1st to 30th September 2020 | 6th Edition
Since last seven months of Covid-19 situation, the world almost has come to standstill due to Covid-19 situation. Though many countries are adopting non-therapeutic preventive measures that includes country lockdown, travel bans and social distancing but these restrictions severely impacted on economic growth. Bangladesh Government has confirmed the first COVID-19 case in its territory on March 8th 2020 and in response to the outbreak of the virus, Bangladesh admittedly reduced international flights, set up thermal scanner checks, immediate shutdown of all educational institutions as safety measures. Later, compulsory lockdown was declared and strictly monitored involving Law Enforcement Agencies by setting police check posts at prime locations. We must acknowledge the efforts towards prevention but inadequate food supply for the slum dwellers compelled them to come out on the streets.
Traditionally, Hijra and Transgender community members made their living by blessing newlyweds, newborns, or collecting money from markets. The history of the hijra is a broad, diverse and also a sad one. Though some hijra persons have managed to get employment in different sectors with the support of Bandhu Social Welfare Society, but the majority did not find any suitable jobs or work due to the non-acceptance attitude by the society, that compelled them to live with high risk behavior. Severe stigmatization and discrimination are other major challenges in every aspects of their life. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 situation and ongoing crisis made their life more miserable. Currently, they are struggling to manage their daily needs including food, house rent, medicine, and medical test for COVID. In order to assess the real scenario of the gender diverse communities during this challenging situation, Bandhu has already conducted survey through survey monkey amongst the community and took significant steps since March 2020 to support the community across the country. Besides, Bandhu’s service model to response COVID has been acknowledged as Best Practice in South Asia by the APCOM, Bangkok.
Updates of September 2020:
- Distribution of relief: 1133 individuals
- Relief ensured through Networking and Communication: 500 individuals
- Mental Health Helpline Counseling: 279 persons
- Awareness Program: 95,000 listeners
- Safety and Security Services: 2700 equipment distributed
- Fund Raising Program: Received grant from Kaagapay, Mama Cash
- Doctor’s help line: 65
- Documentation and monitoring: Acknowledged by APCOM as Best Practice of Bandhu in South Asia
Distribution of Relief: The Transgender and Hijra community has always been stigmatized and the current pandemic situation has interrupted their day-to-days earning thus putting their life into misery. Considering this humanitarian situation, BANDHU has already taken initiatives to provide food support and so far, a total of 5844 community participants received relief package from BANDHU since March 2020.
In September, Bandhu distributed both cash and relief with the funding support of UNHCR, MJF and ICCO Corporation and Kerk in actie. A total of 253 community people received 4583 taka as cash support (per person) through individual NAGAD account under UNHCR, 400 community people received 2500 taka as 1st installment of cash support (per person) through individual bKash under MJF and 480 people received relief across the country under ICCO Corporation and Kerk in actie.
Networking and Communication for enabling support from Government, other Agencies and Individuals:
Over the years, BANDHU has developed a good rapport with local administration including Deputy Commissioner’s office, Civil Surgeon’s office, Local Elected Agencies in different districts. We have also formed different pools to work as catalysts for the community at local level, i.e. media forum members, lawyers, Human Rights activists. However, to enable access to relief materials without facing any stigma and discrimination from the local administration, BANDHU engaged different pools and Community Based Organizations (CBO) at local level during COVID-19 situation.
In September 2020, 500 community people received relief support. So far, a total of 8655 community people received relief from external sources (data source: BANDHU database, March to September 2020).
Mental Health Helpline Counseling:
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being which affects how we think, feel, and act. Mental health is important at every stage of life from childhood to adulthood. Considering the rate of suicidal tendency among the gender diverse community is higher compare to others due to social exclusion, stigmatization, discrimination, family and social exclusion, identity crisis, Gender Based Violence by members of the family, etc. (ref: BANDHU data source).
Realizing its importance, BANDHU introduced both online and offline mental health counselling services based on the needs and demands of the community. During COVID-19, we extended the services and introduced exclusive Help Line number (Porichoy: 01714 048418) where community people receive mental health support with full confidentiality throughout the lock down situation.
In September 279 calls were received and provided need-based services accordingly by the counsellors.
Raising awareness among the Gender Diverse community is a regular activity of BANDHU. Regular awareness related radio message is being broadcasted through the Public Service Announcement (PSA) community with the support of RGDP project. Besides, this regular activity, BANDHU has formed Digital Platform named Bandhu COVID-19 Platform to share recent updates on COVID-19 in social media. In addition, we have created WhatsApp group amongst all 36 CBOs where regular awareness session is conducting through professional doctor.
In September 2020, a total of 12 information was shared in Digital Platform and total viewers were 476. In addition, 6 awareness sessions were conducted for CBO members and 62 One-to One sessions were conducted with Rohingya community where a total of 182 community participants including Rohingya generated knowledge on COVID 19. Through PSA, total 95,000 listeners reached out via Public Service Announcement (PSA) in September 2020 under RGDP project, USAID.
Bandhu produced 3 IEC materials focusing COVID-19 precaution under USAID, RGDP project and ICCO Cooperation and distributed among the community members including Rohingya community at Teknaf in September, 2020.
In addition, Bandhu organized Talent Hunt Competition for the Host and Rohingya community along with other community members across the country focusing countrywide lockdown situation. The major objective of the event was to create awareness amongst community about “Stay Home, Stay Safe” utilizing the spare time of COVID lockdown thus ultimately helped themselves to explore their in-built skills and talents appropriately. To assess the talents, Bandhu formed a jury board consisting 3 members who reviewed all 45 clips. From these, only 10 were selected for award and received award accordingly.
Safety and Security services:
The increase of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and harassments against TG and Hijra community is threatening now a days! There is no specific study of GBV on TG community but Bandhu data shows that the GBV is increasing amongst Transgender community day by day. Considering the importance, BANDHU keeps record of GBV monthly basis and in September 2020, we documented 17 GBV records. Ain Alap-a legal help line of BANDHU is providing all kinds of information to the community and ensuring need-based emergency support relating to their safety and security.
In September, Ain Alap also received 87 calls and 56 community clients received legal services, 4 written cases were documented. Besides, 2700 community members received Personal Protection Equipment from Bandhu under Rights for Gender Diverse Population (RGDP), USAID, CFLI, ICCO Cooperation and Mama Cash.
Fund Raising Program:
During the reporting period, Bandhu received fund from Kaagapay, Mama Cash to support the LBI community victims throughout COVID period.
To ensure prompt health care support of the community, BANDHU introduced a dedicated helpline for Doctor’s advice in May 2020 under RGDP project and community people are very much happy to receive this service through dedicated help line. Bandhu also arranged online Doctor’s-consultation through Zoom to support the CBOs located different part of the country and sharing their day to day health problem for advices on treatment, health and nutritional, prevention and precaution, COVID-19 testing facilities.
In September 2020, a total of 65 calls received by doctor from across the country where 14 calls were follow-up. The total suspected COVID-19 treatment was 25, referred for COVID-19 test: 25, COVID-19 positive: 06, provided general treatment: 40, prescribed treatment: 36 and 1 community member died.
Documentation and Monitoring
BANDHU preserved all kinds of reports, pictures, news link, expenditure related information for audit purpose. Besides, BANDHU has created a photo gallery where all COVID-19 related pictures and other documents are uploaded periodically. In addition, Bandhu’s COVID initiatives were declared as Best Practice by the APCOM, Bangkok (Link: www.apcom.org/bandhus-service-models-recognized-as-the-best-practice/).
- Single time relief is not adequate for a community person while the COVID-19 situation continues. Many hijra are currently jobless and struggling hard to survive with their ‘Chela’. Though the ‘Badhai’ hijra has started their traditional occupation and collecting money from markets but the other hijra who are not involved with ‘Badhai’ are still struggling and involving themselves in risky behavior. Though Bandhu arranged financial support for their medicine under ICCO Corporation but this support is closed since mid-September 2020 which may discourage community people to continue their treatment with proper advices of Doctor.
- Maintaining social distance and proper protection measures are really challenging for the community as most of them living in a small room with limited facilities and no other space to maintain home quarantine for suspected COVID-19.
- The existence of stigma and gender-based violence especially domestic violence is increasing gradually and become more visible when they stay at home with their family members and go out to receive relief from the local administration.
- People are now reluctant to do COVID test as the ratio of false negative case is increasing now a days; thus, make them discourage to get test though they are suspected with all signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
- The setup of COVID-19 testing booth are not easily accessible for this group, as a result they may not feel interest to go the booth despite doctor’s recommendations/suggestion.