How a 28-year-Old Transwoman is Empowering Her Community During the Pandemic

Since the second wave of the pandemic and the state-wise lockdowns in the country, many individuals and organisations have stepped up to help those in need. While many activists are assisting patients by providing oxygen cylinders and other resources, others are helping people by distributing ration.

One such activist is 28-year-old Urooz Hussain Rizvi from Delhi, a transwoman who has completed four distribution drives till now. “Hum trans ke liye koi zyada nahi sochta hai (Nobody thinks a lot for us, the transwomen),” says Rizvi, who has been providing ration kits, which she refers to as “love kits”, to transgender persons and others since May 15. Why are they called “love kits”? “Woh mera pyaar hai isliye (because that is my love),” she says.

Rizwi distributing ‘love kits’. Photo: special arrangement.

‘Love kits’

Rizvi’s efforts are not limited to transpersons only, she is also concerned about sex workers who have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic. She spoke about visiting GB Road and distributing sanitary pads, hand sanitisers and masks to the workers, and chocolates to their children, who, she says, are looked down upon by society.

Rizwi with children of sex workers at GB road. Photo: special arrangement.

Also read: Ground Report: The Sudden Lockdown Has Dried Up Sex Workers’ Incomes Overnight

The kits distributed by Rizvi consist of 5 kg flour and rice each, 2 kg pulses, 1 litre of cooking oil, spices, bindis and nail paint. Talking about the inclusion of nail paint and bindis, she says “Hum trans logo ko sajne sawarne ka shauk hai (We love to adorn ourselves).” Over 50 kits costing Rs 50,000 have been distributed among transpersons so far.

‘Love kit’. Photo: special arrangement.

Rizvi is also India’s first transwoman to run a cafe, Street Temptations, in Noida’s Sector 119. The cafe, opened in 2019, has been a source of employment for many transgender persons who face difficulty finding a job because of their identity. She has put all of her savings earned from the cafe into the donation drives.

Vaccination problems

Rizvi is also concerned about the problems faced by the transgender persons when it comes to getting vaccinated. Now that the vaccination process has started, Rizvi says an awareness campaign for her community is necessary as transgender persons are victims of discrimination and therefore most of them are wary of the vaccination process. To that end, she had written to the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar to organise a separate camp for transgender persons, and the administration agreed.

There is another cause of concern for her community when it comes to the vaccination process. The community, she says, includes a lot of members who are above the age of 45 with no documents, and those who have, are listed under ‘male’ gender. Access to the internet is also a challenge and those who have it cannot navigate through apps as they are not tech savvy.

Therefore, Rizwi’s donation drive is centred on transgender persons, and she wants to ensure that none of them die or suffer from a lack of food. “Mazdooro ki help hote hue dikh jati hai TV par, lekin trans ki nahi dikhti (Labourers getting help can be seen on TV, but we do not see transpersons getting help),” Rizvi added.

According to Rizvi, who has fought and experienced social boycott, the transgender community continues to experience ostracism and ignominy. “We are also regular human beings; we are constantly subjected to harassment in many forms,” Rizvi said. She is also a member of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI), Antisexual Harassment, Uttar Pradesh.

Rizwi holding an award of recognition. Photo: special arrangement.

Rizvi, who is from Bhagalpur and was the winner of the ‘Tag Worldwide 2020’ modelling competition, is working hard to empower her community. “Maim is position me hoon, ke main apni community ke liye kaam kar saku, toh kyu nahi? (I am at a position to be able to help my community, so why not?),” Rizvi asked.

As of now, all her savings have been exhausted and she is now raising funds through Milaap – an online fundraising platform.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision to declare transgender persons as India’s third gender in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, 2014, Rizvi says that social stigma still surrounds the community and that the government should do more to integrate transgender persons into the mainstream workforce.

Note: You can donate to her fundraising campaign by clicking on this link.

Salman Saleem is a post-graduate student at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia.

All images provided by the author