South Africa has one the world’s most liberal and inclusive constitutions when it comes to gay rights, and yet members of the LGBTQI+ community remain vulnerable to a plethora of injustices.
From unemployment and homelessness to stigma, rejection and discrimination – the gay community continues to slip through the crack when it comes to the roll-out of essential services.
Espousing the belief that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it, a Cape Town-based rights activist has created a much-needed resource centre for all gay men and women.
The Citizen chatted to Ashraf Booley about his new initiative, The South African Queer Resource Group, and why a service such as this is such a timely lifeline for the country’s gay community.
Ashraf Booley, founder of The South African Queer Resource Group
This service is quite unique to South Africa. Is it the first of its kind?
It’s the only online LGBTQI+ Facebook resource group I’m aware of in the country, but I could be wrong.
What motivated you to create such an important service?
I started The South African Queer Resource Group in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which brought the economy to a halt, and resulted in many people losing their jobs and others having to take pay cuts. The impact of Covid-19 is widespread, but individuals from marginalised and disadvantaged groups, such as the LGBTQI+ community, tend to be disproportionately affected by the wider implications of the current situation.
How serious is the issue of homelessness and unemployment within the LGBTQI+ community of SA?
It’s hard to quantify these figures but generally, LGBTQI+ South Africans experience barriers to economic and social inclusion which impact their probability of experiencing homelessness and unemployment.
For instance, coming out of the closet and landing on the streets is an all too familiar experience for LGBTQI+ persons who are kicked out of the house by parents who are not accepting, or shunned by their communities.
Tell me a bit about some of the benefits of the centre and how that works?
@SAQueerResourceGroup is a place to find and share information about opportunities and community resources for the LGBTQI+ community. This includes everything from jobs (for those offering jobs and those seeking employment), bursaries, internships, wellness resources, and allows LGBTQI+ individuals to promote their businesses, including products, services, and events.
We’ve also been sharing a lot of resources in the group such as Covid-19 relief funds that are available as well as mental health resources, specifically for LGBTQI+ individuals. Facebook is a great platform because it’s easily accessible, widely used, and cheap to use (and there’s even a free option).
Is it donor-dependent and how generous have contributors been?
I founded The South African Queer Resource Group in April this year and I am currently the only administrator. While I do most of the posting, it’s meant to be run by the community and more and more members are becoming active and have started contributing and sharing resources in the group.
I’ve already initiated two fundraising projects as The South African Queer Resource Group. The first one was a food drive for the Pride Shelter in Cape Town and we managed to successfully raise R10,000 worth of food vouchers for them.
I did the handover at the shelter this week, right before I slipped on my apron and did a cooking class for the residents — which they also enjoyed for dinner afterwards. My current project for The Resource Group is a blanket drive, in which I aiming to collect 100 blankets for homeless people within the next week, which I’ll be serving up with a warm meal and plastic sheeting to prevent blankets from getting soaked in these heavy rains.
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