Why We Need Student Loan Answers in the Caribbean + The Workshop You Need To Attend

:: Melisa Boutin ::

Education is highly valued in the Caribbean region, so much so, that many of us have shared childhood stories of parents, guardians and other society members drilling us to do well in school; read our school books; and aim for high academic achievement. This has been aptly parodied in Toni “Bella” Blair’s Things Jamaican Mothers Say  Youtube video, that opens with the Jamaican mother saying “You take up you book from morning?” This value system, coupled with an increased access to higher education, through the availability of student loans; accessibility of online and distance learning degree programs; and a demand for students from overseas universities, has made the Caribbean Millennial generation the most poised to take advantage the opportunity to enroll and complete university level education. A prospect that had not been as widely available to their parents, so how could we not jump at the chance?

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Upon completing high school, as one of the Millennial Class of graduates from the Basseterre High School in St. Kitts, I had already decided on civil engineering as my major for my undergraduate studies, and like most of my peers who were on that path to higher education, I signed up for a student loan to fund my undergraduate studies from Development Bank of St. Kitts.-Nevis. This loan represented the first financial commitment I made for my future earnings, as a 17 year old teen. I had a general understanding about how a student loan worked, but it is only after completing my undergraduate degree and started repaying my student loan, that I would learn about other aspects of the agreement, of which I had no clue.

  • 9% interest is a hefty interest rate for a 5-figure debt.
  • A $900 EC monthly payment sizable portion of my monthly earnings, especially when I had to service U.S. Student Loans too.
  • $0.00 dollars of my first two years of repayments would go to my student loan principal balance, which I only realized last year (2015).
  • 100’s of US dollars would have to be spent calling the Development Bank to keep track of my student loan payments.
  • There would times when I would not receive account statements; and that there was no easy way for overseas borrowers to access their account information.
  • Other borrowers have had the similar challenges.
  • That this experience would lead me to want to help others to understand their student loan and avoid challenges I had to face.

 

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Student Loan Answers Workshop + Forum at UWI Open Campus – Grenada
TA Marryshow House, H.A. Blaize Street
January, 28th at 5:30 pm (Local Time).

Not in Grenada? You can view the live broadcast and post questions too.

Just sign up to attend by clicking this link: bit.ly/studentloananswers.

A student loan borrower should have all the pertinent information needed to properly manage that debt. And, this is why we need #studentloananswers in the Caribbean.

If you are considering funding your studies from a Caribbean Bank or, you already have a loan from a Caribbean Bank, learn what you need to know to effectively manage your loan.

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The forum portion of the event will facilitate an open discussion for you to share your #studentloangripe; discuss any challenges you have experienced with your student loan; and any changes you would like to see implemented by student loan servicers in the Caribbean. Don’t forget to RSVP here: bit.ly/studentloananswers or send a Whatsapp message to 646-801-8217 for more information.

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Melisa

Melisa Boutin is a Kittitian Millennial who is passionate about helping other Caribbean Millennials dominate their student loan debt and master their money. In December 2015 , Melisa made her final student loan payment to the Development Bank of St. Kitts -Nevis and has been assisting her peers analyze their student loan account statements; navigate the repayment process and develop plans to effectively pay off their student loan debt serviced by Caribbean Banks. Melisa plans to establish a platform to educate those with student loans throughout the Eastern Caribbean and the North American Caribbean Diaspora; and facilitate the collaborations needed to effect long overdue changes to the student loan system in the Eastern Caribbean. You can connect with Melisa on Instagram/Twitter/Periscope via @Melibisous.

Food for the Mind and Soul – The Library’s 1st Annual Gala

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The Mt. Zion Public Library and Resource Centre is the only public library in St. Georges. The team of librarians and volunteers have been building and supporting a growing community of readers since 2014. They announce the launch of their “Friends of the Library” initiative, inviting anyone who believes in the power of a free public library in national development, to join. By becoming a Friend of the Library you are committing to support Mt Zion Public Library’s book collection, literacy, and educational offerings to over 1300 members (70% teens & children). By making your first annual donation you will become a “Friend of the Library”, help keep the library open & accessible, and sponsor two members for a year. This free resource for the whole community is seeking support from all sectors to remain open.

The library’s first Anniversary Gala: Food for the Mind and Soul on December 5th, 2015, 7pm at True Blue Bay Resort, makes this an excellent time to support literacy and education in Grenada. Tickets cost US$70 or EC$180.00. For this donation, patrons will become an official “Friend of the Library” plus enjoy a gourmet three course meal, which includes favorite dishes of Grenada’s celebrities and literary stars as well as lively readings, music and entertainment by Crème de la Crème and FLOM. Tickets are available at True Blue Bay resort, Mitchell’s Pharmacy, Duty Free Caribbean, L.L. Ramdhanny in Grenville, The Wine Shop and at the Mt. Zion Library upstairs Digicel, St. George’s.

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A grand raffle will be held at the gala, prizes include: a three night stay in Lance aux Epines Cottages for a maximum of 4 persons, Yoga for two for a month at Spice Harmony Yoga, a Balinese massage at Laluna, a facial at Spice Island Retreat Unisex Salon, three bottles of wine and a bucket from North South Trading, and a trip for two to the sculpture park on the S&S glass- bottom Kayak.

Get your tickets today for the Mt. Zion Public Library’s first Anniversary Gala at True Blue Bay Resort, December 5th from 7pm – and support a growing community of readers in St George’s!

Friends of the Library Dec 5th flyer

Contact:
Email: info@mtzionlibrary.org
Web: www.mtzionlibrary.org
Tel: 420 7616
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/mtzionlibraryhrc
Opening hours: 10am-6pm on weekdays and 9am-3pm on Saturdays.

 


 

cropped-cropped-cropped-realgroundationlogo1.jpgGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change. We are a co-founder of Mt Zion Library & Resource Centre.

Grenada Going Places on LGBTI Human Rights

:: by Maurice Tomlinson ::

The island of Grenada is probably best known for the 1983 US-led invasion.  However this beautiful tropical paradise also called the “Spice Isle” for the abundant nutmeg trees, as well as the exotic feel of the country, may soon achieve a much more enviable reputation as one of the Anglo-phone Caribbean nations that is working assiduously to achieve full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and intersex (LGBTI) citizens. 

Although gay cruises have visited Grenada, the country is one of 11 former British colonies in the region that still retains a colonially-imposed ban on same-gender intimacy.  Section 431 of the island’s criminal code deems even consensual anal intercourse as “unnatural connexion” punishable with up to 10 years in prison.  This law is rarely enforced and the last reported prosecution in 2011 of a 41 year-old man for consensual sex with a 17 year-old male was terminated before the matter went to trial.  The accused eventually withdrew a constitutional challenge to the anti-sodomy law and so prevented a much needed court determination of the statute’s validity. Despite minimal enforcement, there is evidence that the existence of the law contributes to and provides licence for a climate of hostility towards LGBTI Grenadians.

In May 2013, the president of the country’s Senate called for the island to reconsider its ban on same-gender sexual relationships and said that “the day is fast approaching” for Grenada and other Caribbean countries to repeal their anti-sodomy laws. At a town hall meeting in Brooklyn, New York on Sunday September 27, 2015 Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell also invoked Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge” statement to call for tolerance towards the LGBTI community in Grenada.

Civil society organizations on the island have also been taking concrete steps to end homophobic discrimination.  Groups such as GrenCHAP and Groundation Grenada have prepared and presented multiple international and regional reports on the level of homophobia, and have repeatedly used national dialogues to call for full inclusion of LGBTI citizens.  For example, during a public consultation on the proposed constitution held on October 15, 2014 Groundation and GrenCHAP called for sexual orientation to be listed as a ground for non-discrimination in the bill of rights.  The proposal was met with jeers from the audience, but the group was able to complete their submission with the full support of the moderator.  A skilful appeal by the presenters to the shared history of marginalization and discrimination faced by many Grenadians was also effective at blunting the homophobic rhetoric that some audience members started to spew. 

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Photographs from recent LGBTI Training for Grenadian Police Officers (Nov 2th-5th 2015)

On November 24, 2013 a few members of GrenCHAP also bravely carried out a guerilla counter-protest of an anti-gay march led by the influential Seventh Day Adventist Church. Chanting: “man to man is so unjust; woman to woman is even worse” the fundamentalists sought to demean same-gender relations and then claimed on national television that this was not their intent.  However, in what can only be described as a stroke of genius, the small GrenCHAP contingent not only recorded the march, they also joined in with rainbow flags. 

On October 19, 2015 petitioners from GrenCHAP and Groundation Grenada argued before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the anti-sodomy law continues to be used as grounds for blatant discrimination against homosexual individuals. According to the petitioners, section 431 of the criminal code conflicts with human rights guaranteed by international law, including rights enshrined in the American Convention, namely, the rights to: dignity and privacy; equal protection under the law and non-discrimination; health; and freedom of expression. 

Further, the petitioners contended that the law creates social stigma, condones family and community violence, and prevents homosexuals from accessing counseling and testing for services for HIV and AIDS. The petitioners referenced a United Nations poll data from 2014 which showed that 38% of participants in Grenada reported being homophobic, 52% indicated that they would not “hang out” with someone who is gay, and 57% were not in favor of equal rights for gay, lesbian and bi-sexual populations.

It is accepted by most regional activists that although Caribbean politicians may personally support repealing the outdated anti-sodomy laws, elected officials are stymied by fear of the vocal churches that wield significant political clout in the very religious and close-knit societies.  Therefore regional and international lawyers joined activists representing the rights of Caribbean LGBTI people for a meeting in Grenada from September 21–23, 2015.  The aim of this assembly was to assess whether litigation around the criminalisation and lack of recognition of the human rights of queer people was possible in the countries of the Eastern Caribbean. 

At the end of the litigation workshop a group of attendees mounted the first-ever Stand for Equality in the capital parish of St. George.  There was also dialogue with the police high command about the possibility of a LGBTI awareness training for police and other community stakeholders and this training was successfully delivered on Nov. 2-5.

The awareness building exercise was supported by the Royal Grenada Police Force, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, GrenCHAP, United & Strong INC., and CariFLAGS.  Forty-two uniformed officers drawn from the police, immigration, fire, customs, prisons, and ports services were joined by 8 civil society representatives from the Grenada Family Planning Association, the Grenada Human Rights Organization, GrenCHAP and their sister group United and Strong of St. Lucia.  This innovative programme was first brought to the Caribbean by AIDS-Free World and has so far been delivered in Suriname, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts. Modules on community policing, human rights, professionalism, ethics, an introduction to LGBTI issues, and how to police hate crimes were delivered in two sessions of two days each.  The small size of each group (no more than 25 persons) allowed for frank discussions on the very challenging but critical issues. 

The course curriculum was written by Tom Decker who served as the LGBTI liaison officer for the Toronto Police Service (TPS).  While at the TPS, Tom created the award-winning Report Homophobic Violence Period (RVHP) programme.  Tom’s partner, Maurice, who is a Jamaican lawyer, long time LGBTI and HIV activist, and senior policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, also contributed to the human rights and Caribbean specific sections of the training manual.  Tom and Maurice serve as training facilitators for the course.

As usual, day two of the training in Grenada was difficult for most participants because that was when they were introduced (some for the first time) to specific LGBTI issues.  A few very vocal participants wanted to focus exclusively on religious (Christian) interpretations that condemn homosexuality and there were some vigorous exchanges on the extent to which professional policing accommodated religious ideology. 

At the end of the sessions most participants expressed that there was need for more than two days for these exercises.  Many felt that the religious discussions were not fully entertained.  However the facilitators surmised that there was the real risk that more time would simply allow for “Bible ping-pong” or trading of interpretations on biblical passages on homosexuality.  This would detract from the central focus of the training which is to create an understanding about the human rights of LGBTI people and how combatting homophobia is central to reducing the Caribbean’s HIV burden.

While some participants expressed stereotypically conservative views against the human rights of homosexuals, there were also several moments of growth and personal learning.  For example, there was the realization by the left-handed attendees that they too were once stigmatized and abused for who they are because of religious doctrine.  Participants with LGBTI family members also shared their fears for the security of their family in Grenada. While Grenada is not known for a high number of anti-gay attacks, members of GrenCHAP who were in attendance revealed that they had received reports of homophobic discrimination in employment, housing and healthcare as well as verbal and physical assaults.  However, the level of homophobia and unfamiliarity with the system of reporting abuse discouraged persons who had experienced victimization from coming forward to the police. 

The sessions ended with participants undertaking to provide professional police service to all citizens of Grenada, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or other status.

The local broadcast media also reported on the trainings and it is hoped that this coverage will provide LGBTI Grenadians with evidence that officers are being provided with diversity training.  This assurance should hopefully encourage those who have suffered homophobic assaults to come forward with confidence to make reports to the police.  Such reporting is vital to ensure that effective interventions can be developed to address these hate crimes, and also guarantee LGBTI people a sense of security so that they can access critical HIV interventions.

Copies of the course manuals were delivered to the commander in charge of the police training school in order to ensure sustainable and ongoing instruction in the areas that were covered.  The two Canada-based facilitators will also act as resource personnel and provide ongoing support for local trainers.


Maurice_HG11-700x336Maurice Tomlinson is a Jamaican lawyer, LGBTI activist, and educator. For nearly twenty years, he has been working with a variety of local and international agencies to combat homophobia and HIV across the Caribbean. As part of the Legal Network’s Research and Policy team, Maurice continues his deep and fruitful partnerships with various national and regional stakeholders to promote and protect the human rights of Caribbean LGBTI people.

In 2012, Maurice received the inaugural David Kato Vision and Voice Award, which recognizes individuals who defend human rights and the dignity of LGBTI people around the world.

Maurice holds a B.A. in History (honours) from the University of the West Indies, an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurial Studies from the University of Calgary, an LL.B. (honours) from the University of the West Indies, an LL.M. in Intellectual Property Law from the University of Turin (cum laude), and a Certificate of Legal Education form the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica. Maurice was called to the Jamaican Bar in 2006.

The Right to Live and Love Without Fear of Discrimination

:: by Kimani Parke ::

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Photo Source: Tumblr

What is it to love without fear? How does it feel to love without prejudice? The sad and unfortunate reality is that many LGBT persons living in Grenada have no idea what this feels like. Let us be abundantly clear, this is not an issue of gay rights, as no such thing exists; this is an issue of fundamental HUMAN rights — the right to live and love without fear of discrimination.

The Grenadian public has this perceived threat of gays/lesbians, which is nothing short of ludicrous. If a same-sex relationship is somehow affecting yours, then you need to re-evaluate your union. Ultimately, all we want is to have our basic rights observed, respected and protected.

Imagine everyday waking up being faced with two choices: be who you are and subject yourself to violence and discernment; or put on a mask, play a part and suffer in silence. As an independent nation, no government or church should have jurisdiction over the personal lives of its citizens. Rallying to deny LGBT persons their human rights is in fact a hate rally; what that promotes is exclusion, fear and further prejudice.

How difficult is it to live and let live? How difficult is it to stay out of people’s bedrooms? How difficult is it to basically mind your own business? Christians, stop selecting passages in the Bible that is convenient to your cause and government. Stop using a dormant and inhumane law to threaten the livelihoods of your LGBT citizens. Love is a basic right. Love is a human right. Love is my right and I choose to do it without fear.

Part 1 of the “Love Without Fear” Campaign article series
by GrenCHAP in collaboration with GrenAIDS.

Love Without FearWatch “Love Without Fear” on GrenCHAP’s Youtube Channel!

 


IMG_20150218_102623-1Kimani Parke is a human rights activist and current member of the Non-Governmental Organization GrenCHAP. In 2009 she represented Grenada at the 39th OAS General Assembly held in San Pedro Sula Honduras. She has since written various articles advocating for the rights of LGBT persons in Grenada; she has also been interviewed by local media houses since the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Though she currently resides in the United States she frequently visits Grenada and is very active in the LGBT community.

CariFLAGS network pays tribute to Zenita’s legacy

The Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS) joins in expressing shock and deep sadness at the news of the untimely death of our colleague, LGBTI, HIV and Human Rights Advocate Zenita Nicholson. Zenita was a Board Member of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), country coordinator of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, an ally and supporter of a range of Guyanese NGOs, and a friend to many.

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Dane Lewis of Co-Chair of CariFLAGS says “Zenita’s passion for the rights of LGBT people saw her demonstrating her agency as a strong ally voice for the LGBT movement in the region which has always meant a great deal to those of us who haven’t been able to be on the front line and be present in the ways she had been. Her energy and passion will be greatly missed.”

CariFLAGS stands in solidarity with Zenita’s family, friends and our colleagues at all the NGOs and coalitions Zenita worked with in Guyana and regionally. We send our deepest condolences as we stand by each other in this difficult time.

To us in CariFLAGS, Zenita was a strong Caribbean woman, a respected advocate, a radical movement shaker, a person of courage, and a champion of human rights. An outgoing person, she always had a smile. Her passion, commitment and understanding of the issues affecting our communities will forever be remembered. Her absence is a huge loss for national, regional and international advocacy.

“It is very hard for me to deal with this tragedy. She is gone but will not be forgotten. Her death proved for me again that we need to work harder to fight domestic violence and spend more time looking after each other”, says Tieneke Sumter, Executive Director of WomanSway of Suriname and Co-Chair of CariFLAGS.

She partnered in our work in many ways at the local, regional and international levels and, dressed in an unforgettably pink jacket, was a leading part of our 2013 delegation to the Organisation of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Guatemala. A vibrant and visible individual, Zenita’s infectious laugher, charming personality, passion, work on human rights and justice will live on even though she is no longer with us physically.

ASA/RevASA, CAISO, Groundation Grenada, J-FLAG, UNIBAM, United and Strong and the region-wide CariFLAGS network join in paying tribute to Zenita’s legacy and offering sincere regrets at her loss to her extended family of kin, colleagues and friends.

 


RealGroundationLogo_TransparentGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice – Poster Competition

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The Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice is an international campaign organized by regionally diverse women’s rights and feminist organizations, brought together by the urgent need for just action on climate change.

The campaign needs powerful illustrated posters to build momentum for the United Nations (UN) Climate Conference this December in Paris, France. Submit your art to be one of the campaign’s winning poster designs.

Six winners will receive a $1,000 USD prize.

Posters must reflect one of the following themes or the Global Call for Climate Justice:

ENERGY – ECONOMY – SOLUTIONS – SURVIVAL – POWER – CLIMATE JUSTICE

Posters will be unveiled at a high-level event in New York City in November and will be displayed as part of a two-week exhibition at COP21 in Paris.

 

Design Scope

  • Unique, creative, high quality image and design. Illustration preferred.

  • Designers are encouraged to use the words ‘The Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice’ in any language, any style. Submissions may also include depictions of the sunflower, a symbol of the climate justice movement. However, please do not simply copy and paste the campaign logos.

  • Poster designs should translate across countries, regions, and languages.

 

How to Submit

  • Send files to art@womenclimatejustice.org as JPEG or PDF by Midnight (EST) on Nov. 5, 2015.

  • Size: 420mm x 600mm, Resolution: 300 dpi, Color mode: CMYK.

  • Bleed: 5mm extra space on all sides of the document; Safety margin: 5mm on inside of all edges.

  • Please include 150 words explaining the design concept and the corresponding theme.

  • Please include contact information and a brief biography.

  • Incomplete submissions cannot be accepted.

Submit by MIDNIGHT (EST) on Thursday, November 5th 2015 to art@womenclimatejustice.org.

For more information visit womenclimatejustice.org.

Young Grenadian Creatives hosting Market this December!

:: by eARTh ::

Imagine going to one location to get top quality items created by young Grenadians!

Well then, imagine the Youth Produce Market on December 19th 2015. This event is organized by eARTh, a new creative movement.  Interested in selling your creations? Want to buy your christmas gifts? See details below. 

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What is the Youth Produce Market?

This event will feature locally produced items in the form of a market. In essence, we will set up 14 tents with several stalls. Those stalls will be occupied by young Grenadians that have created items such as: clothing, paintings, fruits and vegetables, jewellery, processed foods and ornaments/floral arrangements. You can also visit the market to get your henna, body painting, face painting, or play fun games like shave the balloon to win prizes.

That’s not all! We will also dedicate two hours during the event for entertainment. As you dine and shop, prepare to be entertained by some of Grenada’s best performers.

This event will be held on Saturday December 19th, 2015. That’s right, the Saturday before Christmas so be prepared to purchase your Christmas gifts! Come on out in your numbers to support our young creative souls.

We hereby extend an invitation to all artisans and crafters to participate. You can register as an individual or group. We’re also encouraging schools, church or youth groups seeking to raise funds to participate in this event.

If you are interested in participating or donating to help with the successful execution, please send an email to: earthmovement2015@gmail.com

Details about the Event

Location: The Grenada Youth Centre

Date: Saturday December 19th, 2015

Entrance Fee: FREE! $0.00! All you have to do is walk with money to buy what you like so do come out and support our local producers.

Registration Fee: There is a registration fee of $50 E.C. required from each participant (persons selling in the stalls) to cover overhead expenses. *If you are an individual interested in the event but may not be able to pay this registration fee, send us an email and we will try to raise funds for you to participate.

Registration Form: To receive a registration form, or if you have any inquiries please contact us at earthmovement2015@gmail.com

REGISTRATION DEADLINE – OCTOBER 31ST 2015

 

You are all invited to join and support this event! See you there!

MORE DETAILS COMING

COMING…..

COMING……

SOON!

We will also like to take this time to extend our sincerest gratitude to the Manager of the Youth Centre for granting us permission to use the centre to host this event.

Shine on,

eARTh


eARThlogoeARTh is a newly formed movement seeking to provide a non-discriminatory platform that helps to empower and develop young Grenadians through the arts. Our focal points are: facilitating forums at the community level, using the medium of artistic expressions; and supporting upcoming artisans and visual & performing artists by providing platforms for them to showcase their work.

Grenadians challenge old colonial law that criminalizes consensual sex between adults

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Groundation Grenada and GrenCHAP will be presenting at a special hearing at the The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Monday 19th October 5:45pm to report on the criminalization of relations between persons of the same sex. The hearings are open to the public will be held  at the IACHR Headquarters in Padilha Vidal Room (TL Level), at the General Secretariat Building of the Organization of American States (OAS), located at 1889 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.

VIEW VIDEO OF THE HEARING

Human rights refers to the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Everyone is entitled to these rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin or other status. GrenCHAP and Groundation Grenada are concerned that section 431 of Grenada’s criminal code, which criminalizes anal sex between consenting adults will be and is being used as grounds for prosecution. This is in breach of human rights guaranteed by international law, including rights enshrined in the American Convention, namely, the Rights to:- Dignity & Privacy, Equal Protection Under the Law & Non-Discrimination, Health and Freedom of Expression. Laws, as governmental directives are normative. Changes in discriminatory laws, like the law against unnatural connection, as well as statements, like the ones recently made by the Prime Minister Dr.Keith Mitchell at a Brooklyn town hall meeting, calling for tolerance, help to remove the basis of stigma underpinning animosity towards and discrimination against LGBTI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex) people in Grenada.

The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the  Organization of American States (OAS) in this area.  Installed in 1979, the Commission is one of the institutions within the inter-American system for the protection of human rights (“IAHRS”). This system historically has been driven by people from the Caribbean and Latin America. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly. While the members do not act as representatives of their countries of origin, almost all of the current members of the commission are citizens of Caribbean and Latin American countries.

The topics at this 156th period of sessions are as varied as the billions of people who call the Americas home. From October 17th to 28th there will be a total of 57 hearings on a range of human rights topics including; Human Rights and Water in America, Human Rights Situation of Children in La Saline, Haiti,  and Human Rights Situation of People of African Descent in Costa Rica. There will be a total of 5 hearings, which report on the situation of LGBTI people in countries such as Panama, Dominican Republic and Cuba.


RealGroundationLogo_TransparentGroundation Grenada is a social action collective which focuses on the use of creative media to assess the needs of our communities, raise consciousness and act to create positive radical growth. Our mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and international solidarity and change. We pursue our mission online, through our website and social media, and also through live events and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions. Groundation Grenada’s website supports both local and diasporic voices, acting as an interface to connect people who are hungry for innovative change.

OECS discuss litigation + advocacy strategy on LGBT discrimination

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In session at Flamboyant Hotel, Grand Anse, Grenada

Is litigation around the criminalisation and lack of recognition of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, currently possible in the countries of the eastern Caribbean? This was the main question under interrogation as lawyers joined activists representing the rights of LGBT people from September 21 – 23, 2015 in Grenada.

Addressing the very real stigma and discrimination faced by LGBT citizens is at the heart of the OECS Litigation and Advocacy Strategy Meeting, co-organised by United and Strong Inc., Saint Lucia and GrenCHAP, Grenada, with direction from Saint Lucian Attorney-at-Law Veronica Cenac.

“We must address the human rights of LGBT citizens in the OECS and we are on a path to full recognition of these human rights through litigation and advocacy,” says Janice Stephen, Vice-President of the Board of United and Strong. She says of the process, “It was a positive experience. The first two days were informative for me as an activist as it highlighted some of the contradictions in the constitution, and opportunities and barriers in the law. But it was not only about the law over these few days it’s clear that the LGBT community has individuals that can stand up for us.”

Janice Stephens, VP of United and Strong welcomes participants
Janice Stephens, VP of United and Strong welcomes

Participants have experience working in or with human rights-based organisations in countries that include Dominica, Antigua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Barbados. They have, through their work, direct knowledge of the deleterious effects of criminalisation on adult same sex relationships and gender non-conforming people, and are well-placed to identify challenges and map the way forward. Also among the thirty-three participants were persons sharing experiences of litigation in Jamaica and Belize. Representatives of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), Heartland Alliance, Arcus Foundation, Human Dignity Trust, Open Society Foundation and the Canadian HIV AIDS Legal Network brought a wealth of knowledge on, and resources for, litigation and advocacy within the Caribbean.

Damarlie Antoine GrenCHAP’s Director of Research states, “There’s no argument, not religious nor legal, that can justify the continuous discrimination and dehumanisation of OECS citizens including Grenadians based on gender identity or sexual orientation. It is due time for our governments to take a stand against the prejudice and discrimination meted out to our citizens based on gender and sexual orientation. Quiet diplomacy hasn’t worked and democracy has arguably regressed in the Caribbean, so now human rights have to be demanded through legal challenges”

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GrenCHAP’s Damarlie Antoine on LGBT advocacy in Grenada

The discussions were anchored by Cenac, with over 17 years’ experience in related legal work and a long history of contribution to the movement. She said the discussions were “the beginning of a move among LGBT activists in the OECS and Barbados to demand the extension of basic human rights protections to them. There is no rational basis for the exclusion of citizens under Constitutions that seek to protect all citizens. Documented violence and abuse against LGBT persons or any other minority is unjustifiable in democratic societies founded on the rule of law and principles of human dignity.”

The three-day meeting is expected to be the beginning of a long process that includes extensive research and development, ultimately leading to legal protections from discrimination against same-gender loving and gender non-conforming citizens of the Eastern Caribbean and recognition of the human rights of all.


Media contacts:

Saint Lucia:
Veronica Cenac, Attorney-at-Law
Bennet Charles, Advocacy Officer, United and Strong Inc.
Phone: 1 758 518 4504 or 1 758 450 0976
Email: societyd@gmail.com

Grenada:
P. Damarlie Antoine, Director of Research, GrenCHAP
Phone: 1 473 459 7675
Email: damarlieantoine@gmail.com

We’ll Always Have Paris….

:: by Safiya Sawney ::

At the end of the 2015, within a large conference room in Paris-Le Bourget in the city of Paris, several thousand persons representing governments both large and small, developed and developing, from all nooks and crevices of the globe will huddle together separated by categories like “LDCs (least developed countries)”, “AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States)” “G77 & China”, “Umbrella Group” and themes like “loss and damage” “climate finance”, “adaptation” and “long-term emission standards”.

Politicians Debating Global Warming
‘Politicians Debating Global Warming’ by Isaac Cordal (Berlin, Germany)

Unbeknownst to some of you (perhaps most) these persons have been, for the last 20+ years, appointed to progressively decide your fate, as well as, the fate of the entire world. From tumultuous climate change COP (Conference of Parties) to tumultuous COP, from Bali, to Copenhagen, to Cancun, to Durban, these climate change negotiators, these deciders of our fate, have fought, screamed, quibbled, agreed, disagreed, shook hands, achieved consensus, forged compromise, going from Spartan to diplomat in a matter of seconds, almost in an elaborate territorial ritual one would expect in an immensely diverse natural ecosystem limited by space. All this – to save the world from the impending impacts of having too much of a good thing.

By 2020, there would be enough carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases baked into the upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere to cause a rise in global temperature of 2+ degrees Celsius. With a residence time of up to approximately 200 years, any carbon dioxide that’s released right now, as you drive your car, or turn on your AC or charge your phone using an energy source derived of fossil fuels will stay in the Earth’s upper layer for a period roughly equivalent to three of your lifetimes. Its impacts won’t be felt by you, but by your great grandchildren.

Under a month ago, the tropical storm, Erika, silenced the Caribbean island of Dominica. Raging waters from the overflow of many, if not all, of Dominica’s 365 rivers unused to handling such large volumes of water from precipitation, all at once, cut through Dominica’s fragile infrastructure, carving through roads, demolishing homes and uprooting important telecommunication structures. As if wanting to show just how powerful she was, she resorted to wiping out whole families, all at once, without warning. The sudden presence of a rapidly flowing, destructible and non prejudice above-ground river produced by a temperature fed tropical depression should not come as a surprise to those entrusted to decide our fate. For in taking this long to agree on an effective enough strategy to phase out our dependence on fossil fuels and provide compensation and technical tools to adapt vulnerable societies to the projected impacts of global temperature rise, they’ve decided that small islands, for now, do not matter. Dominica is our present and our future as small islanders of the globe and West Indians. This is not a case of tropical depressions and hurricanes only now causing widespread destruction, as we all know that hurricane disasters have dotted our Caribbean history. It’s a case of this destructive natural phenomenon becoming much more intense and destructive as a result of the world’s manic and aggressive dependence on using fossil fuels to satisfy our ravishing energy needs. The impacts felt by the people of Dominica is directly due to carbon dioxide released by our industrialized neighbors from decades ago. This is the terrible trick of too much carbon dioxide. Its effects are maliciously delayed.

But you’ve seen it small islander. I don’t have to tell you about the coastlines that are falling into the ocean faster than we are accustomed to. Or the heavier than usual rainfall resulting in sporadic flooding and erosion, sometimes blocking your ability to get to work or get back home. You know that the drought that you feel now isn’t the same as it used to be. The grounds crack even deeper and the heat stays even longer. You know that the seasons are just as confused as you are as to why they aren’t on schedule and the fish, you know, wish they could tell you as you catch them and throw them into your wooden boat to earn an income, to keep them in the ocean just a little bit longer. Our corals are losing their ability to effectively maintain the fishing industry that your grandfather raised your family on and the crops they complain because they aren’t used to the pest and disease that comes with extreme weather conditions. This is your reality. Preservation is impossible without adaptation. Poverty will endure if solutions are not presented. Climate change is our future as small islanders and it is the responsibility of the deciders of our fate, these climate change negotiators, to realize that we will not be climate change refugees or continue to stand by as fellow Caribbean nations, such as Haiti, are forced into vulnerable & dependent economic situations.

Science says that we should avoid a scenario where global warming advances the 2-degree mark because the impacts will be too much to avoid or to reverse. For now, based on the unconditional policies and pledges made by international governments we are on pace to limit global warming to 2.9 – 3.1 degrees Celsius. Both policymakers and scientists agree that a 2 degree C limit is still “technically and economically feasible. Science has given us a deadline. If we are unable to successfully phase out our use of fossil fuels by 2100, then we will ultimately decide our fate as a species. Post 2100, the Earth will not be habitable for most of the species that exist now, including us.

And so, this is why in Paris these deciders of our fate, our climate change negotiators, will have no choice but to agree on a way for the world to avoid an early end. In fact, they are hoping that they can finally achieve the development of some sort of system that allows for equity between developing (those that are less industrialized) and developed countries (those who’ve already taken advantage of the economic benefits of industrializing), taking into account the dire need to maintain global economic and biological significance. The question of equity is where contention exists and why it has taken the deciders this long to finally respond to this “nifty” problem of saving the world.

The truth is time is no longer on our side. In Paris, whether the international framework that governs the management of global warming is legally binding or not, agreed to or not, the world will have to respond (individually or regionally) anyway. The world will need to adapt to the impacts that we will no doubt feel from past emissions and all countries – both developed and developing will need to transition their economies and societies to one that is climate resilient, low emission and sustainable. Vulnerable countries will all need to preserve their cultural, societal and economic survival, small islands included. We do not have a choice in this matter.

The concept of sustainable development came about in 1987 in response to the need to conserve the globe’s natural resources for future generations as matter of equity and of course, in support of the survival of our species. Working towards achieving an international framework that ensures climate change mitigation goes hand in hand with achieving sustainable development. One cannot exist without the other.

Indeed, for every one of those persons who will meet in Paris at the end of the year, and for us small islanders who have suffered the skewed wrath of climate change, there is only one thing on our minds – not that perhaps we will create one of the most historic pieces of international legislation in existence. No for us, it will be the termination of the territorial ritual. This drawn out dance of sorts will finally have an end and we can go back to regular life, drive our cars, turn on our ACs and charge our phones, hopefully within the context of the new and effective climate friendly policies we have toiled so hard to create leaving behind the destruction and tragedy of the Dominicas of our past, open to the hope that policy translates into implementation and implementation into sustainable change.

We can return home knowing that perhaps we can hang up our global warming coats and toss the climate change label into the non-recyclables box. We can perhaps sleep well knowing that the fate we’ve decided isn’t one that has derided the world of the disadvantaged and vulnerable. In fact, perhaps the fate that we decided in Paris in 2015 gave the vulnerable a fighting chance.

Make your voice heard, check out
UNDP Climate Change Storytelling Contest – Deadline 11th Oct 2015

 


Saf_BioSafiya Sawney is Policy Associate to Managing Director of Climate Analytics Inc. (New York). She provides policy and technical support on climate finance, climate strategies and readiness activities in the Caribbean. She has extensive experience in conservation and climate change policy initiatives for Caribbean SIDS.

Prior to Climate Analytics, Safiya worked on marine conservation and climate change policy in the Caribbean region. She was the deputy coordinator for the team that developed and executed the 2013 Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) Summit of Business and Political Leaders in collaboration with the Government of Grenada, Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite and The Nature Conservancy. The CCI Summit raised over $50 million for marine conservation, helped to institute the regional Caribbean Biodiversity Fund financing mechanism and establish a regional CCI Secretariat in the island of Grenada (where she served as its first coordinator). Safiya also provides voluntary technical assistance and support to community conservation projects on the island of Grenada through her online conservation campaign Conservation Trekkers.

Safiya holds a Master of Public Administration degree in Environmental Science and Policy from the School of International and Public Administration at Columbia University and a Bachelors degree in Marine Science from Eckerd College. As an undergraduate, Safiya completed 4 National Science Foundation funded research projects on coral bleaching and water quality analysis and was inducted into the Sigma XI research society. Twitter @ConTrekk