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Redesigning lives

A group of transgenders find an alternative career in jewellery designing

On a hot afternoon,at the headquarters of The Naz Foundation at A-86,East of Kailash,sits 23-year-old Sana with three other members of her community. When we enter,the four are all busy fastening beads of different colours on to a string. “Meet Prince,Bobby,Kiran and Sana,” a volunteer from the foundation introduces us. Prince,Bobby,Kiran and Sana are Kinnars,members of the transgender community,who face challenges every day as they struggle to live in our society.

“My name is Sana,” she says. “I am a transgender.” It’s only been two weeks since Sana,who lived in Rampur,Uttar Pradesh,ran away from home. Her story is quite different from others in her community. With a degree in psychology,Sana has memories of a very normal childhood,until recently. Things got ugly when she fell out with her brother. She knew it was time to leave home and she came to Delhi,to The Naz Foundation.

“This is my family now,” she says,pointing at her friends around her. The Naz Foundation (India) Trust is a Delhi-based NGO working on issues related to HIV and AIDS since 1994. Their first Targeted Intervention programme,the Milan Project,looks to support the populations of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender community.

Prince,Bobby and Kiran joined the foundation a couple of years ago,and they got a new lease of life. “Sex work is risky business,” says Kiran,in a matter-of-fact tone. “Moreover,it’s illegal. Naz has helped me seek an alternative career.” Kiran has been an outreach worker with the foundation for the past two years. This basically means distributing information,condoms and other items that MSM and TGs may not have access to,or cannot afford.

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A few months ago,an unexpected alternative career option fell right into the laps of these transgenders. A few youngsters approached them,offering to teach them how to design jewellery as well as retail it for them. They were from SIFE (an organisation that mobilises university students to make a difference to their communities). In their bid to empower the ‘queer’,these students of Ramjas College,in collaboration with The Naz Foundation,decided to launch ‘Transcreations’,a line of jewellery to be designed exclusively by the transgender community,after they receive specialised training in it. “Initially,the response was great. At least 25-30 agreed,but things took time to start off and by the end of it,we had only four who remained interested,” says Dhruv Munjal of SIFE. Undaunted,they still carried on and hired a Delhi based-jewellery designer,Navodita Sharma,to teach them.

Today,six months later,they are pros at the job,and the training sessions have long ceased.

“We are provided with the raw material and this is something we can do from home,” says Kiran,who is keen to teach this art to others from the community. Earrings,necklaces,bracelets and anklets,all under the label ‘Transcreations’,are being sold at Archies Gallery as well as through a site, “This was such an amazing experience for us… the fact that we got to learn and do something creative,” says Prince,whose hobbies include painting and singing. But of late,the new hobby,designing jewellery,seems to top the list. “It’s a sign that we are moving towards a good life.”

First published on: 22-07-2012 at 01:59:14 am
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