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Ten Ways To Be An Ally This Transgender Day Of Remembrance

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Last month the dead body of a person was found in her home in a water drum filled with salt and covered with a cloth. That was the body of Sangeetha; a body that was different from others and hence worth killing and abolishing from the face of our society which prides itself in its culture and normality. It was the body of a transgender woman. Sangeetha was an empowering transgender woman who ran a community kitchen that employed a dozen other transgender persons. She did this during the COVID-19 lockdown when the transgender community was left on its own.

This Transgender Day of Remembrance as we pay homage to the lives lost to senseless violence, let us also learn how to be an ally to Trans people.

The murder of Sangeetha is not an exception. Hundreds of transgender persons are killed every year across the world – their crime being that they do not follow the societal ‘norms’.

Every year, November 20 is commemorated as the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honour the memory of the Transgender Persons who lost their lives in anti-transgender violence. This Transgender Day of Remembrance as we pay homage to the lives lost to senseless violence, let us also learn how to be an ally to Trans people.

Here Are Ten Ways In Which You Can Be An Ally:

  1. Learn About Gender: Violence stems from deep-rooted hatred. And often, the cause of this hatred is ignorance or preconceived misconceptions. So, start by reading and learning about gender and about the lives of transgender persons. Find out how they are just like other people and how they are not mentally ill or diseased. And worthy of living.
  2. Make A Transgender Friend And Be Visible With Them: A lot of bias can be shed when you make a friendship or relationship with a transgender person. You can start with an online friendship and then take it offline as you navigate your discomforts and biases. While you may have seen photos of transgender people most would be seen with other trans persons or other queer people. Take pictures with trans persons if they consent to it and post it on your social media timeline. Talk about it. Normalize it.
  3. Use The Right Pronouns: When having communications with or about transgender persons be mindful of using the right pronouns. What is the right pronoun? The one they wish to use. Trans people use a variety of pronouns and even multiple pronouns – he/she/they (singular)/Ze and so on. Make sure you do not assume but ask.
  4. Normalise Cis-Trans Relationships: Take it a notch higher and make Trans persons part of your life. Start a relationship with a Trans person. Adopt or become the guardian of a transgender child. Trans people are not just for other trans people. If you find inter-faith, inter-caste, and inter-racial marriages beautiful then you will understand why cisgender-transgender marriages are so vital for true acceptance.
  5. Pass The Mic: Quite often when issues related to trans persons are taken up, the people speaking are cisgender persons. It’s important that being an ally you pass the mic to the trans persons and allow their voices to be heard.
  6. Amplify Trans Voices: Like any other minority, the voice of an oppressed and marginalized minority community cannot reach the masses unless it’s also amplified by the allies. So, shed your inhibitions and share trans voices as much you can. What is not talked about is also not addressed. Maybe start by sharing this article with your friends, family, or children and start a conversation.
  7. Know The Law: India enacted The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 and Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules 2020. This came after the Supreme Court’s revolutionary NALSA Judgment affirming trans rights. While the legislation for trans and intersex persons is problematic it still offers bits and pieces of protections that need to be held on to. As an ally, read and learn about these so that discrimination against transgender persons at educational, employment, or healthcare places can be mitigated.
  8. Employ Trans People: While many trans people are as qualified and talented as other people they are forced to go for traditional and often undignified and unsafe professions like begging or sex work given lack of employment opportunities. If you are privileged then start employing transgender people and create a safe work environment for them.
  9. Fund Transgender Endeavors: In today’s world we do understand that monetary resource is very vital for the sustenance of any cause. Transgender causes are no different. If you are someone who donates to causes consider a transgender cause next time. Make contributions to trans causes a norm for Corporate Social Responsibility spending.
  10. Knockdown Biases: While you learn to become a trans ally, be mindful of the immense diversity amongst the transgender community. We have trans people of colour, Muslim transgender folk, Trans persons with disabilities, and so on. Amongst the transgender community, we have various sects like the Hijra or Kinnar community. Learn about them and knockdown your inner biases one at a time.

We hope for a world where people are either transgender or transgender allies and never transphobic. We hope for a world where Transgender Day of Remembrance becomes redundant as no trans person loses their life for being born this way. Will you join us in making this possible?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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