Restoring Strengths, Breaking Stereotypes : Meera Parida
Shubhra Pujari | Mar 18, 2019
Born as Mayadhara Parida and being greeted as a male initially in her life, she had enough of her share of battle to keep her choice and identity real as it is.
Meera hails from a very poor family in Odisha, reflecting unparalleled strength of character and an enigmatic personality. She has come a really long way – from an illiterate and rustic ‘maichia’ (derogatory usage for feminine men in Odia) to one who took the torch of humanity down to Washington DC as a representative of the Indian LGBT community. Meera surpassed all obstacles and has evolved as a great example for the LGBT community and the mainstream society. She possesses what it takes to be a leader, and still to be one among them, to work with and for everyone. She is a graduate in Arts, possesses computer training and several important trainings in the areas of HIV/AIDS counselling, community mobilisation, peer and community outreach, and working with LGBT community broadly. She has been a champion of human rights of the deprived and disenfranchised in general and Transgenders and LGBQ community in particular.
On being asked about the hardships she has faced in her life due to her being a Transgender, this is what Meera had to say:
I have never regretted in my life for being a transgender. I believe that it is a gift of God, which I wholeheartedly accept. I have witnessed the days when my parents wanted to end their lives whenever they saw my feminine behaviours. Such incidents have broken me down at certain phases of my life, yet it is due to them that I have come out to be this strong and confident that I am today.
Her journey started with working at the grassroots level, spanning across more than 150 street plays around nooks and corners of Odisha. She was responsible for field level supervision, monitoring and evaluation of field activities, collaborating and working with other CBOs and NGOs besides working on program management, report writing, and planning and implementation of project goals. Later in her life, Meera moved on to represent Sakha-premier LGBT CBO in Odisha at the Sashakt project of Saathi from 2010 to 2015, where she was primarily responsible for community outreach, building bridges between HIV-AIDS professionals and a diverse and deprived LGBT community.
Adhering to her searing confidence and dedication towards solving eradicating social issues, she has also been crowned as the President of All Odisha Kinnar Mahasang and Chairman of All Odisha Third Gender Welfare Trust. She is also the treasurer and co-founder of the NGO named Sakha – the first LGBT CBO in Odisha. Meera was also a part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
On talking about the main purpose of her life and the NGOs she is involved in, Meera says,
Our objective is to bring a change using our own strength, academic and professional disciplinary knowledge and skills that seeks to facilitate the welfare of communication, individuals, families and groups which will promote social change, development, cohesion and empowerment. Recently, we have provided employment opportunities to approximately 150 Transgenders in the Khadi products manufacturing unit which was established with the aid of the Odisha government.
Her reputed works have buzzed around, crossing geographical boundaries of the nation. She has also travelled to the foreign lands with the dignity of chief guest in several programs and for her role in emphasizing the transgenders’ rights. She has been additionally honoured and recognised even by The White House, USA. She has been the recipient of over 200 accolades, which include several local, national and international awards and honours, including Odisha Press Academy’s Odisha Samman 2015. She was conferred with the Best Transgender Leader in India Award in 2016 by NACO, UNAIDS, HIV ALLIANCE on the occasion of World Aids Day 2016.
She displays great courage as a spokesperson in media and press often for a community struggling for their basic human rights which are violated and infringed upon day in and day out. She is the source of inspiration for thousands of Transgenders in the state to fight and work for their right to live with dignity by being a part of short films such as ‘The Reel and The Real’. She has been the face of several public health-related campaigns mostly focussed around HIV-AIDS advocacy. She has played a major role in channelizing the energy among the LGBT youth to work for their community and to work for a dignified life, starting with employability training, gender sensitivity and health and wellbeing training etc.
Meera Parida’s message to the readers:
Even after the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional, still there are innumerable Transgenders who fear to reveal their real identity and come up with the reality about their gender. It is the responsibility of today’s youth to know about the Kinnar community and help them get the respect that they deserve because I strongly believe that today’s youth is tomorrow’s future.