LGBTI+ Gozo is the first and only queer regional organisation on the regional island of Gozo. Since 2015, the organisation aimed to create a safe space to queer individuals on the island of Gozo, a safe space that as of yet was non existence. The organisation knows its inception through a number of young Gozitan queer activist who through their shared experience saw the need to formalize an organisation.
In 2019, LGBTI+ Gozo launched the first LGBTI Research Survey for individuals who live, came out and are queer on the island of Gozo. This research survey introduced and shed limelight for the first time on the realities of queer individuals on such regional island. An action plan was devised for 2 years – 2019-2021. Some of the achievements through thus action plan are:
Through the past 6 years, LGBTI+ Gozo was a changemaker in a number of social-legal scenarios. In 2015. the organisation was the first to call on the local government to invest in a sexual health clinic on the island. Through the leadership of LGBTI+ Gozo in the promotion of a safe, accessible and free access to sexual health, the local government funded the first sexual health clinic in Gozo in 2021. In the same year, the first regional queer office (Qawsalla Hub – Rainbow Hub) was opened and is now operating through LGBTI+ Gozo as the main space for the organisation. This achievement saw the dream of a young activist take fruition.
In what ways have young LGBTQI people in your community been affected by the COVID-19 emergency and the lockdowns?
COVID-19 was an unexpected situation that reshaped the operation of the organisation. Such change was needed to ensure that a safe space is provided even through the individuals household. This was a challenge for young LGBTQI individuals to connect, share experiences and struggles with each other, especially in a household which does not support such conversations.
Through the stressors of COVID-19 and being exposed to a non safe environment for a long time, a number of challenges arose; The lack of space for one to express their sexuality/gender identity in a safe environment resulted in mental health challenges, burnout etc
Additionally, the difficulty to access services such as counselling, group therapy, youth drop-ins etc reflected in young members feeling isolated and excluded from society.
Are there specific ways in which you have supported the community that you would like to highlight and/or share with other European organisations?
LGBTI+ Gozo operates a number of services. These services all interact with each other to support our local community in a holistic way. Firstly, the organisation facilitates a Queer Friendly Professional directory, in which individuals who are in need of services such as law, health, spirituality etc can connect with service providers with the ease of mind that such a service provider is accredited by the organisation as queer friendly. Secondly, due to the pandemic LGBTI+ Gozo saw the need to open up a helpline which operates as an intake conversation that links the specific individual needs to specific queer friendly professionals or other services.
Lastly, LGBTI+ Gozo operates a youth hub every month with social workers and youth workers available to facilitate the group dynamics but also available for any one to one interaction.
What can governments, (national and international) authorities and institutions do more to support the communities you serve throughout this crisis?
A major challenge that LGBTI+ Gozo is facing is the lack of funding to maintain operational matters of the organisation. Whilst funding is available, they are limited to specific projects and initiatives which leads to lack of opportunities for the organisation to balance its books at the end of the financial year, due to operational costs that are to be paid in order for the organisation to function.
Moreover, the investment in human resources is key for the organisation to strive and move forward. These investments will facilitate the work of the organisation and therefore the communities we serve.
There are reasons to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be a part of our lives for 1-3 years. In what way do you think that prolonged lockdowns and/or other preventive measures will impact your work and LGBTQI+ youth in your country?
We believe that it is key for individuals to meet each other in person and to be able to connect and therefore limits our work. Moreover, the recruitment of new individuals to join the operation of the organisation is more difficult.