Sadam Hanjabam was honoured India’s COVID-19 Soldier of the week by Better India

Imphal:The pandemic and the lockdown that followed changed lives — the unprecedented time also saw heroes emerge with a mission to help those in need. 31-year-old Sadam Hanjabam of Sagolband Tera from Imphal West district in Manipur is one of them.

He has been working relentlessly to help people in need, especially the LGBTQI community in the state amid the pandemic.

Sadam, who himself is gay, managed to create a support system for the LGBTQI community. He raised Rs 20 lakh through crowdfunding, with that he supported over 2000 people with ration and food, including people from LGBTQI community, people living with HIV or disabilities, daily wage workers, migrants, children homes at rural areas and senior citizens.

For his work, Sadam was named India’s COVID-19 Soldier of the week by Better India.

After Mathanmi Hungyo, a social worker from Kamjong district, Sadam became the second youth from Manipur to win the coveted award that carries a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh.

Sadam and his team providing essential items to the people

Also Read: Manipur: Kamjong dist youth wins India’s COVID-19 Soldiers Awards

Through crowdfunded, Sadam and his team raised Rs 20 lakh

“Doing fund-raise in Manipur is the biggest challenge for me since people in the state don’t have much idea of crowdfunding. So, when the pandemic happened, everyone was affected, and people do not donate because everyone was suffering,” said Sadam.

According to Sadam, the majority of funds came from outside India. His team didn’t get much response from the people within the country.

Since the end of March till date, Sadam, who is the founder of ‘Ya All’, Northeast’s first registered youth-led organisation for the LGBTQI community, managed to assist at least over 300 transgender people with medical and sanitary kits.

Sadam and his team also distributed 1,500 condoms to young married men and 6,000 sanitary pads to girls in children homes. They also helped 75 out-of-job transgender people pay their rents. The made direct cash transfer to over 200 students staying outside Manipur. They also helped people who lost their jobs and those who were racially abused due to COVID-19.

Having to experience the hardships and ostracised from society when he revealed his identity as a gay man, Sadam continued to provide free psychosocial support to youngsters, especially those from the LGBTQI community, those with HIV/TB, and those living with psychosocial disabilities.

During the evacuation process to the stranded people from Manipur, Sadam after consulting with Imphal West DC has helped set up a dedicated quarantine centre for transgender returnees at DM College in Imphal.

Speaking about his experience and how he finally found his identity, Sadam said that “Since childhood, I always knew that I was different from other boys in the locality. But I never knew what it was then and I am not a transgender.”

It was a phase where I had hidden myself until I realised. Because those days, we don’t have a source for information since we don’t have access to the internet and search on Google. I just knew it by my feelings and knew it within myself that I am different, added Sadam.

Sadam provide free psychosocial support to youngsters, including LGBTQI community

Also Read: Manipur NEET topper Samananda Yumnam vows to serve people with non-access to healthcare

Like Sadam, many youngsters, especially from Northeast India, who are different from others, were hidden within themselves while in search of a platform to find their identity. Having to live in a close-knit society, many LGBTQI youths from the region chose to migrate to metro cities and find their own space.

Issues of the LGBTQI community, according to Sadam, are not very well represented in the northeast region, including Manipur.

“We always seem to have a bigger human rights crisis and consider the community’s hardships and plights as a softer issue which people don’t to discuss or understand,” he said.

Every person is productive, but if a person is discriminated based on their sexuality or identity; it becomes a human rights violation. But unfortunately, our society does not treat the LGBTQI community as human. Even those people working for human rights do not acknowledge the community as one, Sadam added.

It was during his PhD at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, Sadam developed a psychosocial disability and later led him into substances used to cope with his depression.

“I overdosed twice during my stays in the city, and I almost felt that I will die. I started questioning myself, what it is that I want if I survived? I decided to work towards making the world a better place for the LGBTQI community,” said Sadam.

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