Veena is a confident, candid, committed male to female transsexual from Bangalore. She is a a dalit, transgender person, from a working class family who has come a long way, despite huge odds. She was given a fellowship which aided her in the numerous activities that she undertook. Through her fellowship she has focussed on issues of urban poverty and formation of collectives in an urban slum area, where she worked. She has supported people to access social entitlements such as widow and old age pension, caste certificate and ration cards. In 2010 she contested in election for the local municipal body (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). What were unique about it were her campaign messages. When most candidates promised money to their voters, Veena requested them to give them their vote as well as a rupee.
She was largely accepted in spite of her identity as a transgender. It was clear that she was a leader – with a difference. Since she carried out these activities without any bribes or ‘commission’, the touts of the area intimidated her and her family. She facilitated youth groups in the area in order to build the community that she works with and diffuse the leadership.
Nalini Jameela, a female sex worker from Kerala and a fellowship holder, undertook the difficult task of organising sex workers in Kerala. As part of work plan for her fellowship, she has made contact with over 200 sexworkers in Kerala, has gained a very good appreciation of the situation of the sexworkers issues. She has played a pivotal role in many crises and has gained the trust of many of sexworkers. She has also mobilized support of some of the media professionals.
In the two districts that she chose to work, she faced many challenges especially from a conservative group that aimed to “clean the neighbourhood” (a process of gentrification) and were targeting sexworkers. Nalini has had to work against the fear and vulnerability induced by this group amongst sexworkers and has attempted to organise sexworkers against them.