IGNITE! Small scale project – Indonesia

Erky is a passionate and vocal trans man activist from Indonesia. At age 24, he is advocating for the rights of his community inspiring other on his way.He a mentee of YVC IGNITE! mentorship program from Indonesia. He currently works as the Research and Development Head of Transmen Indonesia and serves as the Editor and Admin of Transhition ID (Online Resource Center and Peer Support for Transmen in Bahasa). Erky believes that as young people we need to be out of the box, creative and be prepared to be away from our comfort zones to realize positive changes in the society.

As a trans man himself Erky raises a strong voice in Indonesia for the rights of trans men. “Most of the trans men are hidden and face unique stigma and discrimination including domestic violence and health rights in certain circumstances” says Erky. “Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country and trans men are victims of social challenges that are derived through religion and patriarchy” he further mentions.

As information is one of the main hindrance for trans men to enjoy their rights, Erky’s small scale project is aimed at developing a guide book for transmen to provide them information on their transitioning, health and rights. Not only for transmen community, the guide book will also provide a basic information of transmen to health providers. The project is the first step of the guide book and will focus on gathering initial data and information, desk review of available publications and will contribute to the first chapter of the guide book.

“Many trans men, especially from rural areas of Indonesia do not have access to information that can change their lives forever. As a result, they go through numerous challenges in their lives that some time result in depression, suicide behavior, and unsafe transition” says Erky. “My project will aim to address this void in information available specifically for trans men in Indonesia”.

This effort could be one of the first of its kind in the region to develop specific information for trans men. Erky also believes that he could reach to other organizations such as Asia Pacific transgender Network, UNDP and UNAIDS for further support in the next steps of the guide book.

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Youth Voices Count

IGNITE! Small Scale Project – Bhutan

Pema; a young voice from Bhutan raising awareness on LGBT young people

From the cold climates of Himalayas, Pema is Youth Voices Count’s IGNITE! Mentee from Bhutan. 22 years old, Pema currently works as an out-reach coordinator at Lhak-Sam organization in Bhutan providing awareness on HIV prevention and testing for the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men community. Pema is also one of the founding and active members of the first ever youth LGBT group in Bhutan.

Strong willed at a young age, Pema believes that despite the mild nature of Bhutanese as a nation, people stigmatize those that belong to gender and sexual minorities resulted by lack of awareness. “Young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Bhutan face many challanges says Pema.

Pema’s small scale project as a mentee of IGNTE! Mentorship program is mainly focused on raising awareness among the general public about the LGBT community with the support of his community.“Raising awareness among our people about gender and sexuality and the lives of LGBT people is absolutely necessary. The discussion on these concepts are quite new to Bhutan and my aim is to take this opportunity to provide people with positive stories about LGBT people” says Pema describing the objective of his small scale project.

Pema, with the support of the peers in his youth group will be developing a video capturing the life stories, challenges and successes of young LGBT people in Bhutan which they will use to raise awareness among their fellow country men. “We are a nation of peaceful people and I believe that by opening a window for people to look in to our lives will create a positive change” says Pema. The video will be one of the first of its kind in Bhutan as there is virtually no other videos on these issues being produced in the country so far.

An event will be organized to launch the video and to ignite a discussion with relevant organizations, authorities and community on addressing the challenges faced by the LGBT community in Bhutan. Lead by Pema, the youth group with the support of YVC will continue these discussions both online and offline to ensure that the topic is kept alive and further actions are being taken.

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Youth Voices Count

We need more than a simple HIV test – IGNITE! Small Scale Project Sri Lanka

Ranaka is currently a member of Heart to Heart Lanka organization and also a member of Young Out Here group in Sri Lanka. He is also a member of the Youth Technical Advisory Committee of Family Planning Association in Sri Lanka. 24 years old, Ranaka can be introduced as someone very comfortable in his own Skin. Being out and about with his life, Ranaka considers that advocacy comes in different forms and shapes and one of his ways is to live life as he wants.

“I believe that people should be given an opportunity to get to know us. Most often fear is generated because of ignorance. By opening a door for people to look in to my life, I not only make an impressions about myself, but also about my sexuality that leads long lasting positive changes” says Ranaka explaining about his method of changing the world.

Ranaka also believes that most often the needs of young people, especially from the key populations, have been reduced to health. ”As young people, our needs are far more complex. These cannot be reduced to a mere HIV or STI test” says Ranaka. Ranaka’s small scale project aims to raise the voices of young gay men and young transgender people in Sri Lanka to advocate with the health services to provide holistic and comprehensive services for young gay men and young transgender people moving beyond a mere HIV test. “These include services such as hormonal therapy, support and counselling on issues such as coming out, disclosure to families, sexual violence and abuse, intimate partner or violence from family members and etc. “If the services can provide us these services or adopt an effective referral system, I believe more young people will be visiting them and thus HIV and STI tests become complementary”, he further mentioned explaining his idea.

Ranaka will work with the Heart to Heart Youth group to develop a video about what young gay men and young transgender people need from health services. This video will be used to raise awareness among services providers and policy makers. He will also use the video to initiate advocacy discussions with services providers to explore means of bringing positive changes to the health services.

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Written by Niluka Perera.

Mobilizing and building capacity for young LGBT people in Fiji – IGNITE! Small Scale Project Fiji

A dream full of unicorns and sparkles, rainbows and fairies

Tamani is a 23-year-old strong transqueer activist from Fiji who believes in a magical world where people are not boxed or categorized but rather people are liberated and celebrated for who they are. She represents the Pacific in the IGNITE! Mentorship program of YVC. She was part of Fiji Youth Parliament and also works with the Rainbow Pride Foundation of Fiji as its Communication & Advocacy Officer. Tamani is currently working on setting up a Rainbow Association at her University to mobilize more young people for LGBT rights movement. Coming from a country that has constitutionalized the rights of sexual and gender minorities, Tamani believes that Fiji still has a long way to go to implement these constitutional rights in a practical level. Fiji is one of the first countries in the Asia and Pacific region that has recognized the rights of gender and sexual minorities in its constitution.

“Many young LGBT people still face stigma and discrimination from their families and society. They still become homeless and face violence and abuse” says Tamani explaining the plight of many young LGBT people in Fiji. “One of the major concerns we have is that most LGBT young people are not aware of their rights and hence it is difficult to mobilise them to act together” further explains Tamani.

Tamani’s small scale project focuses on mobilizing and building the capacity of selected young LGBT people in Fiji to contribute to the larger advocacy efforts talking place within the country. Two workshops will be held in Lautoka (Western Division) & Suva (Central-Eastern Division) in Fiji. The participants will be trained on gender and sexuality, human rights, advocacy and community mobilizing.

The trained participants will come together to organize a campaign for the World Mental Health day highlighting the mental health issues faced by young LGBT people resulted by stigma, discrimination, violence and abuses they face everyday. “We face number of mental health challenges and these are not taken seriously, particularly if you are identified as someone with a diverse gender and sexual orientation” said Tamani. “My aim is to bring these issues in to surface during the World Metal Health day” she further mentioned.

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Written by Niluka Perera

IGNITE! Small Scale Project Vietnam

Sensitizing Health Care Services

Qui works with the  Working group for Equality and Diversity (WED) as the team leader. He is also a member of Bridging the gap project in Vietnam, supported by MSMGF and works with young gay men encouraging them to take periodical HIV tests under a  project sponsored by The Global Fund. At age 24 he is one of the young MSM leaders from Vietnam.

Advocacy on access to health services is one of Qui’s passions and priorities. “Many of my friends and peers do not access health services even if they are available. Many healthcare providers are not friendly towards young MSM and young transgender people, and this makes invisible walls which prevent young MSM and young transgender people practicing their right to healthcare”, explained Qui talking about actual and perceived stigma and discrimination associated with health services in Vietnam. “We need to work with health services to bring changes to them but at the same time we should also work within our communities to promote these services among our community members” he further mentioned.

Qui’s small scale project takes a straightforward approach to advocate within selected health services to make them friendlier towards young gay men and young transgender people. Based on the Jumping Hurdles Discussion paper, Qui will conduct a number of discussions and explore the challenges and opportunities to bring changes to these clinics. His project will also develop materials to be placed within clinics that will help to showcase that these clinics are friendly towards LGBT people. These may include posters, banners with LGBT symbols and messaging, small give away materials and etc.

“My project aims to address this problem with two approaches. While advocating with the services for positive changes we will promote these services within community focusing on the changes that the clinics are undertaking to provide friendlier services. This way we can work hand in hand to address the HIV epidemic.”

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Written by Niluka Perera