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Building safe spaces for LGBTQI communities in Haiti: Edwine Boursiquot, Charlot Jeudy Prize awardee

Edwine Boursiquot, a trans rights advocacy champion in Haiti, is the Charlot Jeudy prize awardee, given at the end of Global Rights Connection to a participant who has distinguished themselves through their commitment to the protection of 2SLGBTQI+ rights and their dedication throughout the training. Here is a portrait of an unstoppable and determined activist.

The prize honors the memory of Charlot Jeudy, an accomplished Haitian LGBTQI activist who passed away in 2019. He was someone Edwine knew well, as the Rainbow Organisation of Haiti (ORAH), for which Edwine works, is closely related to Kouraj, the association wherein Charlot was president. Now independent, ORAH presents itself as a safe space in which people from the LGBTQI community can reunite, express themselves freely and partake in different cultural activities, while defending their rights through campaigns and advocacy. As the Associate Secretary and Trans Division Manager, a big part of Edwine’s work involves organizing activities, including for example an exhibition of artworks on transidentity, a modeling workshop for all, or debates.

Edwine states that the existence of such a space reuniting LGBTQI people freely can be challenging in Haiti – the realities of LGBTQI people are difficult in the country, as many face discrimination and marginalization. Acts of violence are unfortunately not uncommon, hence the importance of a safe place like ORAH. 

Edwine, who identifies as a transgender man, explains he was a victim of transphobia at a very young age. At only 16, he was expelled from his school when they learned of his transidentity. To deviate from one’s assigned sex at birth is socially frowned upon, and comes with numerous economic and social consequences, such as unemployment or difficult family relations. Some openly trans individuals, who struggle finding work because of dominant transphobic preconceptions, find themselves dependent on their families to support themselves, often under the condition that they renounce their transidentity. 

It is for these reasons that human rights education plays a key role within ORAH, who offers trainings centered around LGBTQI rights and advocacy, but also self-esteem and HIV prevention. Members can also be provided with medical or psychosocial assistance. The organization also conducts awareness-raising and education campaigns for the public. 

Having collaborated with Equitas in the past, Edwine did not hesitate to apply for Global Rights Connection, a Equitas virtual training addressed to human rights educators. “I have taken all sorts of trainings on human rights with other organizations, but Equitas conveys the material differently. Equitas uses the participatory approach, in which I feel involved not only as a LGBTQI person, but also as a trans person, because Equitas respects people as they are.” 

He also describes Global Rights Connection as a significant networking opportunity, in which he was able to make himself known to the facilitation team and Equitas staff, in addition to the other participants from all over the world. 

Edwine found himself to be particularly impacted by the gender-based approach, which suggests taking into consideration the realities of the different genders when developing or evaluating a human rights initiative. Acknowledging a lack of women within ORAH, it is with this approach that Edwine desires to bring change: he plans on designing a training on the gender-based approach for ORAH staff so the gender factor can henceforth be taken in account in all their activities. 

It is to bring light to this remarkable engagement towards 2SLGBTQI+ rights that the Charlot Jeudy Prize was awarded to Edwine at Global Rights Connection’s closing ceremony. Describing the prize as an immense source of encouragement, Edwine promises: “I will continue to work tirelessly for the rights of LGBTQI people in Haiti, so that one day homophobia, transphobia and biphobia will no longer be a concern, and we can live freely.” 

With emotion, he adds: “If Charlot Jeudy was here, he would be happy. When I met him for the first time, he said, “You have all your enthusiasm. You can do it, go.” He encouraged me. This prize is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me since I became an activist.” 

Congratulations, Edwine!