LGBTIQ Community in the Verge for Economic Resilience

Sustainable solutions towards the exacerbated challenges; faced by the gender and sexual minorities (GSM), must align with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of ending poverty, ensuring gender equality and establishing partnerships for the goals.  These are the three tenets in Pema Kenya’s strategy 2018-2021. Skill-set building for the GSM community is a sustainable approach of building capacity that would be used by the community members to sustain their lives at a subsistence level as well as exploring income generating opportunities.

Community Members in a practical soap making session

On 5th – 10th October 2020, Pema Kenya will train 67 LGBTIQ community members on Soap Making Skills; that includes multi-purpose liquid soap, bleaching agents, anti-septic liquids and organic bar soap from materials like cucumber and Aloe Vera. This comes at a time of acute need to ensure high levels of hygiene in our workplace, homes and personal bodies in the response to curb the Covid19 pandemic. Consequently, the same has realized how economic straining it can get, especially among the LGBTIQ communities depending on the informal economy and currently living without sources of livelihoods.  

“Binafsi, nashukuru Pema kwa kutupee mafunzo kama haya…Na pia,ningeomba board na wafanya kazi wa Pema kutuletea mafunzo zaidi, ikiwezekana kama mapishi na mengineyo.”

“At least now I can go and start a very small business, given the capital is affordable, and slowly start pushing the product from where I stay”, a participant said

“When we started the theory part, I was a bit nervous and confused because I am not so good with chemical terminologies but when it got to the practical’s, I realized it was not that complicated to make”, another participant added

“I am glad to have been given this chance to take part of my community through this skill-transfer process and I am safe to say that the Pema Kenya is doing a great job of assisting members of the LGBTIQ community get skills that would greatly improve their lives”, a tutor told the participants

Another participant said,“I have learnt this first of all for myself, I will be creating my own soaps before I perfect the skill that would eventually see me start a small soap making business”

– The training captured heart-felt sentiments from the community members

COVID-19, and the measures taken to address it here in Kenya, exacerbate inequalities and discrimination. The existence of criminalization laws, for example, makes LGBTIQ persons more vulnerable to police abuse and arbitrary arrest and detention in the context of movement restrictions from one county to another and the national wide curfews as a measure to combat the novel coronavirus. While contributing to the fight against the pandemic by staying at home, LGBTIQ persons are forced to endure prolonged exposure to unaccepting family members, which exacerbates rates of domestic violence, physical and emotional abuse, as well as damage to mental health. In many jurisdictions, LGBTIQ persons, particularly those most impoverished or without proper documentation, rely overwhelmingly on informal economies made impossible to function by COVID-19 restrictions within the Kenyan border where no people were allowed to make any social gathering. The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and the loss of income has increased the vulnerabilities of LGBTIQ persons to evictions and lack of basic needs such as food.

Soap making training – theory session

Community Based, Civil society and Non-governmental organizations, which operated under duress before the pandemic, have been frantically working to fill in the gaps left by the state: organizing the collection and distribution of food and water, hygienic materials and masks; activating communication, solidarity and social protection networks; and supporting each other. Local and global organizations have also created best practices through rapid response funds that allow LGBTIQ advocates to keep their phone lines open and their computer screens lit and connected, thus providing vital lifelines of communication to members of the community.

These dynamic changes and shifts presented by the COVID19 pandemic has been an awakening moment for not only Pema as an organization but also for the community members themselves. Resulting to reshaping of our interventions to giving priorities to skill-building initiatives that would equip LGTBIQ members with skills they can apply and begin a small profit making business that would see improvement of livelihoods of their lives.

Supported by;

HIVOS – East Africa

For more discussions on this please contact: 


Vincent Ksavery, Programs Officer , Policy and Advocacy

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