'Awareness via ads can keep conversations about transgender community alive during COVID'
IMPACT Creative Talks: On the panel for the first edition of the weekly webinar series were Amit Sharma, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Azazul Haque, Garima Arora, and Ajay Vikram
In the inaugural episode of the weekly webinar series, IMPACT Creative Talks, an esteemed panel shared their insights on whether the ad world's efforts could help the transgender community stand up and be counted for COVID-19 relief.
On the panel for the webinar were Amit Sharma, Co-founder, Chrome Pictures; Producer & Director of films like ‘Badhaai Ho’, Founder, Phool Versha Foundation; Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Shri Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Transgender Rights Activist and Founder, Kineer Services Pvt. Ltd; Azazul Haque, Chief Creative Officer, Mullen Lintas; Garima Arora, Founder, Entourage Films & Co-founder, NamMyoho Daan; and Ajay Vikram, Chief Creative Officer for Global Clients, Publicis Singapore. The session was moderated by Neeta Nair, Assistant Editor, IMPACT.
Starting off the virtual discussion, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi addressed the challenges faced by the transgender community today. “Post lockdown, the transgender community has been facing a very big issue. In 2014, we got accepted as Indians ‘on paper’ by the Supreme Court of India but no workplace policies have been put in place. There is a transgender act and transgender policy in the country, which came during the lockdown but technically speaking, people of the community don’t have a 9 to 5 job and there is no way they are given jobs with dignity. So the only way to earn remains - begging, sex work or the blessings. These are the three ways people of the community have survived. The community doesn’t have big savings and most of them live on rent. So housing and food has been an issue because the savings have got exhausted. During this pandemic, people will not die of COVID-19 but of hunger.”
Elaborating further on the issues, Tripathi said: “Today, the entire human race has to think again that how we value humans. In a country like India, the value of human life is zero and that’s why people die. The migrants, the trans-community, sex workers, HIV patients - these issues are still a boiling point where we cannot reach yet. I’m grateful that organisations came together and even the government gave Rs 1,500 to whoever fills a form and has a bank account but every transgender person doesn’t have a bank account or documents.”
Sharma who recently made a heart-wrenching film on how the transgender community has been ignored by one and all during the pandemic shared the objective behind the film and how he and his team executed the idea. “This actually started when my partner Aliya told me that what do you think about transgenders, what are we doing from Phool Varsha and NamMyoho Daan and are you guys doing anything for the transgender society. So the idea to do something for the transgender community started from there. Coincidently, Ness Wadia and Garima from NamMyoho Daan said the same thing. It just happened that we clicked and we said let’s do something for the transgender community because nobody was talking about them. We are talking about migrants, daily wage labourers but not about transgenders. There were no reports about transgenders so we got in touch with Kinnar Society and got to know about Laxmi Tripathi. We started working in terms of supplying food kits for them in Mumbai following all rules and guidelines. After doing about 10-15 days of relief work, we thought that let people know about it. Let people know that nothing is happening for the transgenders.”
Sharing the idea behind the film ‘Hamari Bhi Karlo Insaano Mein Ginti’, Sharma said: “When this idea came, I called Azazul and he wrote that poem, which really did well for the film and more than visuals people got affected by what we were saying and that was the bigger idea. We couldn’t go out and shoot for the film, so we started looking out for footages, which were edited and used. We got this footage from a film called Nirvana Now. And people started sending out messages on social media. We’ve been talking about doctors, nurses, policemen and daily wage earners but no one talked about transgenders.”
Urging the government to step in and help the community, Sharma said, “My question is till when can we provide food? We are getting donations now but once that stops how will we manage? The government is giving them ration kits but 60% of them do not have a bank account because they don’t have a ration card and no identification.”
While explaining how the advertising industry can support the transgender community against discrimination and help them get recognised, Haque said, “It’s very sad to know that nobody is recognising their sufferings and what hit me was the fact that they are not even counted for. Then came this whole idea and we put that piece together. I think this is just the beginning that all of us, the society, advertisers, people who are influential voices in our industries as well as the government. They have to look at the transgender community - what to do for them, how to include them in the society. How do we ensure that basic necessities reach them. I think education and information have to happen and advertising can play a role because that’s what we do - we inform and we educate. I feel it’s a good, big task along with many more things that we do. Advertising is a very important tool, we can reach out to people and a lot of brands can come in along with many more subjects we touch upon, which are to do with society. This section of people, I feel is important now because the conversation has started and people have got to know about it. Thankfully, we are talking about it in this webinar and people from across have joined. Right now, we are five and we have to become ten-twenty so that the conversation goes further.”
Vikram who created the popular ‘Vicks - Touch of Care’ campaign that touched topics like adoption and the transgender community, spoke about changing the perception through advertising. “Changing perception is obviously the beginning and it’s very critical. What really matters is what we do on ground and what actual action can we inspire among people but I do think both are necessary. It’s also probably not right to say - it’s just awareness or making an invisible issue visible is not enough. We have to always make it part of the movement on ground. It starts with awareness and then I think people have to feel it is the place where they can make a difference as human beings.”
Lastly, Arora asked brands to not just donate food but also provide employment to the transgender community that has been ignored since ages. “The awareness is so limited when it comes to the transgender community. ‘Better late than never’ is what people have started talking about. It’s just that I don’t know why they are seen in a different light. Hunger is the same for a migrant worker as well as a transgender. It’s not that one person is less hungry and the other is more. Hunger is the same for everyone. So I really hope the change begins. Brands should be open and not just about donating food but be open to give them employment. There is nothing wrong in that, they are just human beings at the end of the day. So the change has to be on a way bigger level but as we say let’s take small steps. Brands should now open up and tie up with everybody and help them out in every way because I feel hunger is the same for everyone.”
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