OutRight Caribbean Partner Interview With Stephanie Leitch

Photo credit: Danielle Salloum

OutRight develops partnerships globally. One of our latest initiatives is a partnership with Caribbean LGBTIQ organizations is a part of the "Frontline Alliance: Caribbean Partnerships Against Gender-Based Violence." The alliance aims to improve the barriers to accessing justice and support for women and LGBTIQ people who experience gender-based violence (GBV). One organization involved is WOMANTRA based in Trinidad & Tobago and whose founding director is Stephanie Leitch.

Stephanie's interest in women’s rights began to take shape early in her university career at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, where she graduated with a Minor in Gender Studies and went on to enroll in the postgraduate program. As a teaching assistant, she tutored a number of undergraduate & postgraduate courses and still returns to the classroom each year for an annual guest lecture on Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights. Stephanie is also a Civil Society Advisor to UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean (CSAG-LAC).

Stephanie, graciously took the time to answer a few questions about WOMANTRA, the LGBTIQ movement in the Caribbean, challenges, and International Day of Peace.

Daina Rudusa (DR): You are the founder of WOMANTRA, tell us a bit about the organization and what you aim to do.

Stephanie Leitch (SL): WOMANTRA is a feminist organization, led by young and queer Caribbean women of colour. Our work is largely focused on the mentorship of young feminists through our internship programme; consciousness raising at the community and national levels using social and traditional media; and the promotion of gender equality through policy reform. The aim of our organization is to create a platform for young feminist voices that are strong, respected and nurtured.

DR: It seems like it is an exciting time for LGBTIQ and women’s activism in the Caribbean. What makes you particularly hopeful for the future?

SL: This portfolio that WOMANTRA now carries is a far cry from the humble social media platform it started off as nearly a decade ago and I think WOMANTRA’s ability to keep expanding its vision, following and reach is a testament to how much feminism is needed in the region, both as a grounding ideology and catalyse for action.

DR: Are there any particular challenges you are worried about in the pursuit of your goals?

SL: Burnout and feeling too overwhelmed to keep moving forward. I think that when you enter the social justice arena you have an idea that things will move slowly and social change is not an overnight process but this still does not prepare you for the sheer devastation you can feel, not only in the wake of bigoted individuals but also from the lack of support from your own community.

DR: Tell us a bit about the Frontline Alliance: Caribbean Partnerships Against Gender-Based Violence and the significance of the project.

SL: I am really grateful for the support of OutRight Action International and the opportunity of the Frontline Alliance, since it allows me to have a longer-term engagement with key actors in the national response to gender-based violence that I may not have been able to access or influence otherwise. I am hoping that through this process, we can truly move the folx who are working on the frontline into taking more decisive action within their own organizations, to address the gaps that are truly hurting those who have been falling through the cracks.

DR: What can the international community do to support you?

SL: Funders can seek to establish truly equitable partnerships that support the work local actors are doing on-the-ground; foreign media and advocates can allow us to tell our own stories and provide platforms for us to share our nuanced and complicated truths and global actors can continue to engage us on how we think our societies can be reshaped both within and outside of the UN and human rights frameworks.

DR: Saturday is International Day of Peace. Not many people think of the human rights of LGBTIQ people when marking this day. What would you say to them?

SL: Well as Anarcho feminist Emma Goldman once said, “If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution.” And so the question becomes who can dance better than my rainbow people and what is more revolutionary than peace? The answer is self-evident.

We look forward to collaborating with Stephanie in December for Advocacy Week and OutSummit.