SASOD and GEF Launch Public Policy Advocacy Programme for Civil Society Trainers

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) with the support from the European Union (EU) and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice on Wednesday, October 19 launched the final installment of a three-part training series as part of the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project. The three-day Civil Society Public Policy Advocacy Training of Trainers Programme takes place at the Moray House, at Camp and Quamina Streets, Georgetown, until Friday October 21.

Project and Training Overviews 

In a short opening, SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Ms. Schemel Patrick, shared a brief overview of the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project, stating that it was designed to contribute towards the equitable treatment of all peoples in Guyana by supporting efforts to strengthen the participation of vulnerable persons and their representative organisations in decision-making processes of the state.

Schemel Patrick, SASOD Advocacy and Communications Officer speaking

“Given the change in Government after the May 2015 elections, SASOD and the GEF also recognized that this process would better inform the Coalition Government how to address the issues affecting vulnerable groups and to charge civil society to take pro-active measures to have these issues addressed without any delay by the current administration,” she articulated to the media, facilitators, and sixteen civil society participants in attendance.

She explained that the current Training of Trainers and Community Re-Training phase is, in part, a response to the participant assessments following the first part of the programme, covering themes and skills deemed important by participants; while the second part of the programme focused on the collaborative development of the first draft of an advocacy strategy and plan.

One of the facilitators, Attorney-at-Law Kesaundra Alves who serves as the Project’s Governance and Training Consultant, gave an overview of the three-day training programme. Participants will be trained to train their fellow community advocates in the use of language in public policy advocacy, how to actively engage central and local government, and how to use advocacy tools and assessments to strengthen the capabilities of their organizations to deliver results. She explained that the Training of Trainers Programme aims to develop a cadre of 15 civil society trainers and mentors who will train peers in their organisations and communities over the next six weeks of the Project and beyond to engage in public policy processes.

Support from the European Union

Head of Political, Press and Information Section at the Delegation of the European Union, Mr. Derek Lambe, while delivering his feature remarks expressed that effective advocacy is key to participating in the decision-making process and engaging with all levels of Government – at local and central, working and political levels.  “Effective advocacy allows for a proper hearing and examination of the concerns of the communities that you represent.  Effective advocacy allows a clear and strong voice to the disadvantaged that you serve,” Lambe said. “The role of your organisations in voicing the concerns of society's disadvantaged cannot be underscored enough,” he added.

Derek Lambe, EU Head of Political, Press and Information Section

He noted that the European Consensus for Development underscores that "progress in the protection of human rights, good governance and democratisation is fundamental for poverty reduction and sustainable development" and to that extent he applauded the GEF, SASOD and all the other participating organisations as they work to strengthen and further empower their approach and engagement with the decision- and policy-makers in Guyana, regional institutions and international bodies.  

“One of the main tenets on which the European Union's work is pillared is the defence of human rights.  Around the world, and in Guyana, the European Union partners with governments and civil society organisations to ensure the basic human rights of all; of women, of children, of LGBTI persons, of all minorities, of the disadvantaged and the voiceless,” the EU diplomat shared.

Advocacy Agendas

Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson spoke to the media about the work of the GEF and SASOD will be doing in the remainder as part of their advocacy agenda with the Government for the remainder of 2016. The GEF’s Workplace Equality Working Group, led by the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union along with the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, Artistes In Direct Support and SASOD, will be meeting with the Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Hon. Keith Scott, M.P. who holds responsibility for Labour to discuss discrimination in the workplace on the bases of pregnancy, health status, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Joel Simpson, SASOD Managing Director

SASOD is also slated to meet with Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General, Hon. Basil Williams, M.P. next month to discuss the movement’s law reform agenda. Simpson indicated that SASOD and the GEF want the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997 to be amended to include sexual orientation, gender identity and health status as prohibited categories against discrimination. The groups are also calling for the colonial-era laws criminalizing cross-dressing and same-sex intimacy between men in private to be repealed.