I recently had the privilege of traveling to Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia to observe the incredible work USAID is doing to support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex (LGBTI) populations advocate for their own rights under the law. As an advocate and supporter of the LGBTI community here in the United States, I know firsthand the importance of LGBTI physical safety, the issues of workplace discrimination, and access to education and health care.
As part of USAID’s historic LGBT Global Development Partnership launched earlier this year, we are expanding our support to local civil society organizations in Colombia through our partnership with the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Activities include partnering with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute to conduct trainings on how to run for office and participate in democratic processes. This partnership forms part of USAID’s wider commitment to inclusive development, and to engaging LGBTI communities as important actors in international development who have the potential and power to advance human rights, promote broad-based civic participation, and drive inclusive economic growth.
Since 2006, USAID/Colombia has been a flagship bilateral mission for its work in supporting LGBTI community efforts fighting discrimination and stigmatization. In addition, USAID/Colombia has provided training for police and other public servants on respecting and protecting LGBTI rights. These continued efforts and strong ties to grassroots LGBTI organizations made Colombia a good fit for piloting the LGBTI Global Development Partnership trainings.
As reported in the Washington Blade, from August 29th-September 1st, the Victory Institute – with support from USAID – led a four-day training in Cartagena for 30 Colombian LGBTI activists interested in running for political office or managing campaigns. These inspiring individuals, who hailed from as far away as the Amazon rainforest, rural regions along the Atlantic Coast and Bogota, came together to learn the art and craft of running successful political campaigns in an effort to become more effective advocates for LGBTI rights in their own communities.
One such activist I had the pleasure of meeting was Jhosselyn Pájaro, a transsexual woman who ran for municipal council in the city of Arjona outside of Cartagena. She ran for office to let her community know that LGBTI people like her lived in the community and wanted to make a difference. Although she did not win a seat on the council, she was successful in raising awareness about LGBTI people and the rights and concerns they have living in Colombia. She attended the USAID-supported training to learn new skills as she hopes to again run for political office, and next time, win.
It is inspiring stories like these, from LGBTI individuals who face discrimination on an almost daily basis that makes the work of USAID all the more important. Through the LGBTI Global Development Partnership, USAID is working with our partners to strengthen LGBTI civil society organizations, enhance LGBTI participation in democratic processes, and undertake research on the economic impact of LGBTI discrimination.
At USAID, we are bringing together local activists and community leaders. In Colombia, organizations such as Colombia Diversa, Caribe Afirmativo, and Santamaria Fundación illustrate the dedication and service to their constituents that USAID values.We are helping these community leaders to advocate for a more inclusive society that embraces what LGBTI people have to offer in the development of their own societies, economies, and local institutions. Together, in partnership, we are working to ensure LGBTI people have equal rights as enshrined in international human rights and domestic law, and access to education, employment, health care and housing – what we consider as important elements of inclusive sustainable development.
Learn more about how USAID is advancing and protecting the human rights of the LGBTI community.