Despite All Odds

Despite All Odds

Forty-year-old Rajini Ammal is a transgender who is a priest at the Angalaparameshwari temple in MKB Nagar in Chennai. Her life has been through the wringer just like any other trans persons and so she is always there to help her community. She has taken around 80 transgenders under her wings.

“It all began when I was very young. I have had a similar story of bullying and rejection like every other transgender you will meet. The pattern continues even today. Every transgender takes off from their biological home at some point. Some find themselves in a good place but most land up with menial jobs and/or prostitution. I understand what they go through. I took a different path and became a temple priest. And when I see a transgender suffer and need help, I am always there. I cannot but help them,” shares Rajini.

Most people from the transgender community are not accepted in society and often end up begging or in prostitution. “We do not want to live this menial life. We hate it but tell me something, how many are willing to accept us and provide decent jobs?” questions Rajini.

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the city, the transgender community also suffered a major blow. They are left in a lurch. “The temple is closed and so have other industries. There is little to none help offered to us. Our families have rejected us. It is now up to us to stand for each other. There are many young ones that I take care of including my own adopted children from the transgender community. They used to beg and collect money from shops for their living. Since the options are all closed, I offer them support as and when I receive some. I offer most of the thing that is given to me by my well-wishers to these people. But how much could I provide them all alone? I tap every venue possible to collect resource but there are too many mouths to feed,” shares Rajini.

“BLESS, Oxfam India, and Barclays have done an incredible job providing help to people like us. The relief materials provided are of good quality. I shall give this material as well to my people. I am glad that I could sustain them for at least a few more days.”

As part of the response, Oxfam India has been reaching out to some of the most marginalised communities across 16 states. And with ample support from its donors it has been distributing cooked food, dry ration, hygiene and safety kits, and distributing cash to the poorest households.

Barclays is one of them. With Barclays support, Oxfam India has reached out to 11550 people in five states — Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. They include people with disabilities, women-led households, waste pickers, domestic workers, transgenders, tea garden workers, migrant and informal sector workers, riot-affected families, daily wagers, and street vendors.

In Chennai alone, we  have reached out to 1550 households with food and hygiene kit which included 20 kgs of Rice, 3 kgs of pulses, 10 kgs of flour, a packet of haldi and chili powder each, a litre of refined oil, a kg of salt, sugar and soy bean. The kit also includes five units of masks, and six units of bathing soap, washing soap and sanitary napkins each.

“We shall fondly remember the volunteers who came to us. I offer my sincere thanks on behalf of all the sisters from the transgender community for remembering us in this perilous time,” she sums up.

 

(The author is from our partner NGO BLESS in Chennai)

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