KOLKATA: The Class XI students of the Arts stream in Netaji Nagar Vidyamandir attended an impromptu workshop on Saturday afternoon where they were taught ways to make their school more accepting of transgenders. This was a prelude to an initiative by Sobhan Mukherjee to start the city’s first ever awareness programme in schools.
A 22-year-old MSc student, Mukherjee had hit headlines for setting up transgender public toilets and for his initiative involving installing sanitary napkin vending boxes at public toilets.
It was no surprise, thus, that he would start the fresh project with his alma mater, which, incidentally, was also the school of India’s first transgender judge Joyita Mondal. Headmaster Avijit Banerjee started the workshop with a message on the blackboard — Ok 2 b a TRANSGENDER. “Please don’t ridicule the community. They are normal people like you and me and have the right to education, employment and choice of lifestyle,” Banerjee told the class.
From September, each classroom of the government-sponsored school will go be part of the programme titled ‘Tri-bandhan’. The September 1 launch will be attended by Mondal, as well as Ranjita Sinha, member, West Bengal Transgender Board, apart from psychologists and school teachers.
“The programme is aimed at sensitizing children about people who do not conform to the labels of ‘he’ or ‘she’, and making them understand that they, too, have the right to live with dignity and quality,” said Mukherjee. He also intends to set up a library with books on transgenders and the legislations enacted for their rights and opportunities.
“I couldn’t have managed without the support of the headmaster, who has taught me and Joyita di (who was known as Jayanta in those days) and is sensitive to the plight of transgenders,” Mukherjee said.
“We must begin somewhere. I, too, didn’t understand these issues until I came across several students who would behave differently. I thought they were attention-seekers and would reprimand them, fearing they would be sexually exploited by their peers. Then I started reading books on psychology and became more aware,” Banerjee said.
Sinha lauded the effort. “This is a major initiative because a young individual is spearheading the much-needed movement in schools. I hope the event will inspire other schools as well.”
Mondal said, “This is a great beginning, but I wish the subject would be included in the curriculum. Bullying children belonging to the third gender bracket is very common and is like a form of mental torture.”
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