Urgent message of LGBTQI+ activist wins award for best communications tactic

The video message by Rutgers, the Netherlands centre of expertise on sexuality, which features LGBTQI+ activist Jairo from Guyana, has won the High Flyer Award. This prize for best communications tactic by a development organisation is awarded by the Expertise Centre Humanitarian Communication. The video message is part of the Right Here Right Now programme. A partnership in which Rutgers, Hivos and young impassioned activists from different countries work on sexual rights.

The High Flyer Award is awarded annually to development organisations that move beyond traditional campaigns and represent people’s own voices and power without resorting to stereotypes.

“This is amazing news, I’m elated,” says Jairo in response to the award. “At the end of the video I say: ‘use your voice and make it heard’. This video has done just that. My experience, and that of other LGBTQI+ people in Guyana, has been heard globally. Getting this award is an amazing feeling, not just for me, but for all the young advocates in Right Here Right Now.”

Jairo fights for the sexual and reproductive rights of young people. He travels to the most remote regions of Guyana in South America to talk to healthcare workers about the stigma and prejudices young LGBTQI+ people face daily. Jairo calls on other young people to speak out to receive better healthcare and better adapted sexuality education. In the short, animated documentary by Rutgers, An important voice message from Jairo, he explains the importance of this work in his own words.

Right Here Right Now

The award is a huge recognition for the work Rutgers and Hivos have done in Right Here Right Now from 2015 until 2020. Together with local partner organisations, they supported the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in eleven countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The organisations are most proud of the fact that the jury valued the honest and direct way of communicating in the video.

“With this short documentary, we wanted to emphasise the power of young activists,” says Rose Koenders, Global Manager of Right Here Right Now. “In the first five years of our partnership over 1600 young people have spoken out against laws that limit their freedoms. They took the lead and are definitely not victims. That’s exactly what we wanted to show with Jairo’s story.”

The sexual rights and health of young people in Latin America are under pressure. In many countries conservative forces are making it harder for vulnerable groups, like young  members of the LGBTQI+ community, to access these rights. The COVID-19 crisis has worsened their situation and make it harder to speak out.

Rights under pressure

“Human rights organisations are suffering due to the effects of the pandemic,” explains Karen Hammink, Specialist Diversity and Sexual Rights at Hivos. “They are in need of more support to speak out against exclusion and to reach vulnerable groups. However, funding of these organisations is in decline and new options for financial support are being suspended. We are doing all we can to support these organisations. Especially now, young people and LGBTQI+ people should be visible and influence sexual and reproductive health policies that directly affect them.”

The short documentary ‘An important voice message from Jairo’ was created by Rutgers together with VICE+, the media branch of VICE Media Group.

In the next five years young activists will continue to fight for their sexual and reproductive rights in a new iteration of Right Here Right Now, led by Rutgers.

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