Regional LGBTI Association experience and responses to Covid-19

By January 20, 2021 Newsroom, Regional

Lieu Anh Vu,

Executive Director, ILGA Asia

ILGA Asia is the Asian region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, a federation of more than 1,600 LGBTI organizations in the world. ILGA Asia promotes universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the elimination of all forms of discrimination and stigmatization based on SOGIESC in Asia. 

How has COVID-19 affected the work that your organization is doing?

LGBTI communities across Asia are being affected, including ILGA Asia’s members and partners. The progress in our advocacy had been halted, including the work at the UN Human Rights Council and other engagement with the UN. Our workshops were postponed, while 

How has your organization adapted to COVID-19?

Since March 2020, ILGA Asia has continuously checked in with member organizations and their communities, revisited our work plan, responded to the urgent situation, and adapted to the new reality. By May 2020, ILGA Asia made the decision to move all activities online, and prepared to equip ourselves and our partners with sufficient skills to operate in this context.

Some of our member organizations were greatly affected. ILGA Asia consulted our members to analyse the situation on the ground and identify the needs. At the same time, ILGA Asia was in constant contact with partners and donors to inform them of the changes and how we could coordinate together. The COVID-19 pandemic and restriction on cross-border travel have prevented ILGA Asia board and staff to hold any in-person meeting, nor participate in international conferences. 

Did you initiate specific projects in response to COVID-19? Would it be possible to briefly share these responses?

ILGA Asia provided humanitarian grant for emergency responses to COVID-19 to 18 member organizations, ranging from providing shelter and food, to counseling and health services to LGBTI people who are in need.  

What are the challenges experienced in your response to COVID-19 and how did you address these challenges?

Mental health has been a huge challenge for our community during the pandemic and the lockdown. The issue had been raised prior to the pandemic, but the lack of resources and support services mean that many LGBTI suffered even more than the general population. 

What lessons learned, insights and reflections has COVID-19 resulted in?

International travel has been restricted, so organizing at the local level has been encouraged in some countries with cautions. Some communities may benefit from this change. We also saw reallocation of budget towards other needs of communities, such as buying equipment to shorten the technology gaps, since not everyone had equal access to technology and internet. Safety was prioritized in our work, but now it’s even more important. Many protocols are added and will be added with time. 

Moving forward, what do you think we need to adjust/rethink in our LGBTQI work post COVID-19?

We must continue to invest in community at the grassroots level in this difficult time. The pandemic exposed many gaps in our capacity to withstand tremendous disasters. The virus is not going away anytime soon, so we have to continue changing the way we move forward as a community. 

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