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Global Roundup: Ukraine Trans Hormone Clinic, Latin American SRHR Apps, Asian Aunties Exploring Sensuality with Zumba, Spain’s New Menstrual Leave Law, New Trans-Inclusive Textbooks in Bangladesh
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Anastasiia Yeva Domani is the Director of Cohort, an expert on the Working Group of Trans People on HIV and Health in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and a representative of the transgender community on the Ukrainian National Council on HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. Photo via UNAIDS.
A woman in Ukraine is running an unofficial trans hormone clinic out of her apartment in Kyiv, allowing members of the trans community to access medications, food, and any other necessities. Anastasia Yeva Domani is the director of Cohort, a Ukrainian NGO which supports trans people, and she also serves as an expert on the Working Group of Trans People on HIV and Health in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
When the war began last year, Domani turned her apartment into a space which resembled a humanitarian office for trans people. For the past year, trans people have come up to see her on the 17th floor of her building to receive prescriptions for medication, checkups, and more. She will only provide hormone drugs to individuals over 18 so as not to cause issues with the local authorities.
Domani will have individuals seeking medical support come upstairs where they will talk and she will provide advice about their situations. After their meetings, she will collect their information, check their prescriptions, and then later mail out their medications. Domani also frequently mails out parcels containing food, clothes, candles, and more.
Since the Russian invasion last year, the price of hormone drugs in Ukraine has skyrocketed and it now costs two to three times more than it did prior to the war. Other NGOs and local organizations are also helping trans people in Ukraine access hormones, but as the war continues, the trans community will continuously need access to important resources such as medications, food, clothing, and other necessities.
Two new apps in Venezuela and Nicaragua are providing critical information about sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and services. Aya Contigo and Chava provide information, resources and other services for young women.
Aya Contigo provides information, individual virtual chat support, as well as guidance for individuals who want to self-manage their abortions and who live in Venezuela. The safe chat option provides users withe option to securely speak with someone without having to disclose their identities. It also connects users with external reproductive health providers, local feminist organizations, and domestic violence support. Since its support last March, Aya Contigo has already helped 2500 users and has partnered with more than 20 grassroot organizations like the World Health Organization.
In 2018, the Liily Project began a texting campaign to inform 23,000 patients about medical care through WhatsApp. After seeing the success of this campaign, Chava was born in Nicaragua in October 2022. It is the first app of its kind providing safe, educational resources about sexual and reproductive health through personalized information, tools, access to expert care through nurses, and a supportive community to talk to. Users also have the option to connect with others and share resources.
We started by sharing information, recording videos not only about their reproductive health but about COVID, since these remote communities were not receiving any guidelines to stay safe. We realized they had way more questions…and sometimes they just wanted someone to listen. This is when we started thinking about an app, a tool where they could fulfill all of these needs and more in one place. – Anielka Medina
These apps are the way forward for reproductive justice advocates – dozens of grassroots organizations have turned to technology to begin informing individuals of their rights and providing them with safe and equitable care and resources.
The app has been turned into an advocacy tool. It’s more than providing information. It has the potential to lead to systematic change. If people can’t have a dignified experience with their bodies, if they’re not free to express their reproductive autonomy, we still have work to do. – Dr. Roopan Gill
‘Especially in Springvale, a lot of Asian women are not very expressive with [their sexiness]’: Thida and Jenny during their Zumba class. Photograph: Rowena Meadows/The Guardian.
Asian aunties in Melbourne, Australia are exploring their sensuality and being unapologetically sexy in their Zumba classes. From body rolls to the “slut drop” (a dance move which involves squatting as low as possible and then quickly popping back upright), these women are exploring new sides of themselves through sensual Zumba dancing.
Many of the women in instructor Felipe’s Zumba class are first- or second-generation immigrants and were raised in traditional family settings. Growing up, dancing was something that was very formal and non-sexual, but dancing Zumba has given these women the opportunity to explore their body and their sensuality through dance.
It encourages us to let it all go and be sexy … It is liberating because we don’t do that in any aspects of our personal life – being sexy and dancing sexy. It gives us confidence. Even if we went to parties or other people’s weddings, [dancing was] very, very formal and non-sexual. Thida, 50-year old participant
Prior to joining this class, the women did not know each other, but they have formed close bonds and now hang out regularly outside of their dance classes. These classes have empowered many Asian Australian aunties to step outside their comfort zones and open themselves in a new way. They now have an avenue to express their sexiness in a safe space.
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A new law was just passed in Spain which will allow menstruators to take paid leave from work when they are on their period. The bill is part of the new sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) package approved by Spain’s Parliament this week. The package will also allow anyone over the age of 16 to get an abortion or freely change the gender on their ID.
Spain’s new law will allow individuals with disabling and extreme periods to take the leave that they need to rest and recover. In order to have their menstrual leave approved, which is covered by the public social security system, employees will need to provide a doctor’s note. Depending on the doctor’s advice, menstruators can receive up to three to five days of medically-supervised leave every cycle.
Activists and government representatives have praised the new law, but also warned of the resistance that will likely come. On the road to having this law approved, politicians and trade unions were constantly divided over the policy – some fear that offering a menstrual leave will backfire and further stigmatize women in their workplaces.
There will be resistance to its application, just as there has been and there will be resistance to the application of all feminist laws. So we have to work (…) to guarantee that when this law enters into force, it will be enforced. – Irene Montero, Equality Minister
Reproductive health activists have praised the approval of the new SRHR package in Spain, as it also includes the provision of free menstrual products in certain public facilities and free contraceptives, as well as access to the morning-after pill and a new paid prepartum leave from the 36th week of pregnancy until the individual gives birth. The SRHR package is a win for reproductive rights, and although it will likely be met with misogynistic resistance at work, the fight will continue.
Bangladeshi hijras dance in the street during a rally. (Munir Uz Zaman/Getty). Photo via Pink News.
Although the Bangladeshi government recognized hijras (Bangladesh’s trans community) as an official third gender in 2013, the community remains largely marginalized. Many hijras in Bangladesh live in poverty and do not have opportunities to obtain an education or an adequate and secure job; many are forced to engage in sex work to make a living and survive.
In light of the widespread discrimination that the hijra community continues to experience in Bangladesh, the government created new textbooks for schoolchildren aged eleven to thirteen which explores and discusses trans identity in creative ways. The reformed textbook has images of trans people in various jobs and includes and includes the fictional story of a child who transitions, takes a female name and goes to live with a transgender community.
We have piloted it in very small areas, and we got a very positive result, response from our students, because it was a completely unknown matter to them. It is new knowledge for them and they accepted it very well. – Muhammad Moshiuzzaman, member of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board
Although many conservative individuals are calling for the textbook to be recalled, the creators of the textbook are hopeful that the new curriculum and teachings will encourage and nurture acceptance inside and outside of the classroom. The trans community and allies believe that the textbook will increase awareness from a young age, positively impacting the trans community’s status within society.
If our story catches people's attention and they keep our suffering in mind, that will be good for us. Those who learn more about us will hopefully understand and then work towards our development in the future. – Jonak, a trans community leader in Dhaka
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.