Despite the negative effects of covid19, social media is overflowing with posts from people using this quiet time in an enriching way. There are posts about people now being able to spend more time with family, in the garden, building furniture and reconnecting to things they enjoy doing most. These activities seem more possible now that the typical day-to-day obligations of modern living have been slowed.
Businesswoman and animal-rights activist Jowelle de Souza said she has not been directly affected by the lockdown in terms of the comforts of her day-to-day life. Apart from not being able to work, her main discomfort is the suffering she sees happening because many businesses are closed.
De Souza is the owner of Hair by Jowelle in San Fernando and has been in business for 30 years. She is recognised as the first person in TT to have undergone gender confirmation/sex reassignment surgery.
How are you feeling about the spread of the covid19 pandemic? Is it scary for you?
I was not very scared, because I did a lot of research on the pandemic when I heard about it…those we survived in the past, such as the 1918 Spanish flu.
A number of my clients are doctors who told me the virus was being spread some time before it was being highlighted as a crisis, as early as January. This knowledge allowed me to prepare mentally for what was to come.
Have you experienced a major change in your daily routine?
Of course. Most of us are not allowed to work. Most hours of my days would be spent in my business place, so this has shifted my daily routine. A few weeks ago, I sent letters to the Prime Minister with the hope he and his Cabinet would give other businesses the go-ahead to reopen, as many of the most economically vulnerable people have not been able to work.
Mother’s Day just passed. Normally mothers would have appreciated the option of giving themselves self-care at the salon – which could have been regulated to maintain physical distancing.
Is there anything you have been able to do now that you didn’t have the time to do before?
To spend more time in the communities of South Trinidad. Some friends and I have been distributing packages of food items to those in need. People are suffering and it is hard to witness, so we have been dipping into our own pockets to help.
Some of these people I have known since I went up for general elections in 2015. So I try my best to help in any way I can.
Apart from that, there is not much I have been able to do, apart from things around my home. Many activities I enjoy when not working have not been accessible, even though I have more free time. It has felt somewhat depressing at times.
Because of the nature of my job, which calls for physical human interaction, my team and I have not been able to find any form of compromise in meeting the needs of our clientèle while maintaining the regulations set by the government.
How are members of your staff doing?
We have a chat group and have been in constant interaction. But because everything has been at a standstill I have run out of updates for them.
Fortunately, unlike two weeks ago, we have seen a silver lining. I tried my best not to give them any form of false hope during that time of uncertainty, which is a hard position to be in as a team leader.
What do you hope will be a major takeaway from this period?
I think a cure will be found.
I hope it will also bring our attention to how important it is to diversify our economies. We did not plan for an epidemic, and the economy has taken a hit.
I look forward to hearing what approaches will be taken to help the economy recover and how it can be safeguarded in the event of another pandemic or event of this kind.
While we have managed to keep the number of cases at a standstill, we cannot rest on that as a major accomplishment. The numbers have been kept reasonably low across the region, except Jamaica.
Therefore, what should be seen as equally important now is planning how we will go forward to protect the people of TT, especially the most vulnerable.
The people of TT are resilient. I have no doubt we will bounce back.
I hope we can all come together to see how we can recover as best as possible, as one whole.