While working in Port-au-Prince this winter, we connected with leaders of KOURAJ, a grassroots organization conducting a national communications campaign to fight homophobia and stigmatization of the M (LGBTQ) community. It is working in collaboration with a network of local and international actors to impact legislation, reform police treatment of the community, and force the application of human rights. These leaders partnered with our Haiti crew to create messages of hope and solidarity for M community members.
While living conditions are challenging for many Haitians, they can be particularly difficult for sexual minorities.
Two years ago, Stephenson was attacked on the street just for being masisi (gay). When he reported the crime, police laughed and told him the beating was his fault, that his sexual orientation had provoked the aggressors. Stephenson decided to fight back through advocacy: “I engage with KOURAJ because I know it is a risk, but one that I already take every day in the streets. If I am hit now, at least I know to whom I can speak to protect my rights instead of simply looking the other way. I am scared, yet convinced that we have no other choice but to join in this universal struggle.”
Stephenson has taken another risk by making this video and sharing it over smartphone networks and social media:
Ernest helped found KOURAJ, in his words, “to finally provide an example to our fellow masisi that is possible to raise your head, that the solution is not to leave your country or to hide indefinitely who you are. The solution we have is to fight homophobia head on, such that we can exist, finally exist.”
Here, Ernest reminds M community members that they are not alone:
People from around the world have shown support, encouraging KOURAJ leaders and sharing the video. Haitian and international support is evident on the KOURAJ Facebook page:
ChangeStream Media is proud to have helped these brave leaders make their voices heard. We look forward to sharing more from KOURAJ in coming weeks.