Make Your Voice Count

Meet the IGNITE Empowerment Grantees

By YVC Secretariat – Wednesday, April 8, 2020

From December to mid-February, Youth Voices Count opened application for their IGNITE! Empowerment Grants. Following the vision of Youth Voices Count in supporting LGBTIQ youth-led initiatives in the region, this small-scale grants program hopes to support youth-led projects working around LGBTIQ+ in countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.

In total, YVC received over 40 applications from across the Asia and Pacific region. YVC’s partner organizations CIVICUS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Asia and the Pacific, UNAIDS Asia-Pacific, ILGA Asia, Youth LEAD, ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, and APCOM formed the selection committee. This April, Youth Voices Count finally announces the grant awardees coming from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, and Philippines.

EQUITE SRI LANKA 

Équité Sri Lanka comprises a closely-knit team of multi-disciplinary experts experienced in research and advocacy in a range of development and humanitarian specialties. It was formed (unofficially but with a social media presence) in May 2017 and operated by a group of enthusiastic human rights activists in Sri Lanka. Since then, Équité has been forming a strong network with young volunteers who have roots in various regions across the country, with national organizations such as Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission and Legal Aid Commission and with a range of LGBTIQ NGOs. With a strong grassroots presence, Equité aims to involve community members in the planning and implementation of efforts aimed towards ensuring that LGBTIQ rights are respected and assured in the Sri Lankan context. Internationally, Équité Sri Lanka represents its membership for Men Engage Alliance Global Network to work in Sri Lanka under their SRHR youth project. Additionally, Equité Sri Lanka takes part in Asia Pro bono consortium to report and file the cases against stigma and discrimination face by the LGBTIQ community in Sri Lanka.

Learn more about their work here: https://www.facebook.com/equitesrilanka/

YA_ALL

Read as “Yawol”, Ya_All in Manipuri translates to Revolution. They are the first youth-queer-led and focused registered Youth Network in the North East Region of India having 8 states and based in Imphal. All the board, staff, and volunteers are under 35 years of age.

Ya_All provides a safe space through their initiative called “Meitram”, the first co-working and networking space run by queer individuals in India. Meitram acts as the Free Resource Hub and supports young and queer persons through free peer counseling, free peer-to-peer training, capacity building, and advocacy to educate, equip, and empower young people and destigmatize the conversations around Sexual & Reproductive health and rights (SRHR), Mental health & well-being, Substance use & Harm Reduction of adolescents, youth and LGBTI+ individuals.

It was formed on May 17, 2017 on International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia as a secret WhatsApp group to discuss personal issues faced by queer youths in Manipur, but due to the increased stigmatization and violence, and the need to create a visible support system for each other, Ya_All came out openly as a collective and now work all through the year as a registered inclusive youth network since June 13, 2019.

Learn more about their work here: https://www.facebook.com/manipur.youthnetwork/

INCLUSIVE BANGLADESH

Inclusive Bangladesh is a non-registered local non-profit and voluntary-based community youth organization run from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Its mission is to construct an inclusive culture through ensuring quality education, addressing hate speech and violent extremism, promoting interfaith dialogue and gender diversity with active participation of youths across Bangladesh.
Its coherent vision is to promote an egalitarian society where the local youths will be in the leading function to empower each other, become future leaders, ensure human rights, and play an active role in constructing a sustainable, efficient, equitable, and peaceful society.

Learn more about their work here: https://www.facebook.com/INCLUSIVEBD/

BAHAGHARI CENTER

Established in 2010, Bahaghari Center contributes towards eradicating discrimination within and against the LGBTQIA community. Their efforts include: 1. LGBTQIA-related studies (e.g. “Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report” for UNDP and USAID, journalistic stylebook for media practitioners covering LGBTQIA issues, and #PreventionNOTCondemnation to identify HIV-related efforts of faith-based organizations; 2. Giving trainings/workshops to LGBTQIA communities on SOGIESC and HIV (e.g.it is the only organization that gives community-based HIV screening training to Deaf Filipinos); and 3. Organizing LGBTQIA gatherings – e.g. in 2017, it oversaw the 4th LGBTQIA National Conference.

Learn more about their work here: http://bahagharicenter.org/

UNIGEN

UniGEN is an LGBTIQ community-based grassroots organization in Ho Chi Minh City. UniGEN’s vision is to promote inclusivity and diversity within and outside Vietnam LGBTIQ community. Since 2015, UniGEN has organized and developed multiple projects to break down stereotypes about the LGBTIQ community, raise visibility, and awareness of minority groups within the LGBTIQ community, promote freedom of love and pride of self. Their values include: Embrace the Diversity – Tolerate & Empathize – Leave no one behind.

Learn more about their work here: www.facebook.com/unigen.lgbtiq

Each grantee will receive financial and technical support from COC Nederlands and Youth Voices Count to implement their projects for LGBTI youth. As the safety of partners is a prime concern, YVC is working closely with these grantees to identify the most feasible and effective way to implement their projects amidst the current health emergency.

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JAN GABRIEL CASTAÑEDA

Philippines
He/Him
Board Member

Jan is passionate about seeing through the potential contributions of psychological sciences and human rights advocacy in LGBT people’s lives. He is currently Program Associate of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and is a member of the LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. He has written for various platforms and publications on a diverse range of topics from gender and sexuality to human rights experiences in different contexts. Jan’s desire is to engage in productive and meaningful work that bridges scholarship with practice rooted in people’s real experiences.

PATRICK JUANICO

Philippines
He/Them
Graphic Designer

Currently, Nico is a college student studying in the Philippines and is simultaneously working for Youth Voices Count as one of the graphic designers for the organization. He lists producing the brand logo and look of HRPlus Asia as one of his significant achievements. His interests in literature and creating films have also honed and continued to improve his skills in graphic designing.

JAN ELLA BRILLANTES

Philippines
She/They
Social Media Officer

Jan Ella is currently taking up her undergraduate studies at the University of the Philippines Visayas and has been a consistent academic awardee since 2019. She is involved in various organizations such as the Catalyst UPV as the Volunteer Director in 2021, former Publications Committee Head for UP Lipad and former member of Iloilo Pride Team.

JE-ANN PALMAIRA

Philippines
She/Her
Project Finance Officer

Je-ann is the current Project Finance Officer under the Finance Department. She graduated from the University of San Agustin with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major
in Marketing Management.

Her involvement in her University’s Little Theater organization led her to find an interest in theater, films and the arts. Aside from theater arts, she also partakes in the company’s production work including stage management and most notably, heading the organization’s marketing team.

MARION REA CAMEROS

Philippines
She/Her
Accounting Associate

Marion graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting Technology which has made her suitable for being the Accounting Associate of Youth Voices Count. She lists watching movies as one of her hobbies that helps her wind down during her leisure time.

ATTY. RONIFELLE L. BARRIOS

Philippines
She/Her
Legal Counsel

She is a graduate of AB Political Science from West Visayas State University (WVSU), in Iloilo City. In her days in college, she was the founding Prime Minister of WVSU Debate Circle, the ROTC Corps Commander and later a Volunteer Instructor in the Air Force Reserve Command. When she ran for the first time in their University Student Council, she was elected number one councilor. Her interest in leadership grew when she joined the 10th National Youth Parliament, organized by the National Youth Commission in 2014, where she later on became the Regional Convener for Western Visayas.

She then pursued her studies to take up law in San Beda University in Mendiola, Manila. As a law student, she was still active in student organizations: She joined moot court competitions, she served as layout artist in 2 of San Beda Law’s Official Publications: The Barrister and San Beda Law Journal. In her last year in law school, she was the President of San Beda Law Human Rights Advocate (HRA), where she was later conferred Leadership Award by the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP) and her organization, HRA was awarded top advocacy organization.

She passed the 2019 Bar Examinations and became a full-fledged lawyer by 2020.

She worked as Associate of Javier Santiago Torres & Panghulan Law Offices. She now runs her own RLB Law Office as a solo practitioner and serves as Notary Public for and in Quezon City. She serves as legal consultant to MSMEs and Non-profit organizations. At present, she is the Vice President for Communications of the National Society of Parliamentarians, Inc., the Chief Legislative Staff of Councilor Quin Cruz of Pasig City Council and part-time law instructor in Malayan Colleges Laguna – a Mapua School. Interestingly, she is the creator and blogger of The Young Lawyer PH. Recently, she served as Resident Parliamentarian during the Bangsamoro Youth Parliament held last Nov. 7-11, 2022 at Cotabato City.

A lawyer by profession and an artist by heart.

LOUELA MARIE PRADO

Philippines
He/She/They
Admin Officer

An advocate at heart, Louela is a part of several youth-led organizations in the Philippines with various advocacies ranging from climate justice, environmental protection, gender equality, human rights, SRHR, mental health prioritization, youth empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness. She is currently the Interim Chairperson of Iloilo Pride Team after serving the organization for 4 years as the Admin Officer, Executive Secretary at Proyekto Philippines, Member of Team Dugong Bughaw, and more.

She graduated as Summa Cum Laude at West Visayas State University majoring in English Language Studies and is currently taking up her Masters in English Language Studies at the same institution. During her stay at the university, she served as the Vice Chairperson at the University Student Council and Federated Student Council where she organized programs and initiatives that advocated for student involvement in societal causes and being the voice of the students that lobbies their concerns to the administration.

In July 2022, she was awarded by JCI Regatta as one of the Top Outstanding Students in Iloilo and a Top Circle Awardee which is the most prestigious recognition given by the award-giving body.

RONAN JAMES B. PENUELA, RN

Philippines
He/Him
Project Officer

Ronan passed the Philippines nursing licensure exam in 2022 immediately after graduating his Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of San Agustin. While juggling his academics, he was elected governor of his college’s student council (Nursing Student Council) in 2021 and board member in 2019 where he was awarded the leadership award and Agustino para sa Tao award due to his excellence in service. He is also a certified Safety Officer (SO1) after completing his training.

He is currently a dialysis nurse in training. He handles the Intersex projects of YVC.

ANFERNEE NENOL KAMINAGA

Marshall Islands
He/Him, They/Them
Project Officer for IGNITE! Empowerment Grants Program

Having done some activism for the Marshall Islands both locally and regionally with climate change, youth empowerment, LGBTQI rights, and nuclear injustice, Nenol takes pride in being an advocate for the causes he is passionate in, being a part of Youth Voices Count and taking a step in amplifying young LGBTQI+ voices. This also inspired him to co-found the first Marshallese LGBTQI Youth Support called Brighten the Rainbow. He is featured in “We Have a Dream” which is a collection of stories from young leaders around the world.

THARINDI DEVASURENDRA

Sri Lanka
They/Them
Project Manager

Tharindi is currently a feminist activist and researcher based in Sri Lanka, and has worked with the Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka (YANSL). They are a trainer on advocating for comprehensive sexuality education and providing knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) where they actively advocate for safe abortion and bodily autonomy for women.

One of Tharindi’s brainchild initiatives is an Instagram page which mainly focuses on the process of reaching out to queer women in Sri Lanka, a platform that helps in providing them visibility and strategy direction on programming through social media and other means.

They have completed their Bachelors (BA Honors) in English and Linguistics at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.

JOHNMEL ESTIMAR

Philippines
They/Them
Finance Manager

Johnmel M. Estimar is the founder and senior adviser of La Villa Pride, a grassroots-level organization for LGBTQI in Villa, Iloilo. They are also a member of the Iloilo Pride team, a Community Based Screening motivator for HIV and an LGBTQI Rights Activist. Miles, as they like to be called, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University-Molo, Inc. They also hold an Associate Degree in Cruise Ship Management in the same University.

They have ample experience in clerk and accounting work for nine years from their previous employer, they are currently employed with Youth Voices Count as Finance Manager since 2019.

ANTHONY DE VICENTE LOPEZ

Philippines
He/Him, They/Them
Deputy Executive Director

Mx. Toni graduated with a bachelor’s degree of secondary education majoring in English at the Capiz State University back in 2021. Aside from this, they sought out other educational opportunities such as Advocacy and Project Management at the Women Deliver Digital University (2015), International Women’s Health and Human Rights at Stanford University (2014), and Global Health and Humanitarianism at the University of Manchester (2013).

An advocate of many causes, they are members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, and Y-PEER Pilipinas, founder of the Y-Cap for SRHR, founder of United Colours of CapSU, and Alumnus of Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Back in 2018, they were awarded as the SDG 5 Youth Champion due to the amiable service they have rendered for gender equality.

JUSTIN FRANCIS BIONAT, MA HRD

Philippines
He/His/Him
Executive Director

A learner for life and a seeker of knowledge, Justin graduated his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science at West Visayas State University, Philippines and took on a Master’s of Arts in Human Rights and Democratisation (International Program) at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University, Thailand under the APMA / European Union Scholarship. At present, Justin is pursuing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree (Law Degree) from the College of Law, University of San Agustin, Philippines.

Justin entered Youth Voices Count, Inc. in 2018 while studying in Thailand. He later took on the role of Executive Director beginning 2019 and successfully set up the legal registration of the organization in the Philippines under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since then, he has been leading the organization in various programs and projects centered around LGBTIQ children, adolescents, and youth. Outside Youth Voices Count, Inc., Justin is active in other initiatives in the field of research and law. He was a law student fellow of the Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP) of the Legal Education Board and the UP Law Center in 2022.

As an aspiring lawyer, he hopes to one day be instrumental in providing legal support for marginalized populations. Justin has also published reports, journal articles, commentaries, and book articles in the fields of law, HIV/AIDS, LGBTIQ, and Human Rights.

In 2018, he was awarded the Young Achiever HERO Award by APCOM Foundation during the HERO Awards reception at the Royal British Embassy in Thailand for his outstanding work on equality and human rights. He is one of the Youth Council members of the Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organization that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria”, and a Board Member of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Committee.