Overcoming Invisibility: Promoting Menstrual Health Equity for Jaipur's Transgender Men

A transgender woman stands in front of a panel of speakers addressing the audience.

Pushpa, transgender activist, advocates for SGM inclusion in WASH during a World Toilet Day event in 2023 (CFAR Archives)

 

Menstrual health management (MHM) remains a global challenge, but for transgender men, the fight for access and dignity takes on a whole new level of complexity. Often overlooked and facing significant marginalisation, their needs regarding menstruation have historically gone unheard. However, a collaborative effort in Jaipur, India, is working to change the narrative. Water for Women partner, the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR)  is tackling the invisible struggles faced by the city's transgender community in managing menstruation.

 

"The challenge before menstruating trans men is very complex because people hardly thought of us." 

- Yash, Transgender Activist

 

Yash, a transgender man in Jaipur, exemplifies the challenges faced by his community. "The challenge before menstruating trans men is very complex because people hardly thought of us," he reflects. CFAR's approach centred on creating a platform for voices like Yash's to be heard. Through the establishment of a Multistakeholder Forum, leading SGM rights organisations such as the State Rainbow Society and Nai Bhor Sanstha were empowered to express their specific water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs, including for MHM.

 

Transgender woman activist speaks to a group of government workers
Transgender activist Pushpa, addresses the Women's Empowerment Department in Jaipur, urging officials to include SGM minorities in menstrual health initiatives (Photo: CFAR Archives)

The Forum's advocacy efforts have yielded significant results. Collaborating with government departments, they successfully pushed for initiatives that directly benefit transgender men. These include expanded access to free sanitary napkins and a focus on constructing gender-inclusive toilets – crucial infrastructure often lacking in underserved communities.

 

Beyond crucial access to MHM supplies, the collaboration has also empowered both transgender men and people living with disabilities to advocate for their specific WASH and MHM needs. The expansion of inclusive WASH facilities and pad banks has provided Forum members with a platform to champion the construction of gender-inclusive toilets, ensuring their voices are heard and needs included when it comes to shaping their environment.

 

"Now the situation has changed... we have a say in the matter.”

- Yash, Transgender Activist

 

Reflecting on the progress made, Yash notes, "Now the situation has changed...we have a say in the matter." CFAR's commitment to sustained, inclusive involvement of SGM groups in WASH and MHM programs ensures that the SGM communities where they work are no longer invisible. They are included and active participants in shaping policies and programs that impact their lives.

 

May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). This year's theme, "No One Left Behind: Equality, Freedom, and Justice for All," emphasises the urgent need for inclusion.

For sexual and gender minority (SGM) communities, access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services remains a significant challenge. This marginalisation extends to climate change preparedness, where SGM individuals face heightened vulnerability due to discrimination and lack of resources.

Water for Women stands firmly with SGM communities this IDAHOBIT and beyond. We recognise the importance of SGM voices in shaping solutions. Consulting with SGM rights holder organisations (RHOs) is critical; this ensures rights-based approaches, where solutions are created with SGM communities, not for them. This strengthens the "Do No Harm" principle by prioritising SGM safety and dignity.

WASH organisations must work with sensitivity and competency. SGM RHOs play a vital role in building this understanding and ensuring WASH services are truly inclusive. Development actors must also do their part. Enhancing their understanding of SGM identities within specific contexts is crucial, and partnering with local SGM organisations is key to achieving this.

Together, let's advocate for a future where everyone can access safe WASH services and build resilience to climate change. Let's commit to leave no one behind - to ensure equality, freedom and justice for all.

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