What does the term transgender mean?” asked Hemangi Mahajan, the club coordinator of RAC Godavari, RI District 3030, while addressing Rotaractors from three colleges as part of a programme to create awareness on the fundamental rights of the third gender at Godavari Foundation College of Engineering, Jalgaon. This programme was also a part of the club’s marathon Drafting Dreams – 73 Programmes of Change, in seven days to mark the 73rd Independence Day of India.
“To be identified as a woman or man in a society obsessed with traditional gender roles is a privilege. For anyone outside the binary system it is not just difficult but sometimes impossible even to go about doing a decent job or for that matter simply being respected,” she says, adding that “this is why its important to address the youth about the need to understand the spectrum of gender and sexuality.”
Prior to the event, the Rotaractors met with members from the transgender community and learnt about their living conditions. “Education, jobs, and most importantly, respect, is all they need. We are talking to you, so you understand and talk about it to your families and friends,” Hemangi adds.
Sushil Patel, a Rotaractor who participated in the programme says, “Talking about it is a progressive step. It is shocking to many and some find it commendable that as Rotaractors we are taking up subjects that need to be addressed. But regardless of their reaction, this is the first step towards making these youngsters feel comfortable around us in schools, colleges, or in a train.”
The other projects the club took up include a range of programmes for women and children in rural parts of Jalgaon. One of the programmes that was “very challenging” was when their club decided to “run a rural school for a day.” They chose subjects like awareness on child abuse, basic self defence, manners and etiquette, and talking about our national heroes.
Rotaractors also invited the women to participate in a jewellery designing programme. The Rotaractors who conducted this programme used wool, macaroni shells and other readily available items. “I enjoyed the session and have learnt to make necklaces and bracelets. I hope to make a few more of them and sell them to college students and make some money,” says Shilpa Chaudhari, a participant.
Other notable programmes were Vote for better India — a skit on voting rights, menstrual health and hygiene, a nature safari and a cleanliness drive. DRR Shantanu Anil Agarwal says, “It is amazing to see that the club has successfully completed such meaningful projects in just seven days. Congratulations to the team!”