by Joel Simpson, Executive Director, Co-Founder, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)
A Southern perspective is a unique approach to examine the challenges of a developing country such as Guyana. The challenges include: the availability of affordable technology, infrastructure exacerbated gaps in access to these technologies, especially for rural and indigenous communities, together with high rates of youth unemployment and poverty had already been challenges in our context. Considering all of this, marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ+ Communities and other vulnerable groups are already facing multiple intersectional challenges.
SASOD Guyana recently conducted a cross-sectional quantitative survey in an effort to understand the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the LGBTQ+ people. With 265 respondents, 70% reported to have lost their job or have had their hours reduced. Concerns about food insecurity have become the focus of our relief efforts during the pandemic – a shift from psychological counselling being one of our more accessed services prior to the pandemic. We also found that most people’s main source of information about the COVID-10 pandemic, and information in general, was social media.
With these in mind, the changing contexts of our new environment and the new normal present some pros and cons for us here in Guyana. Although there is a reduced cost for the host of virtual engagements, in Guyana’s context, limited internet penetration, especially in rural communities mean that there is very little engagement from these communities, limiting participation to a largely urban-based constituency. Limited internet penetration may also impact attendance to these virtual engagements since we have noticed less attendance at our virtual events, which is contrary to the trends we have noticed in more developed countries.
Our take-away from this is that while we adapt to this new environment, addressing the massive gaps in access to technology needs to be a priority for engagement with Southern communities. We hope to do a pilot project to provide hardware, such as tablets on loan, and additional resources, to our beneficiaries will help to narrowing this gap. Additionally, the cost savings from hosting virtual engagements frees up resources that can be redirected to community relief efforts during and after the pandemic.