A Day to Remember

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On my recent visit to Alliance India, two of my colleagues, Abhina and Mona, kindly took time out of their busy schedules to introduce me to two community-based organizations (CBOs) – Delhi Network of People Living with HIV (DNP+), which is implementing a Care and Support Centre under the Global Fund-supported Vihaan programme, and Basera, which is working on transgender rights under the Wajood programme funded by Amplify Change. As a fundraiser, I am always thrilled to have the opportunity to see directly the impact of the work our donors support.

The two visits could not have been more different, apart from the unparalleled Indian hospitality of both groups and the emphasis on care and support for vulnerable communities.

At the CSC in the Rohini section of North West Delhi, we chatted with Gina, Project Coordinator for DNP+, who spoke about the chaotic beginnings and a transition from purely treatment-based services to the broader care and support mandate that we see today. Gina spoke about the partnership with government and the pressure they are now able to exert as respected advocates for the rights of their clients. They now have monthly meetings with coordinators at the ART centres to discuss various issues on care and support services. Mona and Gina did not shy away from talking about the challenges they still face particularly with regards to stigma and discrimination in both the healthcare system and the community.

A number of clients had gathered at the CSC, and we all sat down for a conversation about the centre and its services. Many clients came forward with their personal stories. They were empowered to speak about their situations thanks to the support they receive from CSC staff. The question I asked to the group was, ‘What service or aspect of the CSC do you most value?’ Resoundingly the group spoke of staff as being an extension of their family, a safe space to talk and access services to help support their adherence to their treatment regimens. They used words and phrases like ‘family’, ‘friendly’, ‘look after’ – words that can be synonymous with the essence of what care and support should be about.

And now to Basera – a visit full of dancing, singing, laughing, chatting and above all else, respect. It was warm reception for us as visitors, as it felt less intrusive and more casual. Issues such as sexual violence towards transgender sex workers from clients and acceptance of identity among family members were discussed, though fundamentally the conversation was about empowerment, respect and dignity. While talking about Basera’s work, Abhina explained that Alliance India’s earlier Pehchan programme had dedicatedly supported efforts to sensitise the local community and organise community members into CBOs.

In talking to different members of the transgender community present, I began to understand that Basera has some powerful and aspiring advocates. One anecdote that was imprinted in my mind was about the landlord of the premises in which Basera is situated; initially the landlord was reluctant to rent the room to a transgender group but with constant sensitisation from the group, today he serves on the board of Basera and advocates for transgender rights. While talking to the group, I understood the need for further skill building and livelihood development for transgender and hijras, two components that will be addressed by Basera through Alliance India’s new Wajood programme.

We were waved goodbye with smiles from some truly remarkable people. Love, care and support were my takeaway messages from the whole day. It will be my personal mantra for some time, and I urge you to consider it as your own too.

This author of this blog is Amy Lishman, Support Officer: New Markets and Products for International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

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