She still goes to school, but in her free time she does a lot of good.
Sia Sehgal from near Mumbai recently took on the lead of a regional vaccination campaign for the Indian transgender community. The student is 16 years old.
To do this, she works with the Maharashtra District AIDS Control Society (MDACS), a local HIV / AIDS organization.
The 16-year-old collected 200,000 rupees (around 2300 euros) in a crowdfunding campaign in just two weeks. With the sum, 120 trans people got their first dose of the Covidshield vaccine – free of charge. The vaccine is the locally made version of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
“People stared at me and laughed at me”
Although transgender people in India enjoy some government protection, they are still exposed to severe social stigma and violence. Varshabhai Dhokalia, a trans woman who was vaccinated in June, told the Hindustan Times that she was harassed while waiting in line for her first vaccination.
“We are constantly being ridiculed,” she says. “As I stood in line for the vaccination, people stared at me and laughed at me. Someone even remarked that the vaccination was only for men and women. “
This type of discrimination, Dhokalia said, is also the reason why many trans people are still reluctant to get vaccinated.
The first round of vaccinations organized by Sia took place on July 24th, and there were also snack boxes and a small care package, as reported by the India Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Network. The 16-year-old is planning another vaccination campaign for the second dose for next Saturday.
Trans people in India are still being marginalized. The pandemic has made their situation even worse, especially in health matters.
The pupil also became aware of this problematic situation. The 16-year-old goes to a private school in Tardeo, just outside of Mumbai. The difficult life situations of trans people left her no peace, she wanted to help.
She had previously arranged to meet the chairmen of trans organizations via Zoom Call, spoke to them about the lack of vaccinations and how best to reach people.
Many transgender people belong to a risk group
“I had long conversations with them and found that some of them were also afraid to get vaccinated because they have no ID cards or cards that do not correspond to their actual gender. They are afraid of being turned away from the medical centers like this, ”Sehgal told the Times of India.
The stigma discourages many trans people from getting vaccinated. In view of the fact that many transgender people belong to a risk group, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they are fully vaccinated, says the 16-year-old.
“Their fear stems from widespread misinformation about vaccines. Some fear that the vaccine could have negative effects on people undergoing HRT or on HIV-infected and immunocompromised trans people, ”explains the student.
As a 16-year-old, Sia is not yet entitled to the vaccine, according to the Times of India. Currently, only people aged 18 and over can be vaccinated in India, mainly due to the limited supply of vaccine doses. You have to register online beforehand – many fail because of that.
Sia’s commitment is not the first of its kind: In May, the city of Guwahati in the northern state of Assam carried out a vaccination campaign especially for transgender people. West Bengal followed suit shortly afterwards and extended the right to vaccination to people who are “forced to move around in public”, such as transgender people. They often have no other source of income than begging; many are also sex workers or taxi drivers.