Remarks by Ambassador Candace Bond
PrideTT’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) conference
Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Columbus Circle, West Moorings
Thursday, June 1, 2023
Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here today to add my voice to PrideTT’s annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Conference.
Those of you who know me will convey how strongly I feel about the importance of supporting and fighting for the equality of all people.
This gathering is not just another conference, but a unique opportunity for leaders of business, human resource management professionals, and policy makers to engage in knowledge transfer of best practices to advance an equitable workplace for all people, inclusive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex persons.
The U.S. Embassy is proud to partner with Pride TT in advancing employment equity and workplace rights for our fellow LGBTQI+ colleagues – and brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters – in Trinidad and Tobago through a 6-month initiative entitled: “Towards a Just Society- Equal Access to Employment for LGBTQI+ Persons.”
This project addresses hiring discrimination and lack of equitable workplace policies in public and private organizations across Trinidad and Tobago.
Through this initiative, Pride TT has collected baseline data on access to employment and discriminatory practices experienced by LGBTQI+ persons to develop a human resources training manual.
This is an important step in advancing human rights in human resources – and to have taken the time and effort to establish a baseline in data, solid data – so we can measure attitudes and policies now and changes over time.
Based on this data, Pride TT through our U.S. Embassy grant developed a manual that will serve as the foundation for a three-day training program for 15 business leaders, HR professionals, and equal opportunity policy makers on establishing an inclusive DEI framework within their organizations.
It is our hope that this initiative will bring much-needed progress on addressing workplace inequities experienced by LGBTQI+ persons across Trinidad and Tobago.
While there has been some advancement since the Trinidad and Tobago High Court declared the country’s criminalization of consensual same-sex acts as “unconstitutional,” the Equal Opportunities Act of Trinidad and Tobago does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity in its mandate of protection.
Hence the continued need for advancement of equal opportunities and rights for all identities.
As leaders, when any part of humanity is sidelined, we must not resort to inaction. When we see denials and abuses of human rights, we must bring solutions. True equality means holding everyone accountable. Every time a barrier to progress has fallen, it has taken a cooperative effort.
In the fight for women’s rights, the support of men remains crucial. In the fight for racial equality, the contributions matter from people of all races. The same is true with this push for equality for LGBTQI+ persons.
As leaders, when we establish workplace policies that give everyone equal access to opportunities, it sends a powerful message. It is also not enough to establish and adopt policies but to create an enabling environment for true inclusion.
At our embassy, our diplomats are raising concerns about laws and policies, and we are working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work.
The Biden-Harris Administration defends the human rights of LGBTQI+ people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy through the implementation of the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Persons Around the World.
The U.S. President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to:
• combat the criminalization of LGBTQI+ status and conduct;
• enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers;
• ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBTQI+ rights;
• enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination; and
• respond swiftly to abuses against LGBTQI+ persons.
This mission would not be possible without the collaborative efforts of our colleagues such as our fellow diplomatic missions, private and public sector organizations, and NGOs like Pride TT.
I close with a quote from President Joe Biden to demonstrate that we have the power and the moral backing of the White House behind our collective efforts here today:
“Everyone is entitled to dignity and equality, no matter who they are, whom they love, or how they identify—and we will continue to engage with allies and partners to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ people here at home and in all corners of the world.”
Thank you for inviting me here today, and thank you, each of you, for your full participation in this conference and workshop today. Your presence is a sign of your commitment to this very important initiative. I am proud of the work you are accomplishing together with the U.S. Embassy.