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In 2015, an Eastern Caribbean Litigation, Advocacy and Strategy meeting was convened by United and Strong in Grenada. Present were organisations representing marginalised communities in the eastern Caribbean islands, particularly, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people. At that meeting, activists called for the revamp or creation of a regional hub; now identified as ECADE.
Caribbean CHAPs and CariFLAGS
This builds on the shoulders of the previous network, the Caribbean HIV AIDS Partnership (CHAP). It also draws from efforts by CariFLAGS.
In initial efforts to specifically address the impact of HIV/AIDS on men-sleeping-with-men (MSM) in the small-island Caribbean, a peer-to-peer network was formed by activists in the Eastern Caribbean. This sub-regional network to support and develop advocacy around HIV was subsequently titled the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Partnership (CHAP). This was formalised in May 2003 through the Caribbean regional HIV/AIDS programme of the USAID-funded International HIV/AIDS Alliance. The CHAP worked closely with the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (CRN+). However, the CHAPs have encountered several barriers including legal restrictions to the registration of groups working with and for LGBTQI communities, discriminatory practices by state officers, financial and skills capacity and a culture of intolerance.
Human rights focus
An incarnation of this regional collaboration in August of 2011 saw a shift in programming from HIV to human rights related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression (SOGIE) and to some extent, intersex status.
Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Inc.
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United and Strong, Saint Lucia
Under Executive Director Kenita Placide, United and Strong, in 2011, staged the first regional training for the OECS CHAPs. It went on to implemented at least one regional dialogue or capacity building engagement per year. The organisation successfully staged workshops on documentation, capacity building, security sensitisation and media advocacy, for civil society and the public sector in the eastern Caribbean. Extending its work as the CariFLAGS EC hub, U&S increased outreach to, and among, LGBTQI organisations. Notable are the International Dialogue for LGBT Human Rights in 2012 to the 2015 representation at the UPR, 2016 engagement at the CSW and implementation of the Regional Security focal points training. It also increased representation in regional and international spaces such as the Organisation of American States (OAS), CARICOM Heads of Government meetings (CHOGM), and the United Nations (UN), and engagement or regional state parties and civil society.
ECADE aims to restructure and revitalise regional organising for LGBTQI advocacy in the small island Caribbean. This strategy has been recognised as an effective means of organising, given the size and similarity of the populations. ECADE will serve as an independent umbrella organisation, inclusive of all small island territories in the eastern Caribbean. Geographically, this will be countries from the Virgin Islands to Grenada.
ECADE's board is constituted to represent the range of islands quadrants of the eastern Caribbean as well as the diversity of the community we seek to represent
Consolidation and Advancement of LGBTQ+ Advocacy in the EC
The first general meeting of ECADE, in February 2017 on St. John’s, Antigua, saw attendance by representatives of seventeen (17) organisations. Most of these individuals were drawn from a planning committee formed at an introductory meeting of ECADE membership in Saint Lucia in November 2016. This meeting was attended by individuals selected by their local organisations.
The Antigua meeting built upon the legal and advocacy strategy workshop held in Grenada in September 2015. Those present discussed the status and development of ECADE as the new regional hub for LGBT rights and advocacy in EC countries and agreed on its governance structure. Participants, which included other stakeholders, also discussed and agreed on commitments and recommendation to achieve ECADE's objectives and outcomes, as it seeks to serve the eastern Caribbean LGBTQI+ community.
ECADE will seek to meet the needs articulated by representatives of LGBTI community at the Grenada meeting. This is inclusive of health and legislative reform, community strengthening and NGO capacity building. The organisation was launched with a presence of eighteen (18) member organisations in nine (9) island nations.
ECADE is registered in Saint Lucia (2015) and is recognised by the Ministry of Social Transformation, Local Government, and Community Empowerment.
Organisations representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community serve as core membership of the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE). An independent umbrella organisation, ECADE works with human rights groups to strengthen institutional capacity and provide a platform to strategise and work towards equality within the sub-region. Membership is drawn from across twenty-two (22) small island territories in the eastern Caribbean. These organisations will be a direct conduit to and amplify the voice of, the communities they serve.
ECADE will advance cooperation between LGBTI organisations in the eastern Caribbean and promote understanding and goodwill between all the peoples of the EC..
An empowered eastern Caribbean that promotes a culture of human rights, equality, justice and respect for all LGBTQI people.
To strengthen regional capacity for the defence and full recognition of human rights .
ECADE was conceptualised as a regional hub to build on the previous network, the Caribbean HIV AIDS Partnership (CHAP). It also draws from efforts by the wider regional grouping CariFLAGS, to advance collaborative advocacy in the region.