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A Dialogue for Women’s and LGBTQ Rights

Recently, MADRE and IGLHRC co-hosted an event as part of a two-week convening of activists for women’s rights from all over the world.

The event, “A Dialogue Between Movements: Women’s Rights and LGBT Activists Share Anti-Violence Strategies,” brought activists from the women’s rights movement and the LGBTQ movement together. We sought to break down barriers between our work and to share strategies for working against the gender oppression that affects us all.

MADRE Executive Director, Yifat Susskind, explained why these two movements have sometimes been separated in the past, and why MADRE and our partner organizations are committed to bringing them together moving forward (video). 

The intersectionality of oppressions is central to MADRE, founded by activists working at the intersections of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, class, and ethnicity.

Panelists represented a diverse range of geographic and activist backgrounds: Rose Cunningham, founder and director of Wangki Tangni in Nicaragua, which works for the rights and resources of Indigenous women; Azusa Yamashit, co-director and editor of Gay Japan News, mediator of a national women’s network of tsunami survivors, and LGBTQ researcher and activist; Thilaga Sulathireh, LGBTQ community organizer and co-founder of Justice for Sisters, which provides legal support for trans* women in Malaysia; and Charlot Jeudy, president of KOURAJ, a Haitian grassroots organization that works to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Panel moderator and MADRE board member Blaine Bookey asked panelists to share successes, challenges, and lessons learned in their work against violence towards their communities. She also asked them to discuss the overlap between movements and what we can learn from one another.

Panelists discussed violence and discrimination they experienced, and—regardless of the population or the geographic location—the experiences were strikingly similar. They shared stories of violence based on a person’s perceived gender identity or sexual expression.

Some ongoing challenges were also common between movements: Mr. Jeudy and Ms. Sulathireh shared that travel and distance were key deterrents keeping activists from reaching their communities. Ms. Cunningham and Ms. Yamashirta both shared that a lesson learned from their work was the importance of building trust in relationships with allies.

Finally, panelists discussed the importance of recognizing overlap between their communities as a bridge to working together more closely. Ms. Sulathireh pointed out that many people are active and already working together, in more than one community, citing the labor movement in addition to rights for women and LGBTQ communities. Ms. Cunningham affirmed the need to include one another, stating that ignoring a community is another way of perpetuating violence against it.

Several activists from around the world were listening in the audience and affirmed Ms. Cunningham’s key take away from the panel “when we come to this space, we feel like we are with you and you are with us.” Our movements are linked by common experiences and common goals. Coming together in spaces like MADRE’s event reminds us all about the community we share.