What is Kaleidoscope Trust and what do they do? Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah gives us a peek behind the scenes
BY PHYLL OPOKU-GYIMAH
As the Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust I have had the pleasure of meeting the most amazing human rights defenders who risk their lives and work tiredly to fight for their rights as LGBTI+ people.
Our role at Kaleidoscope Trust is to work with parliamentarians, government ministers, officials and policy makers to try to effect real change in the lives of LGBT+ communities around the world. With our base in the UK we urge the British government and Commonwealth stakeholders to use their influence in support of the rights of LGBT people. Our organisation was one of four delivering the innovative Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) programme, which supported the reform of discriminatory and criminalising laws affecting LGBT+ people and women and girls in Commonwealth countries.
The Equality and Justice Alliance, through Kaleidoscope Trust and the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office funded projects for a number of organisations across the Eastern Caribbean, brought together under three strands of activism: abortion rights, anti-discrimination and mental health. In 2020, 30 activists, scholars and organisers came together in St Lucia for a three-day conference to showcase their work, ask questions, offer feedback and forge new relationships. Alongside demonstrating the impact of their various strands of work, the conference also offered insights into the many ways organisations and activists across the Eastern Caribbean are navigating cultural, political and societal road blocks.
The work undertaken at the intersection of mental health, anti-discrimination and abortion rights requires resilience, determination and collaboration, no matter the hemisphere, and the Caribbean convening is a stellar example of the ways in which activists are coming together to work in service of overlapping and intersecting fights for equality. A key learning for organisations in the Global North, who too often impose their Western exceptionalism on the lives and movements of those in the Global South, is that any insight, experience or access the Global North may be able to offer emergent battles for equality elsewhere in the world, is only valuable when applied through a critical and culturally-specific lens.
To say it another way: wins in the Global North must be translated into strategies that support the specific work taking place across the Global South, where the fights for equality are different, but rooted – of course – in our inalienable right to live freely, safely and loved.
Across all groups, activists and projects funded by the EJA, the general consensus is one of learning, adaptability, listening and forward-planning. From logistical and communications hurdles, to learning how to work with agility and compassion, the activists agree that bringing together mental health, anti-discrimination and abortion rights activists brought into relief the gaps in law, culture and organising that leave too many without their rights.
At Kaleidoscope Trust, the work we do, programmes we lead and funding we oversee, is all in support of civil society, grassroots organisers and activists like these. But our future is not guaranteed and now more than ever, we need the support of LGBT+ and women’s rights allies to help support the work we do. Whether a small monthly donation or a legacy donation in a will, every pound goes towards helping our LGBT+ siblings and women and girls around the world to live freely and safely.
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