Joya Sikder, President and Founder of Somporker Noya Setu (SNS) works fiercely hard at protecting a handful of Hijra across Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Two activists (anonymous) who have regularly been speaking to some of the Hijras over the phone, based in Dhaka and Joya supports, have said that Covid-19 lockdown has been catastrophic for the girls' ability to earn money. Joya has been working tirelessly to get food to the Hijras as well as raise money to cover their rent since most of them are room bound and unable to beg or do sex work (which is their normal practices for getting a liveable income).
We understand these are tricky times for everyone financially, but for those who feel able to donate some money to support Joya and keep some of the Hijras stable and fed, we would really appreciate it.
When we spoke to Joya she admits that although things have been tricky during lock down to get aid to the Hijras, she has still been successful in leaving the food at drop off points. She has also been helping the girls to pay their rent with any donations.
Joya said the following amounts will cover:
£5 - will supply food to a Hijra for one day.
£50 - will pay a Hijra’s rent for one month.
"In reality, ‘hijra’ is actually an umbrella term that is used to describe a group of people that may include intersex people, castrated men and also transgender women. This group of people live as a community or ‘family’, under a community leader or [a] ‘guru’. So hijra is in fact a community and not a sex or a gender." ~ Joya Sikder, February 29, 2020.
A profile about Joya from the Daily Star :
“I worked with a bunch of different NGOs before I formed my own organisation to fight for the rights of people coming from different sections of gender and sexual minorities. When I first joined an international NGO in Bangladesh, my office colleagues refused to communicate with me about anything except work issues, or to sit with me at the same table during lunch. A lot of women from that organisation also refused to let me use the women's toilet in that office. Because, in their perception, I am not a man or a woman and I am a Hijra which is supposed to be a bad thing (however, I Identify as a transgender-woman and not a hijra since I am not engaged in "Hijragiri", nor am I directly a part of the Hijra community). They were scared of me and I could see the fear in their eyes. It took me a while to change their misconceptions and fear about me or human beings like me in society with my logical explanations, and to bridge that distance between them and I—which wasn't created by me in the first place. I have faced this kind of discrimination in my own home, my own locality and in my own country, everywhere, from almost everyone.
Now I work not just for transgender people or Hijras but for all the people coming from a diverse gender and sexual identities because I have experienced what they go through since I went through the same discrimination and pain, and I still do in many ways. I hope one day the government and society would create more spaces to discuss about these issues and spark conversations, create constructive discourses, laws and legal frameworks to protect our rights as a human being like any other citizen of the country. Until then, I would keep resisting all these discriminations with my courage and knowledge which are the biggest powers of my life.”
Photos by Jack Taylor