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Leaving No One Behind

The Challenging Journey From Satya To Sadhana Of 35-year-old Transgender Activist From Odisha

When Satya, born as a male, asked his mother, ‘Why do people call me Hijra?’, his mother replied, ‘you are a special child’ and that’s when began the journey of Satya to Sadhana

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After having dealt with stigma and discrimination, today, Transgender Sadhana fights for the rights of fellow Transgenders
Highlights
  • As a child, Satya used to love dancing and dressing up as a female
  • Satya’s elders never approved of his feminine traits
  • Satya transitioned into female & changed her name to Sadhana Mishra in 2016

New Delhi: Born in a conservative Brahmin family to late Indramani Mishra and Ramamani Mishra in Odisha’s Keonjhar, Satya Sundar Mishra is the youngest of four siblings. At an early age, Satya realised that though he was assigned male gender at birth, he enjoyed doing activities generally associated with females like dressing up, wearing his mother’s saree and jewellery, putting kohl in his eyes and playing with dolls. While Satya’s father and elder brothers used to scold him and sometimes even beat him up for wearing dresses and draping a saree, he always had his mother’s and grandmother’s back.

Also Read: From Abhijit To Abhina Aher, Here’s The Story Of A 45-Year-Old Transgender Activist

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Transgender Activisit Sadhana Mishra

Elders of the village would pass nasty remarks and call me with different names like Maichia which means a boy having feminine behavior. As a kid, I had no understanding of words like Chakha or Hijra. As I grew, I started feeling uncomfortable in wearing trousers to school or using a men’s washroom. The names given to me started affecting me. I wanted to dance but I was refrained from wearing anklets, dancing or even learning to dance. Things started to take a toll on my mental health. I come from a small tribal village in Odisha and back then there were no school counselors to discuss your emotions and provide guidance, recalls Satya.

The young Satya would often cry when derogatory remarks were made and confide in his mother’s arms. Once when he asked, ‘why do people call me Hijra?’, his mother simply said, ‘you are a special child’. Satya held on to the word ‘special’ and decided to prove herself.

Also Read: Exclusive: Laxmi Narayan Tripathi On The First National Conclave of Transgenders

As an adolescent, Satya tried focusing on his education but questions like, ‘Why am I unable to keep my head high and behave as any normal boy?’, ‘Is there anyone like me out there on this earth?’ would be a constant thought.

My mannerisms were feminine and no matter how much I tried to act like a man, my body language would echo that there is a woman hiding inside. However, I pretended to be a man just to get educated and out of my cocoon. I moved to the capital Bhubaneswar for my Master’s degree in Social Work. It was a big deal to leave your house for education and live in a city. Post that I got an internship opportunity in Gujarat with Lakshya Trust and that’s where I came out as a Transgender person and changed my name to Sadhana, says Satya.

The next challenge was to stick to the new identity of a Trans person even back home in Odisha. In 2007, (now) Sadhana met Meera Parida and together they started working for Transgender people and their rights in Odisha and established an organisation called SAKHA.

As a kid, I have seen people from the Trans community begging on the streets, railway stations and bus stands. But this needs to change and can change through education and job opportunities. I have done double masters, worked as coordinator and anchor for Kalinga TV and currently pursuing my PhD. My friend Meera works as a political leader in the state. In Odisha, many Transgenders are working with Municipal Corporation, they handle parking lots, are involved in cleaning and riding cabs, says Sadhana who is currently working as a Social Development Officer with Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences.

Also Read: This Work Has Given Me An Identity: Shalini, A Transgender And A Caretaker Of Community Toilets In A Telangana Locality

Over the years, Sadhana has worked with people living with HIV and organisations like HIV/AIDS Alliance and United Nations Development Programme. In 2016, Sadhana was invited to be a part of the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) in the US. At that time, her passport identified her as male while she used to dress up like a female. This is after the Supreme Court declared Transgender people as the third gender. After her visit to the US, at the age of 30, she underwent transition surgery in Delhi and got her gender changed in official documents.

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In 2016, Sadhana was invited to be a part of the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) in the US

My passport, job card, PAN card and even health insurance card say Transgender. In November 2017, I became the first in the state to obtain a passport under the Transgender category. I am proud of being a Transgender and would like to be born the same in next lives as well, says Sadhana.

When Sadhana changed her name, her family disowned her. While her elder sister was married, her brothers cut all ties after their father’s untimely demise. They also ensured that their mother didn’t stay in touch with Sadhana.

For 15 years, my family didn’t speak to me. However, today, back home people come and say, yes, my child is a Trans; I have brought that change in my community. My family feels proud of me and they have finally accepted me for who I am, says Sadhana.

Also Read: Have Always Believed In The Concept Of Leaving No One Behind: Ravi Bhatnagar On His Win At The National Transgender Awards

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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