Queer women building community in Curaçao

Fundashon Orguyo Kòrsou (FOKO)– or Proud Curaçao – has represented and defended the LGBTQI community in Curaçao for 25 years. Their work on this Caribbean island, where conservative religious ideas and heteronormative expectations are dominant, is crucial.

An initial Spark grant in 2020 supported the creation of Kambrada, aqueer women’s group within FOKO that aims to create ‘sisterhood and community’. Women within FOKO felt they needed a women’s space, and within just a couple of years, Kambrada’s membership has grown to over 100.

Kambrada organises online spaces, including a Facebook group and the ‘Kambrada talks’ series. ‘Within Kambrada, we have created a space where friendships can develop. To move forward, we have to be in touch with each other,’ says FOKO board member and Kambrada organiser Nelly Rosa. ‘Often the “Kambrada talks” speakers are group members who address issues, for instance, the rights of non-biological mothers in lesbian couples. We also have guests like young trans or non-binary people who talk about gender identity. I am proud that we have been able to present stories about diversity and to create allyship within our community.’

With the 2020 Spark grant, Kambrada launched a billboard campaign on Lesbian Visibility Day in 2021. Representations of lesbian relationships on posters at busy traffic intersections provided a new kind of visibility for queer women in Curaçao. The campaign created a sense of recognition within the lesbian community.

In 2021, FOKO received its second Spark grant to continue community building by bringing together queer women from different socio-economic groups. Kambrada aims to bridge the divide of social class and to disrupt the prejudices that exist among different groups of women. The group plans to organise a culinary and poetry workshop where women will write, cook, and share a meal together. According to Nelly, ‘Our goal is to let women from different groups see that they are not so different and that we need other. We want to bridge the gap between the different groups as a starting point for social change, but first we need to address the preconceptions about each other.’

‘The Spark grants have been really significant for us,’ says Nelly. ‘We have been able to print posters and tee-shirts, and to pay women for their work. We don’t receive government funding, and the Spark grants have catalysed a sort of domino effect for FOKO. They have increased our visibility and helped us access new funding. Recently, a local telecom company offered us free office space. The Spark grants havecontributed to making all this possible.’