• Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:24 am

No one left behind

  • Published at 08:54 am February 22nd, 2021

How TransEnd promotes parity for the third gender community

TransEnd is a social welfare organization that empowers the transgender community through education, training, employment and entrepreneurship. Founded by Lamea Tanjin Tanha in 2019, the organization primarily arranges social awareness campaigns and programs, educating people on the gender spectrum.

About the founder

Lamea Tanjin Tanha is a 21-year-old social entrepreneur, activist and artist, currently studying at Dhaka University, Department of English. With an aim to eradicate gender inequality and to empower the one million marginalized gender diverse people of Bangladesh, both financially and socially, she created the platform TransEnd. For this, she has also been selected for the Ashoka Young Changemakers 2020 and YY Goshti Incubation Program. She also participated and won the DUCSU election 2019, as a Sufia Kamal Hall General Member. Believing in "making a difference;" and taking one step at a time, Tanha dreams of a world full of compassion, empathy and sustainability. “When I was 12 years old, my mother once shared this story with me about how a bunch of transgender people once came to our house when I was a newborn baby, and she got to interact with them. My mother was so welcoming and friendly towards them that the leader (guru) of the gang, Mala Hijra, shared many of her life struggles with my mother. Listening to her story, my mother told me to be empathetic towards them and to do something that would eradicate their miseries,” informed Tanha, while speaking to the Dhaka Tribune. After listening to the story from her mother, Tanha was moved and determined to help the transgender community. “I used to do a lot of fieldwork before launching the organization. Because I believed, if I don't understand these people from the core of my heart, I cannot work for them. I used to talk to them in local transports, in parks and by going to their hubs. Knowing their stories made me strong, more determined and passionate about creating this organization,” said Tanha.

Scope of the project

There are one million transgender people (locally known as hijra) in our country, who get abandoned by their families since childhood and are deprived of basic human rights (education, shelter, clothing, food, and medication). 98% of the transgender people grow up in slums, living in a miserable condition, and get involved in sex-work and begging in the traditional way (going to newborn babies’ houses and local shops, singing, clapping and dancing and asking for money in exchange of their blessings) for livelihood.

TransEnd, the Bangladesh based organization, works to bridge the gap between the transgender community and the mainstream community through education, training, healthcare, employment and entrepreneurship. Through TransEnd’s non-profit platform, various online and offline sensitization programs, skill-development workshops, and awareness-building campaigns, 34,500 general people have been sensitized, 115 marginalized hijra people got the opportunity to become skilled in different subjects, such as, English language, handicrafts, communication, basic computer skills etc, and 23 trans people quit their jobs as sex-workers and joined in mainstream jobs scoped by TransEnd.

Corona conundrum

In March 2020, when Covid-19 hit Bangladesh, TransEnd was just four months old back then, but the founder, Tanha had created a good network with the marginalized hijra people in the meantime. In mid-March 2020, Tanha had been receiving a lot of phone calls from transgender leaders (hijra gurus). They were crying and expressing concerns about their scarcity of food due to the lack of income resulting from the lockdown. In addition, most of the hijra people earn their livelihood by sex work and begging and this is day-to-day work. Hence, they spend their daily income on a daily basis, having no scope of saving money. Since the lockdown was started, there was not a single person on the street to beg from, let alone having customers. Moreover, because of the stigma and taboos, they couldn’t get any help from other people and the local leaders were cutting them off from the government ration.

Hearing all these, Tanha knew that she had to do something. She then started to reach out to people from different sectors and organizations from all the resources she had. Finally, after going door-to-door, she managed to get help from some non-profit organizations who showed solidarity, and altogether, they started a fundraising campaign named ‘Tader Tore’ (For Them) and received money through bKash and Rocket (mobile money transfer service) for supporting them. In addition, friends abroad helped through ‘GoFundMe’ and ‘PayPal’ to raise funds, which amounted to Tk300,000. With this fund, TransEnd has donated 15 to 20 days worth of food packages and hygiene items to more than 1500 transgender people in Bangladesh from April to August 2020. Besides, Tanha and her team were always in contact with the transgender people, teaching them the importance of safety measures in order to protect themselves from Covid-19. Also, there were several hotlines launched exclusively for transgender people to seek free mental health counselling if they needed it because of the corona situation.

The total Covid-9 response tasks were pretty hectic and from reaching out to donors, getting volunteers to distribute the packages throughout the country, to collecting the information of the transgender people and ensuring 100% transparency and honesty, Tanha had to put a lot of effort and time. The countrywide lockdown due to pandemic could have derailed Tanha, but she didn’t let the fact that everyone told her to stay home, slow her down. An extremely strong-willed individual, Tanha has come out of her safe zone and brought essential support to the transgender community during the lockdown as they were starving and in crisis due to the lack of income.

Post pandemic work

Winter relief program:

Every year, winter becomes another pandemic for the poor people of Bangladesh. To make sure winter won’t affect the poor transgender people after the financial downfall for the Covid-19, TransEnd arranged another fundraising program named ‘Ushnotar Khoje’ (In search of Warmth) and donated about 1,000 warm blankets to the poor trans people from the northern and rural areas from Nov 2020- Jan 2021 in order to make them survive the winter.

Training and employment:

Since a lot of transgender people lost their jobs because of the pandemic, TransEnd has taken the initiative to arrange free training and job opportunities for them. ‘Project Nobojibon’ is a pilot project organized by TransEnd and sponsored by EMK Centre which was held from February 16 to 18 this year. It was a free training on handicrafts project, where they taught transgender people how to make different handicrafts, sewing, tie-dye, block-batik, tailoring, screen printing, etc and later on, is going to arrange jobs for them according to these required skills.

Empowering the transgender community members

“I’ve always wanted to become a freelance model, but couldn’t, because of my gender identity. I used to collect money from local bazaars before I met TransEnd. After a training session from them, they helped me get appointed at a fashion shop as a model. After this, I gained confidence in myself and I dream to become one of the most popular fashion models in the country someday" - Shuborna Hijra

“315 transgender people, along with myself, in our region, Sylhet, lost our jobs during the pandemic. Our financial conditions got so bad that we were starving for days and our house rent was overdue for months. Then Tanha Apa, along with TransEnd came to help us with food packages and hygiene products which helped us in fighting the pandemic and saved our lives" - Kalpana Hijra:

I am a 55-year-old transwoman and was suffering from poverty and diseases like diabetes, coronary heart disease, and gallbladder stones. My family abandoned me when I was a teenager. Due to lack of money, I couldn’t get proper medication. I then reached out to TransEnd, and they helped me to connect with a doctor and get proper medication. I am now in much better condition. I am forever grateful to Tanha Apa" - Shagorika Hijra

A business owner who hired a transgender employee through TransEnd, Samia Tanjin Minha, said, “I hired three transgender people as freelance models for my fashion house, The Bun Girl, through TransEnd and I must say they were pretty dedicated, talented and trained. Before meeting TransEnd, I was always ignorant about the potential that is present within transgender people. It has been truly a wonderful experience to work with TransEnd and the team.”

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