Transgender woman helps tribal communities during pandemic
In 2018, Rakshiga Raj went with her friend to visit a few tribal villages in Kancheepuram district. According to the 25-year-old, the families lived in run-down thatched huts, worked odd jobs to sustain themselves, and hadn’t had electricity for over 16 years.
Rakshiga distributing the donations she received from her friends and social circle; Rakshiga Raj
“If we have to go without electricity for even 30 minutes, we would be miserable,” said the nurse and social activist. “They had lived their entire lives without it. The children would often suffer from snake bites. If that was the condition in which they lived normally, I began to worry how they would be during the shutdown,” she said.
Therefore, the transgender woman began collecting donations in cash or kind from her friends and social circle in an attempt to help the tribal community. As of July 23, she raised Rs 20,000 and assisted nearly 200 tribal families in Chengalpettu and Kancheepuram districts.
“They don’t have savings. They worked jobs that would earn them enough money to sustain them for that day. Many don’t have Aadhar or Ration cards. When I went to their village, many told me that they had to starve for a few days during these months. One person told me that he was asked not to go to the city for fear of spreading the virus further. In addition to their struggle, they also had to face such discrimination,” said Rakshiga.
With the help of her father and mother, Rakshiga travelled to these remote villages in their car, taking on the travel expenses, as, according to the transgender women, the families in such villages did not have the access to resources and help as people who live closer to the city.
“I worked with them closely, and I lived in their homes. I saw how difficult their life was. As a transgender woman, all I want is for people to understand that at the end of the day, I am human, too, and to reach out a hand when I need help. So, I thought it best that I do the same to others,” she said.
Rakshiga added that helping people during such a crisis, especially when done safely and properly, can spread the message of supporting other communities during this crisis. “I request people to go out and help people rather than just donate money. The smile on a person’s face, when they receive food after starving for 10 days, is something that will motivate you for a long time after,” she said.