Mumbai: 16-year-old raises ₹2 lakhs to vaccinate transgender community
Sia Sehgal, a 16-year-old student from Hill Springs International School, Tardeo, has become the first teenage donor recorded with Maharashtra District AIDS Control Society (MDACS) to procure and donate Covishield vials for the mass immunisation programme for members of the transgender community. On Saturday, 120 members were administered their first jab at the free vaccination drive, for which, the teenager raised ₹2 lakhs.
Sehgal took up the initiative on getting to know that many members of the community are shying away from vaccination due to lack of awareness and stigmatisation.
“Since I wanted to help the community, I contacted the heads of the transgender community and sensitised them about the need for vaccination through Zoom video calls. When they agreed to get vaccinated, I contacted different organisations like InHarmony, Triveni Samaj Vikas Kendra and I-TECH who helped me raise the fund for procuring the vials and organising the camp,” said Sehgal who raised ₹2 lakhs within the last two weeks and bought the vaccines from HCG-ICS Khubchandani Cancer Centre.
On Saturday, I-TECH along with MDACS organised a vaccination camp for transgenders at Triveni Samaj, Malwani, Malad.
“She is the first teenage donor who helped to vaccinate transgenders. We organised the camp to facilitate the vaccination. It is quite inspiring how she raised the money and helped in the free vaccination,” said Santosh Suryavanshi, technical specialist from I-TECH India that works in association with MDACS.
Sehgal plans to organise another vaccination camp for the beneficiaries for their second dose. “Many transgenders claim that they face stigma which discourages them from getting vaccinated. Considering they are a vulnerable group of the population, it is our responsibility to ensure that they are fully vaccinated,” she said.
In fact, on Saturday, many transgenders were sceptical about the efficiency of the vaccination. Sia had to counsel and explain the benefits of being inoculated.
“Taking one step at a time, I am hoping to encourage many more members of the transgender community to come forward and safeguard themselves. I feel fortunate to be heard and helped to make this drive a success,” she added.
Sharing her experience, Varshabhai Dhokalia, a transgender from Khar, said when she went to BKC jumbo centre in June to take her first dose, she faced discomfort due to continuous stigmatisation from fellow beneficiaries.
“We are always being mocked. While I was standing in the queue for the shot, people were staring and laughing at me. Someone even passed a comment that the vaccination was only for males and females,” said Dhokalia. “This discourages us from going to these centres for vaccination.”