Still Human

Trans and hijra lives in times of COVID-19

This was an exploratory research project undertaken to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of transgender and hijra people in the Netherlands and Bangladesh respectively. By focusing the research on livelihoods, access to health care, housing and violence at public and private spaces, the knowledge products aims to be used as a basis for advocacy for drawing attention to trans population across the world.

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Lessons learned

1. The process is part of the outcome
Despite many difficulties and challenges that we faced during the project, the executive summary and the full report are examples of success. The study is in-depth and brings into views stories, insights and anecdotes that can help policy makers develop appropriate responses to the challenges facing socio-economically vulnerable groups especially transgender population. In addition to the qualitative reports, this small-scale rapid research also contributed to the livelihood of two members of the hijra and trans community in Bangladesh by hiring them as researchers. They were also given brief training in research methods especially interview. Partnering with Transgender Network Netherlands was also a massive help since they connected the research team with potential transgender sex workers and refugees in the Netherlands who could be interviewed for this research. While working directly with the community members about whom the research is being undertaken can be seen as an example of best practice in research, there are serious practical problems associated with such an approach as briefly explained in the blog post.

2. Context is key
While hiring people from within the community under investigation is definitely an exercise in collaboration, power inequality and hierarchy within the community context are also important factors that need to be taken into account in research practice. For example, one of the research assistants in Bangladesh was relatively influential within the community as a leader and their status as a senior hijra impacted the way the interviewees responded. Interviewees often assumed during the interview process that being a senior hijra leader, they would already know responses to most of the questions posed. The principal investigator, however, identified the problem early on in the research and came up with a strategy to address this problem.

3. A path to greater influence
While finding funding for research is always a lengthy process, small grants can make a difference by supporting projects on SHRH related issues that need immediate attention. Small grants can also be very useful in piloting research projects and generating some primary data which can later be used for scaling up the research and application for major funding and intervention.

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