In 2009, with the support of Ang Ladlad, General Santos City hosted the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) regional consultation. While the participants of the gathering (mainly) campaigned for the LGBT political party, after the 2010 elections, “we continued having meetings, brainstorming on the next activities of the group,” recalled Cris Lopera.
And then two other developments happened – on the one hand, in 2010, the participants joined in the capacity training initiated by the former TLF (now known as the TLF SHARE Collective) to MSM and transgender community-based organizations (CBOs); and on the other hand, in 2011, the eventual head of the organization was hired by the AIDS Society of the Philippines as BCC Coordinator of General Santos City for the Global Fund Round 6 HIV and AIDS program. These gave the opportunity for the core group to organize community-based MSM and transgender organizations at the barangay level, thereby expanding the membership and creation of MSM and transgender CBOs.
“With the clamor from local barangay gay and transgender groups for capacity training and HIV and AIDS education, the core group decided to formally organize and come up with the vision, mission and goal (of an umbrella organization) in the SOCCKSARGEN area,” Cris said.
And so Social Health of Inter-ethnic Network for Empowerment (SHINE) of SOCCKSARGEN was formed; it was officially registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2011.
SOCCKSARGEN is, by the way, a region in southern Philippines, particularly in central Mindanao. Officially designated as Region XII, the acronym stands for the region’s four provinces and one of its cities, i.e.: South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.
As a (relatively) new organization, SHINE-SOCCKSARGEN’s challenges are aplenty, including the limitations of human and financial resources; lack of baseline data on the human rights situation of LGBT people in Mindanao; and the alarming increase of HIV infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender Filipinos particularly in southern Philippines because of lacking intervention efforts.
SHINE-SOCCKSARGEN faces these challenges through capacity building of CBO members through continuing provision of various trainings and information, education and communication materials; ongoing search for funding to finance needed efforts; networking with like-minded organizations both local and abroad; and forming partnerships with government lead agencies program, particularly to deal with the challenges posed by HIV and AIDS.
SHINE-SOCCKSARGEN already has numerous successes. These achievements that the group is proud of include: increasing community partnerships, “with (us now having) 15 community-based MSM and transgender organizations that are affiliated with SHINE-SOCCKSARGEN; (continuing) conducting of organizational capacity training to help CBOs establish (themselves); and broadening of Mindanao’s MSM and transgender network,” Cris said.
Still other successes include: hosting a general assembly and strategic planning (in August 2013); forming of partnerships with government agencies (particularly DOLE, DILG, CHR, DOH, and the LGU); ongoing workshops on HIV and on SOGIE in schools, barangays, and private and public offices; and serving as a focal organization on MSM and transgenders to DANGAL National Network.
SHINE-SOCCKSARGEN, of course, remains as the only MSM and transgender umbrella organization in the SOCCSKSARGEN region, and so, “we (continue) to aim to address the human rights of the LGBT people in the community,” Cris said.
The organization is intending to step up its activities, with future plans including: implementing the three-year strategic plan from the consultation and workshop conducted among CBO partners, stakeholders and members; continuing with capacity trainings of CBOs and their individual members; and continuing to engage LGUs, government and private agencies, and national and international networks to ensure that the efforts are attained.
As SHINE-SOCCKSARGEN continues to grow, anyone interested can be a member. Qualifications include: identification as an ethnic- Filipino who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or asexual; must have lived for at least six months in the SOCCKSARGEN area; and must be willing to contribute and work for the cause of the LGBT community.
For more information, visit SHINE-SOCCKSARGEN’s Facebook page.