Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 26, 2015

Talks Held on Sargassum, Lionfish, and Coastal Erosion


TACKLING the threat posed by invasive Sargassum seaweed, coastal erosion and invasive fish species such as the predatory Lionfish dominated a two-day symposium of the Caribbean Sea Commission which opened on Monday in Port-of-Spain Trinidad’s Newsday reports.

The symposium, titled, ‘Challenges, Dialogue and Cooperation toward the Sustainability of the Caribbean Sea’ saw the the entire first day session being devoted to presentations on the threat of the Sargassum Seaweed to the Caribbean Sea with speaker after speaker underlining the urgency of the threat posed by the seaweed to the regional tourism economy.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Frances Seignoret, said the recent rapid spread of the Sargassum Seaweed was destroying some of the region’s most significant tourist attractions. She added that many of Tobago’s most beautiful beaches have been affected, and it has become a grave problem affecting communities and the tourism sector. She said it has also affected the fishing industry, and posed health risks.

Professor Dale Webber, Pro- Vice Chancellor at The University of the West Indies (The UWI) said the issues being discussed at the symposium were very critical to the countries bathed by the Caribbean Sea. He hoped the meeting would identify specific activities which could be accomplished to deal with the threats posed by the Sargassum Seaweed, coastal erosion and the Lionfish.

He said that as a regional university, The UWI feels a need to act collectively to address the needs of the people and governments of the Caribbean. He said that with the symposium having identified the three threats, he was heartened that research conducted by academics of The UWI would be presented over the two days of the symposium.

He said the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies has been assigned by the principal of the Cave Hill Campus of The UWI, to take the lead on research into the Sargassum Seaweed, and in August organised and hosted a symposium on the subject to facilitate national dialogue among academics, and the public and private sectors.

He said another symposium on the subject is set for 2016. Yesterday’s session saw discussions centred around coastal erosion, and the invasion of the Lionfish – a fish that was originally from the Pacific Ocean but which has multiplied at an alarming rate in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, devouring other local threatened fish species.

For the original report go to,220420.html

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 26, 2015

The North Coast Writing Retreat


The North Coast Writing Retreat

Grand Riviére, Trinidad, 7-10th January 2016

The writing retreat is a three-day intensive which will include master classes in life writing, with Monique Roffey, and poetry, with Loretta Collins Klobah. Held on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, the retreat is for writers who have experience of work-shopping their work, and have either been published or are working towards publication.

Morning workshops will be given over to poetry and afternoons will be centered on life writing. The two strands of writing workshops are intended to weave together and complement each other. There will also be time to work on your own writing, and evenings will feature readings from students and discussions about the creative writing process. The course is open to 16 participants.

Writers of all nationalities are welcome to apply. The workshops are in English. One of the mentors is fluent in Spanish. The North Coast Writing Retreat does not discriminate against any adult on the basis of age, ancestry, disability, race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.


To apply, 1) submit either two poems or 2000 words of life writing (or both) and 2) a short resume of your writing experience to date to Once your application has been accepted, booking is done via Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, Grande Riviére at You will need to liaise with Piero Guerrini at Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, for transport from Piarco International Airport, Trinidad, to Grande Riviére. A welcome dinner at the hotel is at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, 7th January, and we will start out first informal session at 8:30 p.m, after dinner. Please aim to be at the hotel in time for the Thursday night dinner.


Cost of the retreat is $TT 900 per day (including tuition, accommodation and meals) or $TT2700 for three days (£280 British pounds or USD $420 in total). Accommodation is shared and en suite. Single occupancy will be available at an added cost.

About the tutors: Both tutors have many years of teaching experience.

Loretta Collins Klobah is poet and professor of Creative Writing and Caribbean Literature at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. She has published poems in many regional and international literary journals. Her poetry collection, The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman received the 2012 OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in the category of poetry (Trinidad and Tobago). It was also one of five books short-listed for the 2012 Felix Dennis Prize, offered by Forward Arts Foundation in the UK. She has received a Pushcart Prize and the Earl Lyons Award from the American Academy of Poets.

Monique Roffey is a writer and creative writing tutor, who has taught at COSTAATT in Port of Spain, Goldsmiths College, London, for the Guardian/UEA Master classes, The Arvon Foundation and privately in Trinidad. She is the author of four novels and a memoir. Her third novel Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. She has also been short-listed for the Orange Prize, the Encore Award, the Orion Award and the Costa Fiction Prize in 2015. Her work sells in the UK, Caribbean, USA and has been translated into five languages.

Mt. Plaisir Estate is a world-renowned eco-lodge on the north coast of Trinidad. Behind the hotel there is a small village and rain forest and in front of the hotel is a half-mile of white beach, the nesting destination of thousands of leatherback turtles every year. For more information about the eco-lodge see:




Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 26, 2015

PARALLEL PATHS Recent Works by Two Cuban Concrete Painters

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The Caribbean is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to natural disasters.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and volcanic activity have resulted in loss of life, injury and billions of dollars in damage to property and infrastructure.  The Caribbean has experienced over 250 natural disasters, mainly storms, over the past four decades, killing over 12,000 and affecting over 12 million more people. The economic consequences have been severe, amounting to an estimated US$19.7 billion (Acevedo Mejia, 2014). Natural disasters therefore compound existing challenges such as high debt and stymie the socio – economic progress of the Caribbean region. Climate change threatens to exacerbate the Caribbean’s vulnerability to storms, hurricanes and flooding.  These issues are of great interest to the Institute of International Relations (IIR) and relate to the work the IIR engages in, on Caribbean development, climate change and human insecurity.

After Tropical Storm Erika hit Dominica on August 27, 2015, our students and staff, immediately embarked on a drive to raise money for Dominica but before we were finished, Tropical Storm Joaquin hit the Bahamas.  These developments inspired Kieran Khan, one of our students, at a student meeting, to propose a permanent fund at the IIR for contributing to disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean. The student body immediately bought into the idea. After much discussion and consultation among the students, there was consensus to call the Fund, The Caribbean Treasure Trust: Emergency Relief Fund (CTTERF). Although there are similar initiatives in the region, the CTTERF is unique, in that it is a permanent student – led initiative.

The objectives of the CTTERF are to: complement the disaster relief efforts of the wider university and regional institutions; further develop a spirit of philanthropy among our students as they prepare to be regional and global leaders; bring immediate relief to people who desperately need assistance in the aftermath of a disaster; and expose our students to CARICOM diplomacy in a concrete way.

A formal committee, consisting of a group of committed and dedicated students, is now in place to coordinate the work of the CTTERF. The committee is chaired by Post Graduate Diploma student, Nirmala Bridgelalsingh.

The current project of the Caribbean Treasure Trust: Emergency Relief Fund is a fund raising drive for Dominica in collaboration with Kri:oul ( and the Guild of Students (

Persons may contribute in the following ways: contribution to our donation sheets (IIR students and the IIR Secretariat); donate by cheque, payable to the Institute of International Relations: Caribbean Treasure Trust or make a cash donation to the IIR Secretariat.

For further information:

Visit us at

Contact us at IIR: 1 868 662 2002 ext. 83235

Nirmala Bridgelalsingh:

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 26, 2015

Jamaican Ministry: No imported honey, honeybee products allowed


THE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Apiculture Unit has warned against the illegal importation of honey and honeybee products into the country.

According to the ministry, the Apiculture Unit, with the assistance of beekeepers, has discovered and removed the eight brands of imported honey and one brand of bee pollen found on the shelves of some health food stores in Kingston and St Andrew.

“Records of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries indicate that no import permits for bee products (honey and pollen) have been granted by the chief plant protection officer [at the] Apiculture Unit for their entry, and as such these items are considered to be illegal,” a ministry statement said.

“Under the Bee Control Act of 1918 no bees, honey or beekeepers’ stock shall be brought within the limits of this Island, save with the permission in writing of the chief plant protection officer first had and obtained, and any bees, honey, or beekeepers’ stock brought within the limits of this Island without such permission may be seized and destroyed at any time by any customs officer or by any officer or sub-officer of the Jamaica Constabulary,” the statement added.

According to the ministry, illegally imported bee products — honey and pollen — can introduce bee pests and diseases that will affect the health of the local bees stock. “For example, if imported honey reaches the hands of the consumer and is used, usually the empty containers are disposed of as waste,” it said.

Locally reared honeybees will remove contaminated hive product remains from these containers and take them back to their hives. Contaminated honey with disease-causing organisms such as American foulbrood (AFB) spores will be fed to their young. These spores will later multiply in the bee hive, affecting their health, thus causing a disease. AFB will then spread from beehive to beehive and then from apiary to apiary over time across parishes. This disease will destroy the local stock, reduce hive production and kill pollinators. Finally, the beekeeper will lose their main source of income. This will impact the honey packers, suppliers of goods and services, and over 14,000 persons who directly depend on the industry for their livelihood,” said the agriculture ministry.

It said that beekeeping in Jamaica is critical to the agricultural production systems as most of the crops that farmers and consumers depend on require insects as pollinators. Honeybees are the main insect pollinators and some of the crops that are pollinated by honeybees are pumpkin, melon, cantaloupe, cucumber, pear, ackee, and guinep.

The agriculture ministry said that although American Foulbrood Disease was only detected in four apiaries over the past six months it still remains a dangerous disease. It is caused by a spore-forming organism — bacillus larvae — that can remain in a dormant state for up to 50 years.

This disease was first detected in Jamaica in 1918 and since then there have been several outbreaks in a few parishes.

The ministry has asked consumers and beekeepers to report all locations — health food stores, supermarkets, shops, and hotels — in which the imported honeybee products are available for sale or use, as well as suppliers or distributors of imported honey into Jamaica.

For the original report go to–No-imported-honey–honeybee-products-allowed_19240109

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 25, 2015

Cuba: Workshop to Protect Biodiversity in the Caribbean


A report from Prensa Latina . . . 

Specialists and investigators from Latin America and the Caribbean are ending a workshop to promote the application of a program called “Man and the Biosphere” to protect biodiversity, here in Havana.

Frank Ortiz, responsible for Science from the Regional Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Havana, told Prensa Latina that the meeting is aimed at promoting collaboration between Dominican Republic, Aruba Haiti and Cuba, as well as specialists from Latin America.

Through the workshop “Caribbean Biosphere Reserves in the context of climate change, this group of neighboring countries is seeking to establish cooperatives and support actions to address the problems causing global warming on biodiversity.

The current climate change affecting the planet causes the loss of biodiversity in the region, both in agriculture and breeding and habitat of several animal species, said the expert.

One of the manifestations for the group of countries is the great amount of droughts in the area, causing climate change, affecting irrigation and harming soil care, a necessary step to ensure the reproduction of plants and agricultural labor.

Jonathan Baker, head of the program “Man and Biosphere” in Latin America and the Caribbean from the UNESCO Office in Montevideo, Uruguay, said that Cuba is one of the countries with the largest number of biosphere reserves in the Caribbean.

In that sense, Baker noted that the Biosphere Reserves are one of the most logical ways to address climate change and achieve sustainable development.

Cuba, he added, has many successful experiences in adaptation to climate change, and is a opportunity to share with the rest of the Caribbean and Central America.

“Man and Biosphere” is one of the pioneering programs of the United Nations to promote sustainable development, it not only looks for conservation, it also includes the interaction of people and their communities with nature.

Similarly, the Colombian Durcey Stephens, CEO of the Corporation for the Sustainable Development of San Andrés and Providencia, acknowledged the Cuba advances in the management of biosphere reserves as an enriching experience for the rest of the region.

Meanwhile, Gloria Santana, head of the Wildlife Department of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Dominican Republic praised the exchange of information that allows the workshop to manage reserves.

Santana told Prensa Latina the influence of extreme poverty in the loss of biodiversity.

The main problems are related to said daily use of the population.

In natural ecosystems, the main species are found in areas where poverty is most extreme, and therefore there is a greater use of biodiversity.

“The hungry people has nothing to do with plans and regulations,” said the Dominican expert.

However he assured can rely on people to make sustainable use of biodiversity.

Participants perform today a field visit to the Biosphere Reserve “Sierra del Rosario” in the Cuban province of Artemisa, west of Havana.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 25, 2015

Jazz: Caribbean cat comes to town


This article by Barry Davis appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

David Sanchez is no stranger to these shores and will make his seventh appearance here at next week’s Jerusalem Jazz Festival (December 2 to 4). He first put lips to horn in this part of the world 24 years ago when, as an up-and-coming young saxophonist, the Puerto Rican had the privilege to be part of the United Nation Orchestra led by legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Grammy Award winner Sanchez doffs his derby to Gillespie and credits him with helping his artistic development move in the desired direction.

“I was blessed to be able to play with Dizzy,” he says. “I came to Israel with him in 1991 and again in 1992, and we did tours together. And later I came to Israel with my own bands. I have always had a good time in Israel, and I am really excited to be going back.”

For Sanchez, Gillespie embodied many facets of the art form.

“People generally identify him as one of the founding fathers of the bebop era [of modern jazz], but when you look closer at his career you see that he really transcended all of that. He was really looking beyond that, almost to world music. Right in the middle of the bebop era, he was looking at visiting Cuba and Argentina and Brazil. He was also influenced by Middle Eastern music. He had a wide palette of colors in his music, so in that sense he was a big influence on me,” says Sanchez.

That stint with Gillespie was a formative and confidence-building experience for Sanchez, and he released his debut album, Departure, in 1995 at the age of 27. It was well received.

Although Sanchez has made a name for himself on saxophone – generally on the tenor variety – he took his first steps in the art of creating pleasing sounds on a very different kind of instrument.

“I started out on percussion, although I switched to saxophone once I started studying at the performing arts school. But percussion remained a very big influence on my playing. It was always there. My first encounter with music was playing percussion instruments, so it is very special for me,” he recounts.

His early training on congas also informs his compositional approach.

“It especially affects the way I write bass lines and the way I react to them with the melodies. It is pretty evident where that comes from,” he says.

Sanchez acquired a broad educational substratum, which provides the platform for his composing and playing to this day. European classic music was a major feature of his early schooling, if only by default.

“There wasn’t much jazz education in Puerto Rica when I was a kid. Now, back there, they introduce jazz earlier in the education system, which is great,” he states, although he does not bemoan the fact that he had to wait a while before he could get to grips with more improvisational ventures.

“I was exposed to different kinds of music, different styles and genres. I wasn’t fully aware of the benefits of that back then. But now, when I look back, I see that has helped me to open up to different ways of playing music, and hearing music too,” he explains.

That classical musical ingredient is evident in Sanchez’s sizeable oeuvre. To date, he has released 10 albums as leader and has participated in dozens more as sideman, including recordings with the likes of Gillespie and venerated bassist Charlie Haden – particularly, on Coral, which came out in 2004 and landed Sanchez a Grammy in 2005 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. The album was two years in the making and was recorded with The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, along with a jazz sextet.

Sanchez’s first orchestral-oriented effort was the 1998 jazz highlights events movies television radio dining release Obsesion.

“I really approached that with a kind of chamber music idea, with strings and woodwinds, which had Carlos Franzetti as arranger – he’s a great as composer-arranger. I love that sound of strings and orchestra. I’d love to do another project like Coral, but nowadays it’s a little challenging in terms of logistic and expense,” he says.

Sanchez’s confluences with Gillespie and Haden and other members of the previous generation brought him closer to the roots of the music and gave him a firsthand glimpse of how the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane went about their pioneering business.

“It was great playing with Charlie on Nocturne,” says the saxman. The CD in question brought Haden the 2002 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.

“I remember taking long rides with him to gigs. It was probably tiring for him, but it was great for me because I could hear his stories.

For instance, of him recording with Trane [John Coltrane], the avant-garde recordings, and telling me stories of how he tried to pick [avant-garde saxophonist] Ornette [Coleman]’s brain. It was great to hear those kinds of things from the source,” he says.

But it wasn’t just about the tales of yesteryear.

“I learned so much from Charlie;- the way he played the notes and his sensitivity – those round notes and those melodies. He could make you cry with just one note. He was that kind of artist, and I am so happy we connected. It was a very fulfilling experience, and I learned so much from him,” he says.

Haden passed away last year at the age of 76, but Sanchez continues to make strides and will put in two performances at the Jerusalem Jazz Festival, on December 3 (9:45 p.m.) and December 4 (1 p.m.).

He will bring all his Latin and Afro-Caribbean influences to the stage, which he will share with pianist Edward Simon, drummer E. J. Strickland and bassist Ricardo Figueroa, with Jahn Lee Aponte on percussion. The audiences at each of the shows will be presented with different musical experiences, with one gig featuring Creole- Caribbean material that will be released on Sanchez’s upcoming album, which he hopes to record in February. The other will be what Sanchez calls “a compilation of different stuff I’ve done.” Either way, the patrons should get a good entertainment return for their shekels.

For tickets and more information:

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | November 25, 2015

South Florida Screening of Taboo Yardies Spurs Meaningful Dialog


Members of the local LGBT community and their allies attended the South Florida showing of the documentary, Taboo Yardies: Homophobia in Jamaica at the Broward College Davie campus on Wednesday, November 18, reprots. The screening was presented by local organizations Thou Art Woman, Very G TV and the Broward College Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), as a way to highlight the plight of LGBT Jamaicans and as a fundraiser for the Jamaican organization Quality of Citizenship, Jamaica (QCJ).

Taboo Yardies is an eye-opening film that examines the socioeconomic and sociopolitical environment of Jamaica that allows for violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Filmmaker, Selena Blake, who has been on tour throughout the United States with her film, was hailed as a master storyteller as she wove the stories of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals with politicians, members of the clergy, and many Jamaicans, some of whom vehemently oppose homosexuality. It also gave the audience a forum to discuss the film and the subject matter in a post screening Q&A segment.

According to Blake this segment was “fascinating” since “several audience members had no problem expressing their disgust pertaining to the lack of compassion and the hypocrisy surrounding the plight of LGBT members back home in Jamaica.” She hopes Taboo Yardies will be “a vehicle that will cultivate dialogue amongst our people near and far, for a better Jamaica regardless of sexual orientation. So when we say: “One Love,”  “Out Of Many One People,” and “No Problem Mon,” we aren’t hypocrites.”

Local LGBT activist, Attorney Ghenete Wright Muir, coordinated the event after she was contacted by Angeline Jackson, executive director of QCJ. Wright Muir had heard Jackson’s story of “corrective rape” and admired her courage for taking a stand and creating an organization to defend the rights of Jamaica’s LGBT women. When President Obama visited Jamaica recently, he took the time out to highlight Jackson’s bravery. He said, “As a woman and as a lesbian, justice and society weren’t always on her side…but instead of remaining silent she chose to speak out and started her own organization to advocate for women like her, get them treatment and get them justice and push back against stereotypes and give them some sense of their own power. And she became a global activist.”

Wright Muir, who decided to be openly gay only a few years ago, said, “I myself faced many challenges as a lesbian of Jamaican descent. Once I became comfortable living openly gay, I was inspired to help others like myself and create more spaces for the LGBT community here in South Florida. I created  “Thou Art Woman” to celebrate LGBT women and people have really embraced it. When Angeline contacted me to coordinate the film screening I was happy to create yet another space for the community and for the opportunity to help the LGBT community in Jamaica. Although much of the film was painful to watch, it was important for us to see how hate and homophobia really hurts so many and to learn how we can work on changing that mindset.”

Many who saw the film knew of Jamaica’s reputation as a homophobic nation, but had never had to see the scars or hear the stories of those affected. The film brought this to light in a very bold and undiluted way, which according to Kathy DeSouza, social media coordinator, “forced myself and many others to open our eyes and see the horror that the LGBT community in Jamaica goes through on sometimes a daily basis.”

DeSouza now lives in the US where, she points out, many LGBT persons are “free to get married, have children and be themselves without fear … I pray that with more awareness and support for the LGBT community in Jamaica, maybe one day, our Motto “Out of Many One People” will truly mean something. Unfortunately, it has to start with the Government. If laws are not passed to protect ALL citizens, nothing else really matters.”

This sentiment is echoed by Optometrist, Melanie Reese who said, “It is very unfortunate that so many people are still living in a state of constant fear in their own country.  I hope this film reaches a larger Jamaican audience, and helps to educate people about the prejudice and injustice their fellow citizens face. Hopefully, one day we will truly have equal rights for all in Jamaica.”

Praising the work of Blake, artist and activist Niki Lopez said, “Though the film targeted the issue of homophobia in Jamaica, Selena Blake did a great job of ensuring every voice and opinion was heard. It’s great to see forward movement and spaces where dialog and growth can occur.”

Wright Muir, hailing the screening a success, said while she was pleased about the turnout, she was excited that this group was “truly engaged and extremely concerned about the people who are suffering in Jamaica and how that can change. I am also pleased to see that local businesses are willing to support by way of sponsorship so that I and the wonderful team of friends that work with me are able to bring events like these to South Florida.”

The Taboo Yardies Film Screening was presented by Very G TV, Thou Art Woman and the Broward College GSA and co-sponsored by Nadine’s Catering & Baskets, Niki Lopez Creative, David iPhoto, PNC, the Law Offices of Megan D. Widmeyer, Reese Vision Care and The Credit Group.

For the original report go to

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This article by Jason Spencer appeared in  The Mississauga News.

In the film Before Night Falls, the life of exiled Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas is depicted as he lives through his country’s revolution.

Portrayed by Javier Bardem, Arenas faced persecution for being gay, including time in prison in 1974.

Though Arenas eventually fled to the U.S. and later took his own life while dying of AIDS, the treatment and views toward LGBTQ people in Cuba is making progress – Fidel Castro’s niece is making sure of it.

Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of current Cuban President Raul Castro, told an audience at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus late last week that Cuba is very much still a country in revolution, but has shed a lot of its conservative skin since the Communist Party took over more than five decades ago.

However, while political changes brought about about more rights for women, children and youth, Castro Espin admits that, early on, the country slid backwards in other areas.

“I used to wonder, ‘If we had made progress in so many ways, why are we not making progress on LGBT issues in our country?’ We really ended up quite conservative in our views of LGBT issues and we went backwards,” Castro Espin said through her translator Dania Green Thursday night (Nov. 19).

Castro Espin, who works for Cuba’s National Centre for Sex Education and was at the university to kick off Transgender Day of Rememberance events taking place the following day, added that it wasn’t just Cuba that was “LGTB-phobic” at the time.

She noted that through consultation with what was called the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, health care was provided to transgendered Cubans in 1979, but the dominant thinking back then was that gender dysphoria was a disease.

This gradually shifted to the country offering hormone therapy and counselling to trans people – even performing the country’s first gender reassignment surgery in 1988.

But, after the surgery’s success was announced, there was a huge public backlash and the procedure was no longer offered by the government. Yet, she said, the demand continued.

When Castro Espin began working for the country’s National Centre for Sex Education in 2000, she heard from the transgendered community that they wanted the reassignment procedure to be offered again and legal recognition for their new gender identity, but also an end to police harassment.

Telling the crowd about how she researched the issue and drafted a report to be presented to the Cuban government, she said, “If you want to be listened to by decision makers, you should not only come with a good explanation of the problem, but you should come with a solution and offer to do it.”

She added that the problem was ideological “because we’re talking about the oppression of some people…domination of one group by another.”

“We decided that we needed a shift in consciousness and we needed to move away from a medical model to move toward a more socio-cultural model.”

As of 2010, gender reassignment surgery has been covered by Cuba’s health care system.

As a member of government, Castro Espin has stood up for labour code changes to include gender identity as well as same-sex marriage.

Toward the end of the Q&A session, she was asked if her surname helped get things done.

“No,” she replied, pointing out that a lot of stuff is passed through parliament that’s not on her wish list, leaving her to “stress” over the issues she cares about.

“That’s what you get for being a Castro,” she said.

For the original report go to

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Small island nations are at the mercy of climate change and rising water levels. Leaders at COP 21 must fight for the emissions cuts that will allow our survival, Dessima Williams reports for London’s Guardian.

n the Caribbean island of Grenada, people know the ocean is rising. Water is about to reach houses in the coastal villages of Soubise and Marquis. Climate change is happening and it is affecting us, and in particular our female farmers. Will world leaders in Paris be able to do what it takes to protect our communities and our world?

Climate change is finally on everybody’s agenda, a global renewable energy revolution is under way, and influential religious leaders like Pope Francis have called on governments to consider their impact on the environment. But sometimes, momentum is not enough to break through all obstacles.

I was the diplomatic climate change adviser to Grenada’s then prime minister, Tillman Thomas, in 2009, when he and other world leaders hammered out the Copenhagen accord (pdf) during marathon, closed-door meetings. Political calculations and national self-interest won that year, and what we got was a poor substitute for what we needed.

Copenhagen is almost six years behind us now. I have attended every climate conference since, and seen slow but real progress towards reaching an agreement. If a deal is reached in Paris, we need it to include several key elements.

It must be legally binding, so countries can be held accountable. The pledges made by countries to cut greenhouse gases are encouraging, but not enough to prevent global warming rising higher than 1.5C. That could be the threshold for the survival of island nations like Grenada. Rich, polluting nations need to be more aggressive in their cuts.

The deal must provide assistance to help vulnerable countries adapt to and minimise damage from climate change. Like most of the Caribbean, the majority of our population lives on our beautiful coastlines, where they depend on tourism, agriculture, beach-front vending and fishing for their livelihoods. Our airport, hotels, hospitals and homes are all in harm’s way as sea levels rise and hurricanes become stronger and more frequent.

In 2004 and 2005, two hurricanes battered Grenada and destroyed scores of nutmeg, cocoa and banana farms. Agricultural and tourism workers, mostly women, were left without jobs.

To protect ourselves, we need to rebuild and expand sea defences, climate-proof public buildings, install early warning systems, and regrow and protect our mangroves and coral reefs. We must educate our citizens about the threats we face.

Climate change doesn’t just mean storms and floods. During a recent drought, brushfires broke out, and people were forced to choose between letting them burn or using their dwindling supply of freshwater to extinguish them. Adapting to climate change also means improving water management infrastructure and planting drought-resilient crops like cassava.

Grenada’s greenhouse gas emissions are infinitesimally small. However, we are doing our part and have pledged to reduce 2010 levels by 30% by 2025. We are harnessing renewable energy, and have installed solar panels on Grenada and will soon install wind turbines on Carriacou island. Our parliament is working on legislation that would boost the renewable energy sector.

All these investments cost money, and the government must also worry about debt repayments, alleviating hunger, and tackling poverty and unemployment. We cannot afford to be saddled with more crushing debts, so the Paris deal must provide grants to help us finance these expensive projects.

Every year the ocean waves crash closer and closer to Grenada’s coastal communities. Our livelihoods are at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns, floods, droughts and fires. The Paris summit provides an opportunity to change all this. I will be there, advising Oxfam as it advocates for those most vulnerable, such as female farmers of small island nations around the world. My hopes are high.

For the original report go to

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