Nearly 25,000 transgender people got support through the organization during the pandemic
In celebration of the International Youth Day 2021, Bandhu Social Welfare Society (Bandhu) has recognized three transwomen volunteers for their outstanding contribution to the society during the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
Asiqul Islam Sajib (Sanjibani), who graduated in political science from Chittagong University, got the first prize of the Inspiring Transgender and Hijra Volunteer Award 2021.
She buried around 350 people who died from Covid in Dhaka and Chittagong. She was given a cheque of Tk20,000 and a crest.
As a transwoman, Sanjibani has experienced untold sufferings since childhood. She wants to work towards good causes to change the society’s negative perspective towards transgenders.
The two other volunteers are Anisour Rahman Tonu of Mymensingh and Pakhi Dutta of Khulna; they got Tk10,000 and Tk5,000 and crests.
They worked with different government and non-government organizations to collect funds, and distribute food and cash aid among the people suffering from economic hardship during the pandemic. They also conducted campaigns to spread awareness related to Covid-19.
The awards were distributed at a program held at Sufia Kamal Auditorium of the National Museum on Wednesday. National Board of Revenue (NBR) Chairman Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem attended the event as the chief guest.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Habibur Rahman was present as the guest of honor, and prominent model and dancer Sadia Islam Mou as the chief guest. Renowned dance artist and Chairperson of Bandhu Anisul Islam Hero chaired the ceremony.
In his speech, NBR Chairman Muneem said that the culture of detachment between the families and the gender diverse children could be eliminated through the process of ensuring their empowerment. “Thus they will be considered as the assets for their parents.”
The government under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina encouraged organizations by exempting 5% corporate tax for the employers hiring 100 transgender and hijra workers as a process to empower them, he said. On the other hand, the employees would get 10% tax rebate.
According to Muneem, the government is working to bring them to the mainstream society by raising awareness and ensuring their constitutional rights. “They are also given houses under the Ashrayan-2 project.”
In the next census, he said, a new gender category – “hijra” –would be included apart from male and female.
DIG Habibur said the transgender and the hijra people would have to develop skills and work together to attain their position in the society. “The state will always be beside them,” he added.
Experts, however, fear that inclusion of the transgender people in the society would not be so easy. Employment for them in factories and companies is challenging due to the mindset of mainstream society and a lack of educational background of the hijras.
According to Bandhu Social Welfare Society, a number of transgender members are currently employed in media organizations, hotels and private universities as security guards, in NGOs at different posts, the service sector including health, beauty and food, as well as in the leather and garments sectors.
Also Read - OP-ED: Looking after the trans community
For more than two decades, Bandhu has been working towards improving the quality of life through providing healthcare services and human rights support for the gender diverse population in Bangladesh.
Bandhu is now working to ensure that the government passes a law to recognize the transgender and the hijra communities – an initiative taken in 2013, to ensure their right to education and health services, and to ease harassment in correcting their gender identity in the National Identity Cards, said its officials.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Bandhu provided relief, financial aid and emergency healthcare support for 13,628 transgenders and hijras.
Moreover, through the Bandhu networks, an additional 10,500 community members received relief support from different government and non-government organizations.