To expand on our existing health-oriented transgender (TG) project, Blossom Trust has recently established an inclusive capacity-building network of TG women communities across Chennai. The ACT-NETWORK initiative has been created with the goal of addressing the social stigmatisation, economic impact and legislative marginalisation of TG women, thereby cultivating long-term resilient communities and promoting liberty with dignity and equal rights as citizens.
Across India, transgender (TG) women continue to face gender-based discrimination, particularly in the fields of health care, employment and education. They often experience difficulties with holding public or private office, as well as with accessing and using public services and benefits. According to a recent report by the National Human Rights Commission (2018), 92% of TG women are denied mainstream employment and hence, are restricted to working in the unorganised sector, such as in street entertainment, informal collections, or the sex industry.
Besides structural discrimination and stigmatization, TG women are currently facing additional challenges, as the global COVID-19 pandemic has crippled much of the informal sector on which many members of the TG community rely for employment. Now more than ever, there is a strong urgency to focus on TG women and to invest in building resilience within TG communities.
Towards stronger and more resilient TG communities
The current ambition of the ACT-NETWORK project is to formalise a sub-national TG women’s network to encourage their transition into the organised sector and to provide legal, educational and economic security for upward social mobility.
To achieve this goal, the project consists of two pillars. As a means of providing capacity-building and training, the ACT-NETWORK project team will establish a network among TG communities in the form of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) led by TG community representatives (“TG Champions”). Secondly, the project aims to identify areas of development and possibilities of accessing public entitlements in order to discern resources accessible to Blossom Trust, SGHs, TG Champions and Stakeholders.
Progress and impact of the ACT-NETWORK project
Over the past six months, timely progress has been made on the objectives of the project. The establishment of SHGs is well underway with 360 TG women identified in Chennai, along with 20 TG-Champions who have been trained as community mentors and advocates. These activities have helped create a TG network that will help to strengthen the community’s ability to advocate for themselves as a collective, and provided insights into the social and economic condition of TG women.
Furthermore, the project has largely completed the identification of areas of development and has also focused on building stakeholder coalitions. During outreach visits, it became clear that economic support is currently the most urgent priority for TG women. To address this, the ACT-NETWORK team has been working to create funding opportunities that can support TG women in starting up small businesses. The team has also started a partnership with the Madurai School of Social Work to provide free workshops on security and protection, mental health, and first aid.
In the coming months, the project will focus on securing financial support for small businesses that TG women can run to support themselves economically, as well as on organising more community workshops. In this way, Blossom Trust and TG communities continue to promote economic empowerment and equal rights for TG women.
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