Changing lives: Assessing the impact of an empowerment initiative for Jamaican tertiary-level LGBT

Published: July 21, 2010

J. Ivey

PRIDE in Action, Kingston, Jamaica

Issues: Jamaican LGBT youth are often rejected by families and society. Low self -esteem, negative self-image, feelings of isolation, fear, and lack of support options, spaces and role models leave them particularly at risk of depression, and suicidal thoughts/ actions. Insecurities, conflicting value systems and lack of information about their sexual and emotional orientation leave them vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; HIV prevalence among MSM is 31.8% (MOH 2008).
Description: A bi-weekly support group at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus provides peer support, LGBT and sexual health related information and social interaction. This group reaches individuals with a diversity of ages, backgrounds and experience. Activities are designed to foster confidence and promote empowerment of self. This non-judgmental space celebrates diversity and encourages self-control and greater self-efficacy.
Lessons learned: Beneficiaries report improved self-image, higher self-esteem and increased knowledge relating to their experience as LGBT, enabling them to make better-informed decisions about sexuality and in general. Individuals feel better equipped to tackle issues and confront stigma and discrimination when they occur. Empowering these LGBT youth and developing their leadership capacity has created a ripple effect whereby they can also positively impact others in their wider circle/community through advocacy and support. Participants report increased comfort with self generally, and with their sexual orientation, and a subsequent improvement in their capacity to articulate not only their experience as LGBT but generally, in all interactions amongst peers, family and the wider society. Witnessing and participating in the personal growth of self and others in this peer group setting allows beneficiaries to better understand and appreciate their own and others’ strengths.
Next steps: This intervention focuses on holistic development of the individual. From this base, additional ongoing specific trainings in Advocacy, Peer Support, Leadership and Community Development will add greater impact.

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