For over a decade CAISO has offered the public a consistent voice and face for LGBTI+ issues, shifting the needle measurably in how the nation imagines, understands, and talks about sex and gender diversity, sexuality, and sexual justice.
CAISO has successfully built alliances – among LGBTI groups; with other Trinidad & Tobago NGOs and movements; and internationally. CAISO has worked collaboratively to build interventions and capacity to deliver justice and build resilience. Namely, we initiated strategic partnerships with The University of the West Indies at St. Augustine:
CAISO dedicated four years of hard work (from 2012 to 2016) to regenerating and serving as secretariat for regional LGBTI coalition CariFLAGS: Caribbean Forum for Liberation & Acceptance of Genders & Sexualities. CAISO catalysed a professional three-country poll in 2013, implemented by Caribbean Research & Development Services (CADRES), to assess nuance in public attitudes to homosexuality as openings for political action, which was replicated regionwide by the United Nations. In 2014, CAISO was elected to the Government's abandoned Civil Society Board, and we continue to lead projects with its successor, the non-profit Association of Civil Society Organisations (ACSOTT). In 2015, CAISO spearheaded HIV group CARe (Community Action Resource), the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), and a young woman who delivered a spoken-word performance as testimony, in requesting the country’s first thematic hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 15 years.
CAISO is a leader at sharing access and building others’ capacity with respect to human rights mechanisms and advocacy. In 2011, the Family Planning Association of Trinidad & Tobago invited CAISO to partner in using civil society procedures for participation in the first cycle of the T&T’s review under a new UN human rights mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). No other T&T NGOs did. In 2015-16, partnering with the UN, CAISO mobilized ACSOTT groups, WINAD and others in action learning about the mechanism during the second-cycle review. The project was documented as a case study by the CSOs For Good Governance project (#6, pp. 15-17). CAISO also led Human Rights training workshops for CSOs in 2018. For the current third-cycle review, CAISO recently submitted a joint submission with the Family Planning Association of T&T and the CEDAW Committee of T&T. This statement will be made public soon.
CAISO is the lead convener of the Alliance for Justice and Diversity (AJD), which is a social justice coalition of LGBTI+ organisations. During the 2015 election season, AJD organisations joined forces to introduce a shared policy agenda building upon the work of CAISO in the 2010 election season. CAISO led the AJD efforts again in 2020 for a shared policy agenda, which was developed through community forums and consultations. The 2020 LGBTI Policy Agenda - 13 Action Points was launched online the week before the 2020 General Election. After the election, AJD members revised and updated the Policy Agenda to reflect the newly formed government and cabinet as well as community engagement and more trans and intersex visibility. Work continues on advancing the policy agenda.
Since 2011, CAISO has focused attention on the Equal Opportunity Act and institutions as important guardians of human rights: at home, at the IACHR, and within the UPR, where in 2016 the T&T Government, following the 2016 advocacy above, committed to establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). CAISO continues to campaign for legislative amendments to add three (age, health, LGBTI status) Equal Opportunity protections.
CAISO has championed the creation of a shared delivery mechanism to make core management functions affordable for NGOs, and has mobilized ACSOTT, the Inter-American Development Bank NextGen board and the Cropper Foundation to develop a pilot, which is in progress. CAISO is also fuelled by creativity and is a regular programme partner of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and organises an annual festival event that takes its writers into LGBTI communities and features and celebrates Caribbean LGBTIQ+ writing.
CAISO changed its name in 2016 to CAISO: Sex and Gender Justice. Founded in June 2009 as Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation, the organisation continues its work with a more expansive name that closer aligns to our growth across areas of focus which remain -- wholeness, justice, and inclusion -- through development of analysis, alliances, and advocacy.