Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Pehchan’s potential: Simran’s story


Simran Shaikh, a Programme Officer for the Pehchan project © the Alliance

Tackling trauma and violence, mental health, and positive living are three of the areas that 900 MSM (men who have sex with men), hijra and transgender people are being trained in as part of Alliance India’s Pehchan programme, which expects to reach 450,000 people over five years with prevention services.

The project is funded by a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the largest ever to support a programme developed and managed by MSM and transgender community organisations in a single country.

The 900 trainees will use their new skills to strengthen their community-based organisations reaching people across 17 of India’s 35 states.

As an Alliance India staff member, Simran Shaikh, has been involved in planning the project from the start, including building partnerships with both government and community stakeholders. She is excited about the project’s potential:

“I think the Pehchan project will have a massive impact, especially for the hijra community. We will be reaching around 15% of the hijra population through community-based organisations.”

Simran’s story

Simran has been an effective representative of the hijra community and a powerful advocate for their rights.

At the age of 14, outcast by her family, Simran left home with no more than 16 rupees in her pocket. After three nights without shelter or food, Simran was taken in by Rani (named changed), a traditional hijra, who supported her to discover her identity and helped her to find work.

By night Simran worked as a dancer to pay the bills; by day she put herself through school.

After graduating Simran worked voluntarily, and then professionally, for a series of NGOs that promoted the rights of sexual minorities and raised awareness about HIV.

Greatest challenges

For Simran her greatest challenge is the stigma and discrimination she faces every day. “It is the way people stare, move away or make lewd gestures that hurt the most”, Simran explains.

The prejudice faced by Simran and her community is what drives her to change things. The first trainees will be putting their new skills into practice from September 2011.

Read Simran’s story in full at the Alliance impact site here.

    The prejudice faced by Simran and her community is what drives her to change things.