In the Caribbean region, LGBT organizations have traditionally depended on funding from outside the region, given existing laws and policies in the region that continue to discriminate against or criminalize behaviour between same sex couples. Recent changes in development aid funding have left many LGBT organizations without funding and struggling to maintain critical services for LGBT communities throughout the region.
The Caribbean LGBT Tourism Fund is a voluntary contribution fund set up as a partnership initiative between the Mossier Social Action and Innovation Center, Alturi and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition to mobilize resources for grass roots LGBT organizations in the Caribbean doing vital work to foster greater acceptance and improve the conditions of LGBT persons throughout the Caribbean. It is an opportunity for LGBT tourists traveling to the Caribbean to give something back to local LGBT groups working to make the region more tolerant and beautiful from the inside out.
It works through collecting optional donations from LGBT tourists traveling to the Caribbean, either at the moment of a purchase, or during or after their trip. This is achieved through an internet-based platform developed and managed by pro-bono LGBT professionals in North America. All donations are tax deductible, and will reach local grassroots LGBT organizations through an onward granting system managed by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. This mechanism ensures transparency, accountability, regional ownership, and minimizes fund and grant management costs.
Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition
The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) was founded in 2004 by the renowned human rights and LGBT activist, the late Robert Carr. Honored posthumously by the US Senate in June 2011 for his contribution to human rights globally and in the Caribbean, Robert left CVC with the onerous task of supporting and strengthening LGBT populations in the Caribbean. CVC has grown into the Caribbean’s largest indigenous coalition of community based organizations working in the areas of human rights and development with marginalized populations. CVC has perfected an onward granting system to provide frontline organizations access to grass roots funding; whilst providing donor organizations like the Global Fund, USAID, the US State Department, the European Union with fund accountability and transparency.
STORIES FROM THE CARIBBEAN
Haiti – Charlot’s Story
In Haiti LGBT persons face pervasive and institutionalized stigma and discrimination and violence on a daily basis, and the police and authorities remain largely indifferent. Last year the Senate in Haiti approved two bills of law directed against LGBT persons in the country. The first bill formally prohibits any attempt to legalize marriage between people of the same sex from ever occurring in Haiti, as well as forbidding all public declarations in favor of LGBT rights. The second bill moves to include LGBT persons in a category of undesirables that can be denied a “certificate of good reputation”, a document frequently required when completing a job application. When I started Kouraj in 2011, people from LGBT community where too afraid to come forward and speak out. Kouraj was about finding the inner courage to come forward and say “ENOUGH”. With small amounts of donor funding and heaps of courage we have achieved a lot at Kouraj. We have created a safe haven where LGBT victims of violence can seek help, and where the abuses against them can be documented. With HIV 19 times higher in MSM than in the general population, we have been able to link positive gay men and trans women to care and treatment. We have created dialogue between LGBT persons that has replaced isolation and secrecy. We have given visibility and created a public discourse about what being LGBT and Haitian means that cannot be broken or denied. All this we do with courage and a little solidarity from our allies from across the seas.
Dominican Republic – Nairobi’s Story
I was born in a Batey in the South of the Dominican Republic. A Batey is a settlement around a sugar mill, where the cane cutters live in very rudimentary conditions with their families. I always felt different, and that I did not belong either in the Batey or in my body. When I was 12 my mother threw me out because she said the house was not big enough for “two women”. I ended up living on the streets of Santo Domingo as a transgender sex worker. Today I am Nairobi Castillo, and the Executive Director of COTRAVEDT, an organisation of Transgender Sex Workers that looks out for transgender women and girls who are involved in sex work throughout the country. We do peer outreach and advocacy to prevent HIV, human rights abuses and gender-based violence directed at transgender women. Quite often I come across someone just like me, who arrives in the capital from a faraway district knowing no one. It always reminds me of where I came from, and of whom I have become, and that gives me the will to continue doing what I do at COTRAVEDT.
St. Lucia, Eastern Caribbean – Randal’s Story
My name is Randall. I have been a volunteer with United and Strong (UAS) since a friend asked me to help-out with some outreach work the organization was doing with the LGBT community in St. Lucia. A year later I found myself applying for the position of Advocacy Officer at UAS. Although I did not get the job, I continued to volunteer, and eventually got taken on board as Outreach Officer, where I remained for almost two years, until I was made redundant due to lack of continued funding. During my time at UAS I participated in many activities and workshops, and got to represent the organization at national events. I then got a scholarship to study in Barbados, but upon my return, I once again hired at UAS to run a safe space initiative funded by CVC, where I was able to help other LGBT youth, who like myself struggle with many personal, family and social issues related to their sexual orientation. Despite the good work being done, I feel there is so much more that still is needed, especially with LGBT youth in St. Lucia. This has pushed me to become an LGBT youth activist and has led me to set-up a youth group called Future Team Caribbean. I hope our group can eventually get support and funding from CVC, so we can focus specifically on the needs of young LGBT persons on the Island.