MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In a stunning victory for the LGBTQIA+ community in Mindanao, the Mujer LGBT+ Organisation has been awarded the prestigious Covid-19 Hero Award at this year’s APCOM Hero Awards. This award recognizes organizations or community groups that have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure access to health services and protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals.
As businesses shut down and transitioned to online services during the pandemic, many members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Region 9, Mindanao, who were breadwinners of their families and dependent on informal economy work, found themselves facing economic uncertainty. With little to no income and limited access to essential services, it became increasingly difficult for them to survive.
Trapped without assistance, income, or even a place to call home, many LGBTQIA+ individuals also fell victim to domestic abuse within their households. In response to these urgent needs, Mujer LGBT+ Organisation, in partnership with local government units, city social welfare department along with the private sector that includes Google and Tides Foundation, initiated a humanitarian effort to bring health and legal services to LGBTQIA+ communities in the city and remote areas of Region 9. Furthermore, the organization transformed their community centre into a temporary shelter, providing food and utility assistance to those who had lost their jobs and had nowhere else to go.
In addition to these efforts, Mujer LGBT+ Organisation distributed relief goods and provided small monetary assistance to community members who had not received any direct humanitarian aid from local or national government sources. Their commitment to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during these challenging times has earned them the recognition of the APCOM Hero Award.
The APCOM Hero Awards is an annual program that acknowledges individuals and organizations specializing in HIV, equality, human rights, and humanitarian efforts worldwide. This year’s ceremony was held on November 24, 2023, at the Sukosol Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand with the German Foreign Office in Thailand and the Open Society Foundation serving as their leading partners for the event.
During the acceptance speech, Mx Toni Gee Fernandez, Executive Director of Mujer LGBT+ Organisation, accompanied by Research & Advocacy specialist Mai Korsgaard, conveyed their gratitude for the award. They emphasized that the recognition not only celebrates the organization’s grassroots work but also reflects the strength and solidarity within the LGBTQIA+ community in Mindanao. Fernandez highlighted how their collective efforts had made a meaningful impact and symbolized hope. They called upon the LGBTQIA+ community to continue fostering inclusivity, understanding, and the well-being of every member.
It is crucial to note that the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the existing inequalities faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals globally. In fact, at the United Nations General Assembly, the previous UN Independent Rapporteur Victor Madrigal borloz presented a report outlining the pandemic’s impact on the human rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals.