In consideration of WOMANTRA’s bourgeoning online presence, 2014 saw a distinct shift in the collective’s impetus to move beyond the interwebs, with activities ranging from commercial enterprise to securing our first major grant from an international feminist fund. There have also been major changes in the structure of WOMANTRA, including its formalization as a non-profit organization and an expansion of leadership through newly appointed co-Directors Amanda Mc Intyre and Khadija Sinanan. Part of our efforts to become more strategic in our advocacy in the upcoming year has been to begin the process of documenting our expanding membership, which has crossed the 1000 mark in the new year.
What began as an output for a HIV advocacy workshop, became a small income earner for WOMANTRA quite unexpectedly. Co-designed by Founding Director Stephanie Leitch and graphic designer Candace Moses, the LES BI t-shirt design along with LES BI poster, outlines the specific risks of the lesbian and bi-sexual community for HIV infection. LES BI gained significant traction after images were posted on our Facebook page and that of another ‘secret’ group for women who love women (WLW). Orders began pouring in from across the Caribbean region and this experience showed us how hungry members of the WLW community were to see themselves in messaging, particularly in the context of HIV where queer women are largely excluded. If you are interested in either the vest/t-shirt or poster, please feel free to contact us through our page.
WOMANTRA is also a grantee partner of the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund, in the last and upcoming cycle. We were one of thirteen groups to receive support from FRIDA in 2013/2014 to pursue our vision of mentoring the next generation of women - girls from the ages 11-12. This was perhaps the most rewarding community building exercize for WOMANTRA, with all the mentors pooled from our membership. Ten women working together to co-construct a program for others was indeed challenging. Othering in fact became a central interrogation during our process of preparing space for these young girls, with special direction being invoked from young people advocate Gillian Goddard. In a guided workshop mentors engaged with the topic of young people’s oppression and adultism and how not to re-create oppressive hierarchical dynamics in our work. The lessons learned were very instructive for extending our notions of feminist responsibility to young people, which were essential to our aims of horizontal learning. Sistah 2 Sistah ran for two months in the ‘summer vacation’ period before the September term where the girls would enter secondary school for the first time. Our activities included youth centered yoga, film, theatre, picture taking, menstrual health sessions, masala bhangra dance-workouts and self-reflection exercises. We look forward to working with a new cycle of mentors and mentees in 2015, taking the lessons learned in the last cycle forward to truly empower a community of women and girls to bridge the inter-generational gap that has been so crippling in our mis-understanding of each other.
Read more about Sistah2Sistah in an article featured in the Trinidad Express Newspaper: Express Woman
Following on from an earlier project Silent Silhouettes, produced by Stephanie Leitch and performance artist Michelle Isava in 2008, new Directors Khadija and Amanda attempted to re-create a similar dynamic for the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. A poster series representing the 11 women and 2 girls carried a stylized generic female image with the title WOMAN or GIRL, her age and a brief description of how she was killed based on police reports. Acknowledging these women’s lives in a personal and direct way was as important as maintaining their anonymity, attempting to retain some level of dignity in their memory, which was not afforded to them at the moment of death. These posters were mounted in the city’s capital Port of Spain, as well as displayed at a human rights public forum Evolving Gender and Feminist Conversations: Cyber Activism, Social Networking & LGBT Organizing hosted by the Institute of Gender and Development Studies on December 10th and Full Circle to End Gender Violence in T&T. We were happy to have the opportunity to collaborate with folks and share space with them at their events, particularly around such an important issue that invariably touches the life of every woman in deep and painful ways.
Heading into a new year, the WOMANTRA team looks forward to developing new projects in line with the organization’s main themes, which for 2015 are sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), food justice and rural women. We look forward to your continued support along our journey.
There are a number of people and institutions we would like to thank which include but are not limited to: -
Candace Moses, for giving freely of her time and skill in building our Sistah 2 Sistah website and other design work we often needed at the last minute
Gillian Goddard for grounding us in preparation for our work with young people
Isabel Dennis for compling the womantra registry of members
Caribbean Network for Women who love Women for promoting the LES BI t-shirt design
Women’s Caucus for affording us space to display LES BI at various social events for WLW
Samantha Heeralal for teaching our girls how to bhangra!
Express WOMAN magazine for featuring our mentorship program
The National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago for housing Sistah 2 Sistah over the span of 3 months without hiccup or complaint
All of the womyn mentors for volunteering their time and expertise to make Sistah 2 Sistah a reality
IGDS for their longstanding collaboration and support