For the past year, students of the Ecole Mondiale World School at Juhu have been working out ways to help transgenders in Mumbai become financially independent. The first step: breaking down the walls of stigma around the community.
To do this, the students brought together their parents and members of the LGBT community together for an interaction on Friday — possibly the first time a school in Mumbai took up such an initiative.
As part of the project, the students will train the transgenders to upload short do-it-yourself videos on YouTube, in which they can share their expertise in fashion, make-up and other fields. “Once the videos start trending, they will generate an income through advertisements,” said Khushi Kapoor, a Class 10 student.
This is part of a four-point programme the students devised. The programme also aims at spreading awareness on safe-sex among transgenders, starting a mobile dispensary and dispelling prejudices and stereotypes. Members of the community don’t get job opportunities owing how society discriminates against them, the students said.
“We met Haya, and she told us about the lack of awareness about safe-sex in their community, how they feel awkward going to hospitals, and how they have to battle economic hardships because of discrimination from society,” said Nayantara Deane, another student.
For Friday’s interaction, the students also invited India’s first transgender college principal, Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay, transgender activist and actor Kalki Subramaniam, and the founder of publishing house Queer Ink Shobhna Kumar, who is open about being a lesbian, to share their experiences with parents.
“When I was 14, I told my parents I want to change my sex. They were shattered…and my classmates bullied me every day. Transgender kids don’t have a beautiful school life… Education on gender diversity doesn’t exist in Indian schools,” Kalki said.
Manabi, who took over as the principal of a college in Kolkata, said transgenders are forced into begging and prostitution. “The society marginalises us. No one wants to give us a job. This is our fight.”
Including gender diversity in school curriculum will help bring change, the activists said.
“There’s a lot of ignorance about the LGBT community. We need to develop literature and books in English and other languages so kids can become agents of change,” Shobhna said.