We believe in taking an intersectional approach towards LABOUR issues, i.e. address problems of caste, class, mental health and disability in addition to gender and sexuality. In West Bengal, while the community at large faces discrimination, we feel only a section of them receive access and support. BDS wants to work specifically with the neglected population of the community, who are actually majority members. Our programs are based on urgent community needs so that we can empower the community from the base. As discussed in the previous section, we are working on different levels to work towards more sensitive social avenues. Making work, skills and material required for knowing ones rights and political discourse is our primary objective. We believe that when the community has more access, ability and knowledge it will be able to form a larger united front to tackle the hetero-patriarchy; and right wing led extremist groups that are trying to create divisions with hate speech. The feedback we have received from the community is an extremely positive one, they have said that the work we are doing is extremely relevant to them; having not known their basic rights and points of objection to injustices carried out against them by institutional bodies. In terms of the work we’re doing, we do face obstacles in non-community outreach programs because of institutional authorities objecting to our work, but we are hoping that with more sustained ministry advocacy we will be able to negotiate and break these barriers. Of course there is a lot of hate among the levels we are working with, but we would like to successfully subdue these voices by carrying out our work in a sustained manner.
.Intersectionality: Samabhabona’s priority is working with intersectionality and addressing the various kinds of oppressions that members within the community face. This includes Queer people who suffer from caste, class, gender, race oppression. We prioritize working for these issues and feel that as the board of Samabhabona, they will be able to get a platform and access to a larger section of the queer/trans community. Within the LGBT community in Bengal, we are the first organization to address the need for intersectional politics and sensitization towards these issues.
Strong Alliances with other Rights Based Movements: We think that there is a need to align LGBT movement with other movements which faces any kind of discrimination; and with other rights based groups who understand LGBTIQ (especially trans and queer) politics. We try to lend support to workers movement, feminist groups, Adivasi and Dalit movements.
Working with and supporting trans persons who face systematic oppression: Trans persons face various problems in Indian society due to social placing, caste, class and religious practices and ideologies that are inherently sexist and hateful. There is constant violence associated with their daily lives, due to the stigma in society. Most of them who have to leave their houses find themselves homeless with very little finances. It is our aim to give support to and work with these persons and provide them any form of immediate help possible. For this we are working towards setting up a LGBTQ shelter
Starting and sustaining a dialogue about trans feminism: Feminist organizations in Bengal are essentially working with cis women, the involvement in trans issues does not extend beyond solidarity and sometimes even that is absent. Several organizations turn away trans women in need of support. Samabhabona wants to start an ongoing, inclusive dialogue where people start talking about the politics of trans* feminism and what it entails within our immediate context. We feel that it is necessary to create an inclusive environment that is supportive and works towards helping in each other’s struggles.
Self-sustainable income generating program: We want to ensure that the people of the community who we work with are can become independent and have a working environment that is not hateful and discriminatory. It is rare for trans people to find work in mainstream offices, even when they do find work, there is rampant sexual harassment and abuse in these spaces. We think that if members of the community work for themselves and create their own working platforms, then the discrimination is reduced and a network of employment is created in the process. This work is going to be a long-term process and requires funding that we do not yet have. Please consider our objectives and ensure an efficient work within our system so that we can continue work.
Working with community mental health: The Trans community faces trauma on a regular basis; there is rampant mental, physical and sexual violence. Even a walk down the street results in intrusive, interrogative and hateful stares. Those who have the access to workspaces face discrimination; those who don’t are exploited and live in dire poverty. Trans youth face bullying in schools and colleges. While there are LGBTQ friendly professionals working independently, and with organisations with individuals; we feel that there is no actual conversation. This silence perpetuates social stigmas built around individuals with mental health and many face discrimination within the community as well. We want to re-imagine this conversation outside formal spaces which are limited by a classroom atmosphere. We want sessions that will be interactive and actively engage with the community at a basic level; working through art, stories and music, while also having professional help and consultations paired with them. We feel that a community that often finds it difficult to express itself, will find a space of healing and self-awareness; especially when sustained counseling and therapy become inaccessible to many members of the community.
Lending Support to Trans Sex Workers: While there are very strong organisations working for the sex worker community, trans sex workers are often neglected and/or not considered within this spectrum. Cis women led sex workers have consolidated themselves based on their commonality but the trans community’s oppression has been overlooked for years within activism. Samabhabona would like to lend support to these sex workers and help them form a unified alliance to work towards better laws and rights.
Legal Awareness Programs: We conduct community based workshops with lawyers about the Acts and Bills such as NALSA and TG Bill, 2016; that deal with the Transgender lives. Many community members do not have access to this material since their copies exist mostly on the internet. Apart from this, not all of them can read English, or read at all. In our workshops, the lawyers explain the material and interactive sessions are carried out addressing individual problems of the community regarding property, family violence etc. We also organise consultations with smaller groups where the lawyers can deal with their cases and provide advice, and eventually legal help when necessary. Apart from this we are working towards translating the Bills to Bangla (the regional language) and recording oral versions in Bangla for those who cannot read.
Access to academic material in their native language: Apart from translating laws and bills, we are also working towards arranging for translation of works that deal with LGBTQ histories and lives. Have Bangla subtitles for International LGBTQ films, or even have them dubbed for those not being able to read. Go back to traditions of orality so that they can be distributed to the community workers on the street, etc.
Skills based training for Community members: Lot of community members have difficulty finding work because they cannot speak in English or they lack computer skills etc. We are trying to conduct training sessions on a regular basis with community members so that they are not exploited into working extremely laborious jobs such as cleaning that have little remuneration. Often when they work these jobs, they are ill-treated by employers since there’s a very marked hierarchy which is unjustly associated with such work on social levels.
District Level Alliances and workshops to do the same: BDS has access to the districts of Coochbehar, Murshidabad, Baruipur, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas, and Jalpaiguri. We will carry out the mentioned programs in these spaces as well and work with them in order to better identify the needs of the community in non-urban/suburban spaces. We are also trying to work in the district of Dirghum which doesn’t have any LGBTQ organisation at the moment.
Non Community Outreach
BDS has also worked with several colleges and is approaching schools, Neighborhood, families, police stations and ministry level advocacy