Co-founder and Coordinator of RoCK, Cambodia
I am LY Pisey, Co-founder and Coordinator of Rainbow Community Kampuchea Organisation. Founded in 2009, RoCK is a Cambodian non-government organization dedicated to supporting LGBT+ rights in Cambodia. RoCK works closely with LGBT communities and respective local authorities across the country to ensure long-term protection and support of equal rights and acceptance for LGBT people and their families.
What was life like before COVID-19, and service availability for LBQ women in Cambodia?
LBQ women are still a very small community. Without Covid-19 we could build the momentum of meeting-up, hanging-out, exploring friendship relationships, building trust, breaking down fear and gaining confidence. With the pandemic, we have taken preventative measures, so gathering has been restricted. We could feel that distance.
With the effect of COVID-19 outbreak, how did you respond to this?
Can you detail the evolving service needs of LBQ women during lockdown, and how community groups are able to address the issues?
Immediate response was to check-in with our members as much as possible through phone calls, text messages, an actual visit about their well-being, especially emotional, labour and livelihood. Assistance with public service of basic items is the mandate of RoCK towards its members in this public health crisis. We reached out to 43 households in 11 provinces and Phnom Penh with assessment of those who were in basic needs.
What were the issues that LBQ women experienced during this time?
What are the gaps in terms of addressing the issues?
Mostly, they are coping with job suspension and job loss; the return of family members back within the family with demand for more expenses for daily survival.
How have you, staff, and volunteers working for NGOs been coping?
We have been trying to monitor the situation closely; focusing on practicality and flexibility, having good faith of solutions. Team spirits and lending each other hands has been essential.
How have you been able to seek resources to fill in the gaps? Who has been able to help provide support to your work during the pandemic?
Our current funding partners were generous and flexible because they understand the situation and priorities. Other incomes were kept to use for such emergencies for grassroots groups and activism of RoCKers.
How has COVID-19 outbreak changed the way that you/your organisation and other NGOs will be working in the future?
Field works and policy dialogues for actual big gatherings were impossible to conduct. We stay focused on the same core agendas and objectives but change approach and narrative. While paying attention and addressing the pandemic, we do not lose our core causes. Actually, we also could see the strengths of the hard times during the pandemic impacts that unites us all because we care for each other in every circumstance.
Moving forward, what do you think must be adjusted/rethink in LGBTQI work post COVID-19?
The continuation of reaching out to each other; re-strategising the doable actions and contributions proactively, and ensuring our voices are amplified in low, medium or high tune. We have to communicate with relevant people and institutions of challenges and possibilities, so then we could re-build the culture of no blames and shames on problems; only the flames of hope. We could always see opportunities of strengthening the internal and external during crises.
How have you been able to cope as leader of the organisation during this time?
I definitely must. Because having faith in goodness and acting as a sister for all is the key to keep me moving forwards and to holding hands with my family, team and community. That is most needed I think, especially in the difficult time.
What would you like to say to donors?
For our donors – they have already been analytical, sensitive and accountable. For others as I observed, they have been trying to put out possibilities, flexibilities and availability of resources for those in need. Let us hope those who did not, get some inspiration from the actions of those who were ready doing this. Institutional bureaucracy should not be implied during the crisis and it would not be called emergency relief or response. Policy and bureaucracy are created by people and I believe they are built, re-built and adjustable like democracy. It only requires gut and willingness.
Anything else you wish to add?
For APCOM and your loved ones, please take good care of spirits and well-beings. I wish you safe and healthy. Let us keep up our soul to battle the worse, and individual and collective strengths could help us overcome. Because we have gone through such pain from rejection, discrimination, violence, hatred because our beings. Our goodness and humanity should not be denied.