Protecting a Transgender Community in India from COVID-19

Posted on May 24, 2021 by Lutheran Disaster Response


Tara loves dancing and, from childhood, always wanted to dance in front of an audience. Now 30 years old, she often performs at festivals and cultural functions, her performances described as “heart-touching.” Tara even performed at the Bali Jatra festival, a popular trade fair and market in Cuttack, India, where she lives.

Tara has been living away from her family for years because she is a transgender woman and faces discrimination from her family and the members of their community. When she came out as transgender at age 8, her father refused to support her and her brother would abuse her in public. Tara felt unsafe in her home, despite the love and acceptance she received from her mother. Eventually, Tara left her family and found a sense of belonging in a transgender community in Cuttack, where she felt safe to be her authentic self and pursue her dancing.

Women in Tara’s community receiving food and hygiene packages from LWSIT.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tara sometimes struggled to obtain enough food. When India went under lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, getting food and other necessities became even more challenging because some shops closed. There were no more festivals or performances where Tara could dance and earn an income. During this time, nonprofit organizations reached out to vulnerable communities and supplied them with food and cash support, but the health care needs of Tara and her neighbors were overlooked.

When Lutheran World Service India Trust (LWSIT) received a COVID-19 response grant from Lutheran Disaster Response, it prioritized supporting marginalized populations such as the transgender community in Cuttack. The organization
distributed hygiene kits to Tara and her neighbors, which included bath soap, antiseptic liquid soap and face masks.
She and her neighbors are grateful to all the organizations that met their basic needs, but commended LWSIT for being the only organization to offer health and hygiene support.

“We are thankful to LWSIT during this situation,” said Tara. “LWSIT staff are helping through hygiene kit relief distribution to keep our health and hygiene safe from the effects of coronavirus.” She now feels safer and more prepared to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in her community.

Since the pandemic began, LWSIT has supported the communities most vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition to Tara and the transgender community, LWSIT accompanies migrant workers and women-headed households and operates an urban homeless shelter. It distributes hygiene kits and food packages and provides livelihood training and food-for-work opportunities to those who have lost their unemployment due to the pandemic.

LWSIT is just one of many organizations and companion churches around the world that provide holistic support to vulnerable communities during this crisis. By responding to a wide range of disasters, including COVID-19, Lutheran Disaster Response follows Christ’s call to share hope and healing.