Activism and social media during the pandemic through raising awareness: Purevdulam Baldandorj, Mongolia

By Tharindi Devasurendra – Thursday, May 27, 2021

Purevdulam Baldandorj, more widely known as Duluunaa, is a 30 year old queer activist from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She currently works for the Youth for Health Centre non-governmental organization focused on addressing HIV and AIDS issues faced by gay and bisexual men and transgender women. She has also been working as a finance officer to support the implementation of a multicountry grant on the sustainability of HIV services for key populations in Asia and the Pacific (SKPA Program).

Dulunaa is also a volunteer at The LGBT Centre, providing support in the areas of  communications, operations and administrative work , and is also a member of the Youth LEAD Mongolia network. Youth LEAD (Youth Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Development)is a growing network of young leaders from key populations affected by HIV and AIDS in Asia. It  aims  at reducing human rights abuses by improving  access to quality health care services, and empowering young people to become leaders within the HIV response. Youth LEAD MGN works with multi-stakeholder organizations to coordinate efforts to raise awareness about HIV and SRHR and support youth-led programmes in HIV prevention.

The LGBT Centre is the first and only LGBTQI + human rights organization in Mongolia. It is a non-profit, community-based, non-membership, non-governmental organization. As part of her work, Dulunna helped organize an event on the International Coming Out Day, which happens every year on October 11th, 2020. For this event, Dulunna secured community speakers, including a , transgender  person, a gay man and a queer woman. They spoke out about the technicalities of coming out and empowering others from their coming out story and experiences.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rapid decline in the mental health and well-being of LGBTIQ+ youth and young key populations. LGBTIQ+ youth face stress and anxiety brought on by lockdowns and restrictions. They also feel that they have lost  freedom of expression from living at home, as they cannot be themselves around their families. Many queer people  are unable to come out because of societal norms and stigma and discrimination. To address the mental health and well-being of young LGBTIQ+ people, Youth LEAD Mongolia hosted several online sessions around mental health with psychologists who work with LGBTIQ+ youth. She also worked with Youth LEAD Mongolia on a short film competition titled “Behind The Blue Sky,” which was centred around the theme “equality and pride”. 

Duluunaa also has started a personal T-shirt brand called  “Podolk” and collaborated with the LGBT Centre Mongolia to produce T-shirts during Pride month, raising funds to support the organisation’s operations. View the T-shirts here.  Healthcare taking an online approach has become more popular with the digitalisation of workspaces. Dulunaa has been involved with the Youth for Health Centre along with the support of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health(APCOM) to develop a website called test4UB.org. This website promotes a range of HIV services on demand under the SKPA program, including an innovative campaign called TestXXX, to increase the uptake of HIV testing. The campaign has initially started in Bangkok with TestBKK and now is spreading to other SEA countries. The TestXXX campaign in Mongolia receives technical support from APCOM.

The website test4UB.org, is a platform where young people can ask different questions related to sexual and reproductive health. The website offers user-friendly and non-stigmatizing information about HIV and has a collection of mangas and comic books, which address issues of self-acceptance and queer relationships through creative storytelling and art.  Duluunaa emphasized the importance of using  social media for awareness about safer sex and how to be safe during a pandemic.

When the Mongolian government enforced a  strict lockdown, Duluunaa set up online services to help communicate with community members. Podcasts done through the test4ub.org website about relationships also helped LGBTIQ people during the lockdowns. In relation to access to HIV services, she informed that the government has done well and implemented multi-month dispensing of ARV treatment for 3 month supplies.

To support the hardest hit by the pandemic, The LGBT Centre distributed provisions and dry rations through the collective efforts of the Youth for Health Centre and The LGBT Centre. The Youth for Health Center has been involved in mobilizing LGBTIQ people from the older generation who are suffering financially. 

Duluunaa says that the pandemic made her realize how much we all are “people persons”. She speaks of how unappreciative we tend to be about  daily interactions with other people in our lives. Struggling with digital technicalities, communicating via zoom and planning projects have become a hassle that we all have to deal with. She says that she has noticed how meeting people has had a positive  impact on her mental health and with this  factor being taken out of the equation, people have to find new ways to deal with the lack of human interactions and support for their mental health.

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