The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a health crisis, but also an economic, social, and human rights crisis. Standing up for the most vulnerable groups of the society in such times is a test of our values, our leadership, and our commitment to human rights.
The transgender community in Pakistan faces cultural, economic, and legal discrimination on a regular basis, but things have become even tougher for them during the coronavirus pandemic. Local media outlets have reported an increased number of physical attacks against transgender individuals during the pandemic, whereas community members themselves are reporting increased friction within the community itself as a result of dwindling resources. Furthermore, with overwhelmed health services also comes a susbtantial increase in discrimination risk for transgender individuals needing medical assistance for COVID-19 or for other reasons. Social distancing measures combined with the stigma that transgender people are "unclean" have deprived the community of their limited means of making a living.
This fundraiser has helped transgender people in Pakistan by providing them food support packages that have helped sustain them over the course of the pandemic. Moving forward, we would like to concurrently implement a community awareness campaign to educate transgender community members on COVID-19 prevention and response. We will conduct basic training on how to put together cost-effective masks, dispose of used masks and gloves, maintain physical distance, and keep themselves safe.
Many transgender individuals lost their source of revenue due to COVID-19. Pre-existing financial burdens and health ailments mean a significant amount of trans people live in a condition of multi-dimensional weakness and have to trade their wellbeing for more immediate needs. Most trans people reside in temporary homes in squeezed, unsafe situations with other trans people or alone in areas other than their familial homes.
With the grant money received, we have distributed food & grocery items to over 50 transgender people in different areas of Punjab, Pakistan. We identified the recipients through our community referral system, focusing on transgender people living in small towns and rural areas. One transgender person, who was a theater performer before COVID-19, said she had not eaten anything for three days since she lost her source of income. Another story we heard was from a trans woman giving shelter to 3 transgender kids. Having lost her sole source of income, she has run out of resources to provide food for the kids. She doesn't want these kids to resort to begging, as they are currently working on their formal and informal education. We were able to give this family three months of groceries.
There are still many transgender individuals to reach out to, especially transgender people with disabilities. We are looking for more funds and support from you. A single dollar means a lot with the current COVID-19 situation in the region.
We are a community-based group of transgender people working in the southern Punjab region of Pakistan. Transgender persons continue to experience discrimination at the hands of service providers and staff across social protection and health care settings and social security safety nets, leaving these individuals poorer and more vulnerable, especially in times of limited resources.
Many transgender people lost their main sources of income due to COVID-19 related closures. Paired with existing socio-economic marginalization and health conditions, the pandemic has created a situation in which more trans people live in a state of invisible multi-dimensional vulnerability and compromised health. Most trans individuals are either living in temporary residences with other transgender persons in cramped, unsafe conditions or are alone in disparate locations other than their childhood homes and neighborhoods.
We have provided relief packages and ran awareness campaigns regarding COVID-19 for a number of transgender people living in the region. Most trans-community members are semi- or poorly-educated, meaning there are often serious gaps in understanding the written information and precautionary guidelines in regard to the pandemic. In response, we created an in-person, community awareness mechanism to share information on COVID-19 prevention and response.
During our interactions with trans community members, we also performed a needs assessment, finding that many transgender people are unable to pay their rent and utility bills due to their loss of income. As such, with your donation, we plan to provide both food/nutrition packages and rent relief.
Social activists and 10 representatives of the local transgender community discussed issues linked to the implementation of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2018 during the COVID-19 crisis. The main focus of this session was to raise awareness on the Sehat (health) cards and COVID-19 prevention.
The meeting facilitator explained the Social Welfare Department’s process for issuing health cards to transgender people. The facilitators mentioned that health cards are only for those who are suffering from a major disease and are living below the poverty line. She made it clear that the issuance of health cards must be done through a proper assessment process. Once cleared by the Department, eligible individuals/families receive a single health card, which can be used by any member of the family.
The meeting facilitator also spoke about following the World Health Organization’s recommended COVID-19 prevention safety measures, including washing hands frequently, using antiseptics to clean household items, wearing masks in public places, avoiding meeting people with colds and coughs, observing physical distance, avoiding crowded places, and staying home as much as possible. Research in Pakistan has shown that transgender people are at a greater risk to contract COVID-19 due to health disparities and lack of resources.
At the end of the session, we provided COVID-19 prevention materials (soap, face masks, and hand sanitizer) to the transgender representatives who participated in the meeting/discussion. One participant stated that they “wish[ed] there could be a sustainable way for our support and empowerment.” The importance of of continuing to facilitate information sessions to support the transgender community in Pakistan cannot be overstated.
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