Location: Murshidabad District & Coochbehar District, West Bengal.
The Project: Social Advocacy and Health-related Support for Transgender and Gender-variant Persons
The NGO: Karna-Subarna Welfare Society(KWS)
Supporting AID Chapters & Amount funded:
AID Iowa: $1250
AID Boston: $2750
Aniruddha Dutta (anirudd[email protected])
This project is implemented by Karna Subarna Welfare Society (KWS) in partnership with two community-based organizations- Madhya Banglar Sangram (Murshidabad district) and Moitrisanjog Coochbehar (Coochbehar district). The project started in December 2014 with AID support.
Transgender, Hijra and gender-variant people on the male-to-female spectrum are among the most marginalized sections of society, prone to familial rejection, social discrimination, sexual violence, and lack of employment opportunities, which compels especially poorer trans/gender-variant people to take up sex work and Hijra professions and exposes them to high rates of sexually transmitted infections. This project, implemented by community-based organizations and led by trans/gender-variant people themselves responds to some of the community’s needs by undertaking social advocacy on gender/sexual rights , providing crisis intervention and sexual health-related support in two districts of West Bengal.
The project follows a two pronged strategy:
- Community support: Providing various kinds of support to community members (safe space, crisis intervention, legal aid, sexual health-related support)
- Social advocacy: Advocacy and awareness-raising with significant institutions and sections of society (administration, police and BSF, lawyers, students, youth clubs, etc.)
- Maintaining drop-in centers cum crisis shelters for transgender, Hijra and other gender/sexually marginalized people, one in each district. These serve as safe spaces where community members can gather, dress freely and express their gender identity, and take shelter during cases of social discrimination or family rejection.
- Crisis intervention and support in cases of violence or discrimination toward trans/Hijra people, including helping victims register complaints with police stations and get legal help, if needed.
- Performing regular advocacy and awareness-raising activities on transgender and LGBT rights with the local administration, legal sector and civil society (NGOs, youth clubs, students) through meetings, cultural programs, workshops, awareness camps, publications, etc.
- Networking and advocacy with police and Border Security Force (BSF) personnel in order to secure their support for transgender/LGBT people and to prevent violence on community members by police/BSF personnel.
- Providing basic health support to community members like information and training on safer sex and sexual health, condom distribution, and testing for HIV and STDs through local ICTCs (Integrated Counseling & Testing Centers) at Govt. hospitals.
- Workshops and trainings on legal issues, transgender rights, gender/sexual identity for community members and allies.
Report on workshop in Sambad Pratidin
Impact (first year of work):
- Project activities have been covered by several regional newspapers and electronic media, including Times of North (see article here), Sangbad Pratidin, Duronto Barta, Shine TV, Bangadarshan TV, Prayas TV, Songbadmanthan, Uttarbanga Sambad and Coochbehar Times, which have helped spread awareness about LGBT and transgender issues.
- The project provides sexual health-related support to an average of 75 community members per month, including access to HIV testing, information on safer sex, etc.; around 250 community members across two districts have been reached through other activities.
- The project has provided support in around ten cases of violence or discrimination toward community members, including advocacy with police and legal aid.
- Advocacy activities have reached about 300-350 BSF personnel at Murshidabad.
- The project has established contacts with several police stations that have responded positively to advocacy and helped in crisis intervention.
- The project has built a network of lawyers, cultural workers and people from administration to provide support, advice and help as needed.
- Magazines and pamphlets published by the two community-based organizations (such as Sangram’s Padakshep & Moitrisanjog’s Moitribarta) have reached above 500 people through the last year.
- Challenges to future work include reaching community members in more far-flung areas of the districts, reaching BSF personnel in border areas (who often serve as clients for sex work and sources of violence), and maintaining and expanding activities on a small budget.
- This is a fledgling project with small initial funds – they are looking to expand the activities in the two existing districts (Murshidabad, Coochbehar) and to begin services in a third district (Nadia), which lacks any funded infrastructure at the moment. Thus support from additional AID chapters would be welcome!
For more information about this project please contact Aniruddha Dutta ([email protected])
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