The World Bank wants to know what it can do to alleviate poverty among millions of LGBT people around the world.
To help answer that question, the bank invited the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation to select an LGBT representative to attend the annual meetings of the bank and the International Monetary Fund on Oct. 5-12 in Washington, D.C., and then at the bank’s civil society gathering next April.
That offer was an outgrowth the foundation’s panel on the economic effects of homophobia, presented as part of the bank’s gathering for civil society organizations in April 2013. It also represents a commitment made by the bank, under the leadership of its new president, Jim Kim, to serve populations it has previously overlooked.
The LGBT representative at next month’s meeting — the first ever — will be Kemraj (Khem) Persaud, program coordinator of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana.
Pesaud has a master’s degree in International Relations and Management from Oxford Brooks in the U.K., is an accountant by training, and has worked on World Bank and IMF-funded projects in the Caribbean.
He is also part of the Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS) and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC). He has served in the Youth Reference Group of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV, and led training program for LGBT people in rural Guyana.
The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of the St. Paul’s Foundation, said of Persaud and Guyana: "His country is an interesting cross-section of African, Indian and multicultural intersections that need to be richly included in this work if LGBT people and organizations are to make any headway with institutions like the Bank. At 26 years old, Persaud will represent this community extremely well and he is looking forward to being with us in Washington, D.C. in a few weeks time. He will spend most of the week learning how the Bank and IMF work and then how he can build the networks and processes needed to reduce LGBT poverty globally. No pressure!"
Persaud said: "As a member of the LGBT community I am all too familiar with the daily struggles we endure in a society that is still, largely, unaccepting and intolerant. In Guyana, consensual same-sex relations … are illegal. And while we are beginning to see small, incremental changes, groups such as SASOD need the support and backing of organisations like the IMF and World Bank, to sustain the work they do. I hope to use this opportunity to make a clear case for LGBT inclusion in the process of global economic development and poverty alleviation. LGBT people have, for too long, existed on the periphery; it is time to meaningful engage and bring us to the discussion table".
Ogle added: “Persaud represents future leaders in a globalized economy where someone needs to begin to join the dots and build the networks so the barriers to sexual discrimination are identified and systematically removed. He is part of that generation Pope Francis is praying for and that has been failed by institutions that were supposed to protect his best interests – both his economic and his human/God given potential. Our institutions are aware, in a totally new way, that we are missing our mission by simply not engaging and including [LGBT people’s] gifts, experience and insights.”