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.
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. CAISO initiated strategic partnerships with The University of the West Indies at St. Augustine:
- in 2011, to create a new mental health service with the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex Psychiatry unit, which is ongoing
- in 2017, a funding partnership with the Institute for Gender & Development Studies and several groups to shift national culture around sexuality towards one of justice. This project – a community-university collaboration is titled – A Sexual Culture of Justice: Strengthening LGBTQI & GBV Partnerships, Capacity & Efficacy to Promote & Protect Rights in T&T – provides over three years of support for some of the longest-standing and emerging local efforts to transform approaches to partner violence, homophobia, bullying and policing, while building partnerships and organisational capacity.
CAISO dedicated four hard years, 2012 to 2016, to regenerating and serving as secretariat for regional LGBTI coalition CariFLAGS: Caribbean Forum for Liberation & Acceptance of Genders & Sexualities. CAISO catalyzed 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 Government’s abandoned Civil Society Board, and we continue to lead projects with its successor, the non-profit Association of Civil Society Organisations (ACSOTT).
During the 2015 election season, CAISO convened the Alliance for Justice & Diversity, which set and drew decisionmakers’ attention during the campaign to 12 policy and governance priorities; and which continues to serve as a national coordination mechanism through which six LGBTI organisations and intersectional feminist organisation WOMANTRA collaborate on fundraising, policy and action.
Also that year, 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 InterAmerican 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).
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 conditions, LGBTI status) Equal Opportunity protections.
CAISO has championed creation of a shared delivery mechanism to make core management functions affordable for NGOs, and has mobilized ACSOTT, the InterAmerican Development Bank NextGen board, and the Cropper Foundation to develop a pilot. CAISO is a programme partner of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and organises an annual festival event that takes its writers into LGBTI communities.