Make Your Voice Count

Statement by Youth Voices Count on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan

By YVC Secretariat – Friday, August 27, 2021

The Taliban takeover on the Afghan Capital Kabul last August 15th brings an alarming humanitarian situation for women, young people, children, LGBTQI community, and all vulnerable populations. Such is a disheartening situation at a time of global health crisis, experienced by all.

The incidents of this week alone—from desperate scenes of people trying to evacuate in Hamid Karzai International Airport amidst sounds of heavy gunfire and the subsequent violent crackdowns on civilian protests—have continued to increase the concerns of human rights activists and defenders. Stemming from decades of conflict and mismanagement, colonialism, and foreign corruption, these recent conflicts railroads back progress for human rights in the country faster than it took building them. Despite gaining aid from the United States for security and development, the government, authorities in power, and other International powers within the country have failed to create a secure and stable infrastructure. The presence of a heavily dependent economy due to rampant corruption, siphoning of forein aid and the lack of strength within government structures have further continued to weigh down on these failures.

While attacks continue to affect all civilians, women and girls and LGBTQI people, are faced with dire consequences. The safety and security of working women in the fields of healthcare, education, journalism, and law enforcement are greatly compromised. At this moment, a war is waged on the bodies of women and other minorities. These include, but are not limited to assassination of human rights defenders[1], rollbacks on religious freedom[2], restrictions on freedom of movement[3], the forced wearing of the Burka[4], women being forced out of employment[5], and early forced child marriages[6].

 We are extremely concerned for the safety of our fellow members of the LGBTIQ community in this tense situation, after remarks of executing gay people by the Taliban.[7]These supremacist narratives of hate will further inspire the inherent discrimination and violence inflicted against LGBTQI people. 

We urge the international community to initiate conversations and spread awareness about the situation in Afghanistan. We call for the need to maximize reach in our multimedia platforms, engage relevant political communities and stakeholders to strengthen these voices of solidarity and take immediate action. We urge everyone to make donations and support the organizations, fundraisers and petitions working to help the situation on the ground. We further extend our plea to countries offering refugee support to Afghan people to prioritize LGBTIQ persons, women, girls and people with disabilities. 

We cannot stand aside and watch this violent assault on the human rights of the people of Afghanistan. Our collective duty as a global community stands in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. We are with all of our fellow youth, women, and LGBTQI people in Afghanistan.

Attacks on the human rights of one are attacks on the human rights of all!

Signed by:

Aaron Bonete
Program Officer, Bahaghari Center

Alexander Bernal
President, Youth for YOUth Organization 

Anthony de Vicente Lopez
Board Member, Youth Voices Count 

Bibek Magar
Executive Member, Hami Daju Vai 

Devandy Ario Putro
Member, Power of Pride

Henry Koh
Executive Director, ILGA Asia

Mary Hope Abilo
Project Manager-Internal,
Team Dugong Bughaw

Paolo Martin Saberon
Cebuano Youth Ambassadors Inc.

Reyanne Librado
Chairperson – Philippine Board of Trustees,
Youth Voices Count 

Ryan Ycong
Monitoring and Evaluation Officer,
Bisdak Pride, Inc.

Sadam Hanjabam
Founder, Ya_All 

Soth Peosamnang
Core member, LoveIsDiversity 

Tashi Tsheten
Program Manager, Queer Voices of Bhutan

Tebeio Tamton
Advisor and Founder, BIMBA Kiribati

Thushara Manoj
Chairman, Equite Sri Lanka

Tushar Kanti Baidya
Project Director, Inclusive Bangladesh

[1] Afghanistan: 65 media workers, rights defenders killed since 2018. (2021, February 17). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/02/1084702

[2] Afghanistan. (2021, May 12). United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/afghanistan/

[3] Ellis-Petersen, H. (2021, August 20). Afghanistan: thousands stranded in Kabul as Taliban go door-to-door. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/20/afghanistan-kabul-evacuations-thousands-taliban-search

[4] Sullivan, R. (2021, August 16). What rules will the Taliban impose on women in Afghanistan? The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/south-asia/taliban-afghan-women-children-rules-b1903373.html

[5] Oppenheim, M. (2021, August 17). ‘Prisoners in homes’: The women in Afghanistan barred from leaving home without a man. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/south-asia/afghanistan-taliban-kabul-women-b1903497.html

[6] Kumar, R. (2021, August 4). Taliban trying to force Afghan girls as young as 13 into marriage. The National. https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/asia/2021/08/03/taliban-trying-to-force-afghan-girls-as-young-as-13-into-marriage/

[7] Grant, B. K. (2021, August 20). LGBT in Afghanistan: “I could be killed on the spot.” BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-58271187

For additional reading, you may also see the official statement of ILGA Asia:
https://www.ilgaasia.org/news/2021/8/18/joint-statement-on-afghanistan

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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.