This Transwoman’s Libraries Are Altering How Villages See Queer Individuals


When many people reminisce about our childhoods, particularly our teenage years, we frequently recall fond recollections crammed with family and friends. Nevertheless, as life progresses, the problem of recreating these moments of pleasure turns into more and more daunting.

For Rituparna Neog, a younger trans chief and educator, recollections of her teenage years differ considerably from the standard nostalgic recollections. “As a younger little one, I lived in a protected family. Nevertheless, as life progressed, I grew to become a sufferer of bullying and queerphobia,” she recollects in a dialog with The Higher India.

Now a number one queer rights activist in Assam, she is using the facility of books to get rid of queerphobia in her village.

“I don’t blame my classmates for bullying me. They didn’t know any higher. I need to be sure that in my village and the complete state, no different little one will get bullied for being queer. What higher approach to try this than with the facility of books!” she says.

Making a Queer-Optimistic Assam

Born and raised in Jorhat, Assam, Rituparna by no means needed to ‘come out’ in her residence. “My residence was at all times very supportive of my identification, and I by no means needed to clarify it to anybody. I used to be protected for a very long time,” she shares.

It was when she reached highschool nonetheless, that she began to face bullies. “I didn’t know what to do when the bullying began. I began to push myself right into a shell,” she says. 

As Rituparna recollects, throughout that difficult time, her solace grew to become libraries and her greatest associates have been books.

Rituparna started Akam Foundation to open free libraries and bring queer awareness in small towns and rural areas in Assam.
Rituparna began Akam Basis to open free libraries and produce queer consciousness in small cities and rural areas in Assam. Image caption: Rituparna Neog

“I might simply conceal in my faculty’s libraries and make associates with books. I beloved studying a lot, they usually transported me to a world the place there have been no bullies,” she provides.

Since then, Rituparna had carried the thought that she would do one thing for kids like her. What higher approach than to make use of books and schooling to assist them, she exclaims.

“I firmly imagine that schooling is the important thing to decreasing the bullying I confronted. They have been younger kids who didn’t know what queer means, they usually made enjoyable of it. Whereas cities in India have turn out to be rather more delicate to the subject, individuals in rural areas and distant villages don’t even know concerning the existence of queer individuals and their rights,” she provides.

“How can we count on kids to respect one thing they know nothing about?” she questions.

After finishing her diploma in social work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati in 2017, she determined to do one thing in her village. 

“Whereas I labored in Guwahati for a while, I imagine that change begins at residence and do one thing in my village,” she says, including that bringing queer schooling to kids was one of many first issues she wished to implement upon her return.

Kitape Katha Koi 

In a bid to make books out there to each little one in her village, Rituparna began a mission referred to as Kitape Katha Koi which interprets to ‘books communicate’ below her NGO referred to as Akam Basis. 

“I proposed this concept to my individuals within the village — a free library with lots of of books to be taught from. They have been anticipating it. I may see a starvation in them for schooling. I made a decision to open a library within the village freed from value with my very own private assortment of books,” she says. 

The free neighborhood library helps practically 100 kids from close by villages and tea estates entry and browse Assamese, Hindi, and English books. “The preliminary response of the kids was overwhelmingly optimistic. A median of 30 kids go to the library every single day. The preliminary response made me need to open extra such libraries,” she says. 

The free library in Jorhat has over 2000 books in Hindi, English and Assamese.
The free library in Jorhat has over 2000 books in Hindi, English and Assamese. Image credit score: Rituparna Neog

The library has books on varied topics and themes similar to gender, sexuality, psychological well being, local weather justice, potential, feminism, and minority rights.

The mission can also be part of The Free Libraries Community (FLN) India and South Asia — a platform designed to hyperlink free libraries and construct free library actions.

“These books across the subjects of gender, sexuality and feminism particularly within the native language give the individuals entry to information that’s free. This information helps them develop,” she provides. 

With steady efforts, she was in a position to open one other library referred to as the Chandraprabha Saikiani Feminist Library and Useful resource Centre in Dibrugarh, Assam. “My imaginative and prescient is to achieve as many kids and folks as potential in rural areas of Assam,” she says. 

In 2020, when the pandemic hit, Rituparna began a web-based storytelling mission the place she would recite tales. Moreover, she additionally retains internet hosting varied pop-up libraries in areas similar to housing societies, schools, college campuses, public parks and so forth. 

The library in Jorhat which began with 600 books has now grown to have a group of two,000+ books. 

Reaching the remotest areas 

Rituparna believes that books might help her obtain her aim. She additionally wished to mobilise the youth of her village and Asaam to convey queer positivity. 

For this, she alongside along with her neighborhood members began Drishti Queer Collective in 2021. “Up to now lots of work has been achieved in lots of areas of the state particularly in Guwahati to make individuals conscious of queer rights however I nonetheless really feel that it’s missing in small cities and rural areas,” she says. 

Pride parade in Jorhat, Assam.
Satisfaction parade in Jorhat, Assam. Image credit score: Rituparna Neog

With a core workforce of 15 individuals, Rituparna focuses on bringing consciousness to individuals in rural Assam within the native language. 

“I realised how language is a barrier for a lot of rural individuals and we determined to achieve them of their language. We organised meetups in semi-urban areas to coach them of LGBTQI+ communities and their rights,” she says. 

“We have now additionally been making an attempt to mobilise communities to return collectively. Alongside the identical strains, we did our very first Jorhat delight stroll in April 2022. This was the primary delight stroll exterior of Guwahati. In June 2022, Dibrugarh had its very first delight stroll through which lots of of individuals participated,” she says. 

The collective additionally works with schools to assist them run gender-sensitising programmes which have been mandated by the UGC. 

“From the collective, we’re operating two extra campaigns — ‘No Extra Holding My Pee’ to convey gender-neutral washrooms in private and non-private schools. We have now a petition operating on for a similar as we wish some form of coverage change mandating colleges to have gender-neutral washrooms,” she says. 

“The second marketing campaign is about making kids in excessive colleges extra delicate in the direction of subjects of queerness and gender. We work with lecturers and colleges for that,” she provides. 

With her campaign #nomoreholdingmypee, she wants to bring gender-neutral washrooms to public and private colleges.
Together with her marketing campaign #nomoreholdingmypee, she desires to convey gender-neutral washrooms to private and non-private schools. Image credit score: Rituparna Neog

With the collectives’ effort, Rituparna has reached out to greater than 10,000 individuals from rural areas and small cities within the Assamese language. 

Rituparna just lately obtained nominated as a member consultant to the Nationwide Council for Transgender Individuals of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Authorities of Assam. 

You may observe Rituparna’s libraries and initiatives right here

(Edited by Padmashree Pande)


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