Equality Caravan tours Kyrgyzstan: First of Its Kind Project in Central Asia
Activists from several Kyrgyz non-profit organizations created a new mobile advocacy campaign «Equality Caravan» which toured the northern shore of legendary Lake Issyk-Kul in August 4-11, 2011.
Equality Caravan is a collaborative project between seven NGOs that serve at-risk social groups, members of which are often marginalized and silenced within Kyrgyz society: people with disabilities, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, recovering drug users, sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS and others. Among the participants are organizations Labrys, Asteria, Youth with Disabilities Movement, Nazik Kyz, Center for People with Disabilities, Subbotnik Q, Kyrgyz Indigo, and. Thirteen Caravan riders spent an eventful week on the road.
In pursuit of greater acceptance and equal opportunities for all, Equality Caravan visited three largest resorts of the Issyk-Kul region – Karakol, Cholpon Ata and Balykchi. Each city presented a unique set of challenges and chances. Residents and visitors of Karakol and Cholpon Ata were invited to view an exhibition and attend “live library” sessions at a strategic central location. In Balykchi riders went to the public beach and directly interacted with those in attendance sparking conversations about vulnerable groups and the life saving work of participating organizations.
The campaign format aspired to provide its audience with unique opportunities to share positive personal experiences with each Caravan participant. The riders approached both locals and tourists, presented an exhibition of photographs and crafts and told their life stories. Such dialogues and monologues enabled the Caravan to lift the veil of taboo off questions of equality, tolerance and respect for human rights regardless of any external or internal factors that may challenge mainstream perceptions.
During the campaign, over 800 people learned more about the lives, needs and contributions of people with disabilities, sex workers, recovering drug users, people living with HIV/AIDS, and LGBT people. Many extensive interviews regarding human rights and their violations were recorded for the subsequent documentary film. Over 200 sets of informational brochures and promotional flyers were given out by the members of participating organizations. It all adds up to the invaluable experience of mobile advocacy campaigning which will inform and enhance future efforts to advance the cause of human rights in Kyrgyzstan.
The activist crew returned home exhausted, but inspired by the quality of their engagement with the Issyk-Kul residents and guests. A plan to expand geographical reach and timeline of the Caravan is in store for next year’s campaign. “Our main accomplishment is setting the example of how to successfully tackle difficult matters in public discourse without prejudice and provocation. Several invitations from local initiative groups and the fact that all participants want to continue collaborating in this creative format serves as a testament to its efficacy,” says campaign consultant Alexey Bulokhov. Equality Caravan is part of “Through awareness to inclusion in Central Asia” project run by Labrys and underwritten by Civil Rights Defenders (Sweden).
To learn more about the Caravan, visit our online diary (http://taboo.kg/blogs/user/1198) and Facebook page.
We are for equal rights! Make a step forward!
Respectfully, Veronika Yurieva
Media advocacy specialist, Labrys