred to individual’s after explaining that the seminar is in relation to the We Change group (that’s a whole other story). I still fought to make it as advocacy and human rights has been a passion of mine and I saw this as a promising opportunity. Indeed it was. The seminar was not just the regular seminar with a set of objectives that was just needed to be learnt and accepted. The information and how it was presented was sustainable and the fact that instructors were willing to re-educate and positively influence by taking a neutral stand in lessons to enlighten the brain washed or misguided individuals was highly appreciated and commendable.
The information was quite eye opening as personally, some things I only partially knew or understood. However, the seminar was not just learning the obvious or what could be researched, I like to think that the kind and welcoming environment provided should be how as an advocate I should allow whatever or whoever I advocate for should feel. The privilege to be myself and open (though I was far from) is how I should allow anyone I deal with to feel. The way I was taught and enlightened is exactly how I plan to teach and enlighten. The same gentle hospitality I was offered is the same I will reciprocate. Being knowledgeable of what you’re advocating for is a necessity, you ought to be. However, the personal aspect of advocacy is where many go wrong. People forget the concept of having pure intentions, patience, creating a space where one isn’t only free to be themselves but willing to learn and etc
As previously stated, advocacy has been a passion of mine. During the duration of this training, I am willing to receive as much as I’d like to offer and after, I’d like to give more than I have received. Thank you for a fulfilling weekend, thank you for awakening my passion and aspirations. Lastly, thank you for setting me right on track. With personal life and being caught up with school, having something else I’m interested in is refreshing. I plan to dedicate not only my time but my genuine passion to this advocacy program. Thank you We-Change.
See all the photos from We-Change’s #Equality360 Social and Economic Justice Programme graduation ceremony here.
From September 16-18, 2016, WE-Change engaged 20 lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women and allies as part of our Social and Economic Justice Training Programme being co-funded by Fi Wi Jamaica and J-FLAG. Here is a brief overview of what took place over the three-day period.
On day one of the training WE focused on economic empowerment and civic responsibility; sessions were led by:
Nadeen Spence – Political Analyst, Development Practitioner, and Student Services Development Manager at Mary Seacole Hall
Professor Rosalea Hamilton – Fi Wi Jamaica Director, Social and Economic Development Specialist and Vice President at the University of Technology.
Participants explored the concept of economic justice and discussed the diverse ways in which women can create and sustain wealth including, but not limited to entrepreneurship, saving and investment. There was a robust discussion on income inequality between men and women in Jamaica and suggestions for how women can work collectively to address this inequality including, inter alia talking about their salaries, researching the remuneration practices of businesses, NGOs, and government, and creating awareness raising social media campaigns demanding equality at the workplace.
A very comprehensive and interactive presentation on civic responsibility and budgeting was made by Professor Hamilton with the support of Fi Wi Jamaica Project Manager – Tahirah Johnson. This session zeroed in on the concepts of civic duty and civic responsibility and how, as vulnerabilised women we can, through actioning civic responsibility and duty, effect change in our society. She spoke about key activities being implemented by Fi Wi Jamaica across the island, which has reached over 1,300 beneficiaries to date. Participants were informed about how the budgeting process works in Jamaica and how citizens can actively participate in that process.
Between the hours of 10:00 pm and midnight WE had an Open Mic Nite event where participants shared poetry they have written and the singers among us also performed. WE called these two hours #Equality360 #AfterDark. It was a time for participants to bond in a very laid back environment and share their performing arts talent with each other. It was much appreciated and well received.
On day two of the training WE focused on social justice advocacy and social empowerment for LBT women; the sessions were led by
Rochelle McFee – Associate Director at WE-Change
Jherane Patmore – Programme Development Manager at WE-Change
Christina Clarke – the most outstanding participant in cohort one of the J-FLAG youth advocacy programme
A recap game – definitions relay – was created by one of our facilitators to test how much they learned from day one’s activities. In two groups participants were asked to match terms and definitions and after 20 minutes of playing music, all responses were reviewed and the group with the most accurate responses won. Following that, the sessions for day two commenced.
Participants explored the concept of Intersectional Feminism and the role it plays in achieving social justice. There was a very robust discussion on gender and sexual diversity and how as gender and sexual minorities, they are sometimes disproportionately affected by social injustices.
There was a session that examined the current realities of LBT women in Jamaica with regard to our legislative framework, which discriminates against LBT women. Participants were challenged to simulate the 3rd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review for Jamaica and prepare statements to be presented at the session. They worked in groups to prepare their statements, each of which was two minutes in length.
In an effort to give participants practical examples of how to action advocacy, four civil society organisations that do advocacy work were examined as examples for how participants could advocate in their own spaces utilising their own resources or access to resources. The organisations which were examined were J-FLAG, TransWave, Conflict Women (based in Trinidad and Tobago), and Womantra (based in Trinidad and Tobago).
Once again between the hours of 10:00pm and midnight WE had another #Eqality360 #AfterDark lyme with participants. On this occasion, participants shared personal stories about growing up and challenges they had to overcome. This is where they spoke about their experience with body shaming, their reproductive health, self-care, and family. It was after watching a series of performances by D’bi Young (via Youtube) that participants began to share very intimate experiences about their lives and how they overcame and continue to overcome challenges. The sisterhood among the group was heart-warming. A few broke down in tears, but were quickly comforted by others.
On day 3 of the training WE focused on advocacy, the value of social media in advocacy, and creating advocacy initiatives; the sessions were led by
Christina Clarke – the most outstanding participant in cohort one of the J-FLAG youth advocacy programme
Latoya Nugent – Executive Director at WE-Change
Day 3 of the training was designed primarily for participants to apply what they learned over the previous two days and utilise their skillset and interest to create their own advocacy initiatives. Before doing so they were challenged to a game of scavenger hunt to recap what they would have learned on day two of the training. They were placed in two groups, and received clues from the facilitator, and each time they got the answer, another clue was issued until the final instruction, which was to explain a few key terms and expand several acronyms.
A session focusing on social media advocacy then followed, which examined how participants could utilise social media for advocacy. They received tips on how to maximise social media for advocacy, and strategies for how to effectively engage their unique and diverse audiences.
They were then placed in groups based on their skill set and interest. Each group was given a different activity.
The activities were as follows.
Plan a storytelling event featuring music, poetry and short stories about body love, intimate relationships, Feminism as sisterhood and Feminism as love. A short (30 minutes) version of the event should be simulated towards the end of the training session.
Write 3 UPR statements; each statement should focus on one issue, the issues to be covered were: income inequality between men and women, women’s economic empowerment, and institutionalised discrimination against LBT women.
Write four short (no more than 400 words) blogs; each blog entry should focus on one issue, and the issues to be covered were: women’s economic empowerment, parenting in LBT families, Feminism as intersectionality, and Feminism as development.
Create at least two videos for a social media video campaign focused on: income inequality between men and women, body love, women’s economic empowerment, and Feminism as development.
The participants exceeded our expectations and delivered excellent outputs. The videos were very well done and had much emotional appeal. The UPR statements were strong and well researched. The blogging group actually created a blog (The Purple Ribbon) where they posted the pieces they wrote.
And the event – which was called #MidnightMenses was very well executed and closed activities for the day. The periscope feed of the event is available on WE-Change’s Twitter profile here: goo.gl/mzpgUa.
The WE-Change team wants to use this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to the Fi Wi team for believing in us and supporting the work that WE do. The women who participated in the training continue to talk about how much they already appreciate this programme and are very excited about the next steps.