E-Newsletter August 2015: Keeping up with APTN

Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund
The grant we received from Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund (RCNF) has been a key aspect of strengthening relations and connections with countries. Last year we were able to successfully work with our partners in Thailand and Malaysia to help them strengthen their work in advocacy.

In terms of support, we provided our country partners with a small grant in order to fund their efforts. Specifically, in Malaysia we supported Justice for Sisters in their advocacy efforts to challenge the Shahria Law for criminalizing transgender women. We did this through activities such as security mitigation training and development of resources for trans women who are arrested. In Thailand we worked in partnership with Thai TGA (Transgender Alliance) to create guidelines for sensitization of the military conscription process for transgender women. Thai law still recognizes transgender women as men, which results in them being abused, discriminated and humiliated during military conscription. These guidelines will tell the military how to properly treat transgender women, and will inform transgender women on how to prepare for the day. It will be a very important resource for many transgender women in aiding them through the military recruitment process.

This year we plan to focus on four more countries in the region – Cambodia, Nepal, India and Pakistan. We look forward to supporting their advocacy efforts and seeing what changes can be brought about.

Communications and Advocacy Outreach
With a large percentage of the world being on social media, it is incredibly important for organizations to have an online presence. APTN recognized this and has been working on building up our social media presence through our Facebook page.

On our Facebook page we share articles, stories and photos of issues that are experienced by transgender people. We also share updates on the work and activities we are involved in. We currently have 2385 likes and we are working on expanding our presence by sharing a wider variety of articles and also posting more frequently. We also have a flickr page where we post photos from our meetings, events and other activities. We plan to invest further in Facebook and other social media sites like Twitter because we believe we can use them as an effective advocacy tool for our community.

This newsletter is another one of our communications efforts. It is supported by UNAIDS and will be published quarterly, containing stories, profiles and updates on the work being done in the region.

Website Launch
We launched the APTN official website in January 2015 with support and funding from UNAIDS.

The website contains information about our network, our work and transgender related events. It also provides viewers with easy access to publications, news and research/data resources about transgender issues in the region.

Another aspect of the website is that we encourage transgender individuals and organizations to submit their stories, experiences and information to the site. This gives people the chance to share their stories and also draw comfort or learn from reading about people’s experiences.

It is expected that this website will connect the transgender community in the region together. It will also be used as an important transgender data resource for the community, partners and academics.

Mapping
The mapping exercise developed by APTN provides a list of existing capacity in the region on transgender issues and also includes the contact detail list of all the organizations and advocates. The development of such a map is extremely vital for advocacy for trans people as it makes it much easier for APTN, partners and stakeholders to communicate and start further partnerships with each other. It gives organizations a chance to strengthen collaborations, both old and new.

The map also identifies the gaps of each transgender organization in the region, therefore providing them with a sense of where they can make improvements to their organization. It also allows for country networks to identify the areas that need to be focused on within the region.

The mapping resource developed by APTN is also the first effort to focus on trans-specific organization/networks or/and advocates. We aim to conduct a yearly exercise to keep the information up to date. We encourage more organizations to participate in the next exercise.

Community-to-community learning between Trans networks/ organizations
The community-to-community learning and mentoring gave us the opportunity to not only share but also learn from other transgender organizations. In this process, we are constantly learning and improving – and there is much to be learnt from other organizations around the world who are working towards the same cause as us. These activities were greatly aided by UNAIDS and Alliance.

We were able to work and partner with organizations in Mexico, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and the Philippines. During the TG network meeting in Mexico, we formed a partnership with TGEU. We agreed on the following activities to conduct together:
-       The social experience of trans* people: A global survey by TVT (Transrespect vs Transphobia) project
-       Legal and social mapping
-       Trans violence monitoring

The partnership with TGEU brings about a lot of promising collaborations for the future. Meanwhile in Thailand, we visited Sisters, an organization in Thailand. Sisters is a trans-led community organization providing HIV treatment, care and supports to transgender sex workers and other vulnerable transgender people. The meeting was an extremely productive experience, and after the visit we hoped to be able to connect Sisters with other organizations in the region in order to provide similar services.

Sisters is a great example of the extent to which a community led organization can make a difference. We were also able to visit another successful transgender organization in the Philippines called Colors. Colors aims to better the lives of transgender people and does so through various outreach programs and seminars about the human rights awareness, health concerns (with attention to HIV/AIDS and other STI’s) and appreciating one’s identity. Similar to the learning experience with Sisters, we are aiming to assist country networks to scale up the successful transgender programs across the region.

In Cambodia we had the opportunity to share some trans-positive practices in clinical settings with RHAC (Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia), an organization providing services to trans people. A few months after the meeting, RHAC has started looking at more inclusive and gender-sensitive staffs practices.

Finally, in Nepal, APTN visited Blue Diamond Society (BDS) and learnt more about the work they do the transgender community. We were able to gain a great deal from these programs and hope to continue similar ones in the future, with even more organizations.

Steering Committee
For the past year, APTN has had an interim board in place that has helped to guide us in terms of strategy. We are now moving towards a more permanent structure by electing a Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee is expected to continue the work and strategy that was already endorsed by the interim board. They will also guide APTN in terms of strategy and policies, as well as provide us with technical advice.

It was decided at the last APTN interim board meeting that the Interim Board would elect a Selection Committee made up of individual trans experts to conduct the interview. Over 30 applications were received and reviewed. Nine candidates were short-listed based on their experience as a board member, their technical and communication skills as well as their commitment and vision for APTN.

The Selection Committee was made up of Dr. Sam Winter (Curtin University, Australia), Manisha Dhakal (Blue Diamond Society, Nepal), Kath Khangpiboon (Thai TGA, Thailand), Jack Byrne (New Zealand) and Thomas Guadamuz (Mahidol University,Thailand). Results of the election will be announced later this year.

 Advocacy and Strategic Information Products
UNAIDS and the Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund provided support in our efforts to put out key advocacy and strategic information products. It is very important for transgender people to be represented as a separate community with diverse needs, and not just under the umbrella of MSM. Thus, it is important to spread information about the work we are doing and the needs of our community. We were able to do this year through our information products.

The total list of information products that we produced is the following:
-       Press releases
-       Brochure: distributed at various conferences, workshops and meetings
-       Donor Presentation: provided an overview of the work APTN is doing for new donors

Next year we will continue to put out even more advocacy and strategic information products as begin to collect more data about transgender people in the Asia and Pacific Region.

Registration of APTN as a legal entity
In an effort funded and supported by Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund and HIV Alliance, APTN was finally registered as a Thai foundation. This comes as a great accomplishment as being registered gives us a lot more opportunities for funding and advocacy.

Donors often require registration in order to award grants. Thus, we can receive funding from a larger circle of donors now. As we are now a legal entity, we are able to have a wider outreach as an organization. It allows us to conduct many more activities in the future and also to reach a larger audience. It also makes it much easier for us to invite consultants and other organizations to work with us as we can now formally extend invitations to them. This benefits us greatly and we look forward to working with a wider scope of individuals.

Finally, APTN is the first regional transgender network to be formally registered as a legal entity in the Asia and Pacific region This is a great step forward in receiving more recognition for transgender issues.

Program development and Institutional Strengthening
Over this past year APTN held an interim board meeting to develop a new strategic plan. During this meeting we were able to identify the key areas that APTN would engage in:

-       Building regional network and country partners capacity
-       Generating strategic information for advocacy and policy
-       Advocacy campaign on legal recognition, employment and social welfare
-       Community-to-community learning
-       Creating APTN profile and partnerships

This strategic plan is still in the draft stages and it will be circulated once it has been finalized by the newly elected Steering Committee.

Development of regional concept note
APTN successfully organized Regional Transgender Community Consultation to Develop the Concept Note for Regional Proposal to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). We worked with our six country partners including SISTER (Thailand), GWA-INA (Indonesia), MSM – TG network of Vietnam (Vietnam), COLORS (Philippines), NAZ Male Health Foundation (Pakistan) and Blue Diamond Society (Nepal).

Through working with our country partners, we were able to identify the needs and activities for the transgender community to be included in the regional concept note. This was also achieved in collaboration with APN+, APNSW and ANPUD for Global Fund.

The needs and outcomes we identified in the note include:

1.    Community monitoring towards quality of services on HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support program;
2.    Community Study on Community Lead HIV Counseling and Testing Service;
3.    Community based study on the barriers to access to services.

Our input and inclusion in regional concept notes such as this one are incredibly important as it will hopefully result in more data collected about transgender people in the Asia and Pacific Region. These studies will also focus on our community as a separate entity.

Organization and participation in the 20th International AIDS Conference
The 20th International AIDS Conference took place from 20th-25th July in 2014. APTN organized two satellite sessions for the conference. These events were ““APTN and the Voice of Transgender in Asia Pacific” and “The Challenges of Being Transgender”.

It was recognized by the transgender community how important it is for transgender people to be separated from the MSM umbrella. KAP networks, donors, partners and governments also addressed it extensively. We also raised the needs of more investment on the transgender community to strategic partners and key donors such as UNAIDS, Global Fund, Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund and the Australian Government.

The sessions also gave us chance to strengthen our partnerships with other transgender networks. It also allowed us the opportunity to collaborate more with transgender organizations from America, Australia and Latin America as new partnerships were established.

Participation in key meetings
APTN had the opportunity to attend and participate in two key meetings in 2015: The Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS (IGM 2015) and Beijing+20

The Asia-Pacific Intergovernmental Meeting on HIV and AIDS (IGM 2015)
During this meeting, we were a part of a Civil Society Organization (CSO) working group that was trying to organize a CSO Forum. This forum would be a platform for CSO’s to address their HIV and human rights issues. In addition to this, APTN also represented as a speaker in a side session called “My Body, My Rights: Fighting HIV through the lens of HIV”. APTN addressed the importance of fulfilling the right to make free and informed decisions on sexuality. We also discussed how vital it is to eliminate discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).

Beijing+20
We were actively involved with the platform “Unzip The Lips”. Unzip is a platform of organizations and individuals fighting for key affected women and girls. We collaborated with Unzip to hold a pre-conference to strategize with other key partners, like women who live with HIV, women who use drugs and sex workers. We were able to come up with strategies such as direct and personal approach to country delegations, and promoting the issues of key affected women and girls.

During the actual conference, we attended a press conference conducted by UN Women. During this press conference, APTN explained the existence of diverse gender identities. We also explained how it is much more suitable to understand gender as a continuum, rather than strike binary categories. In the side events conducted by UNAIDS, we emphasized that transgender women are women and should not be left behind in the women’s rights movements.

APTN’s participation in these two meetings brought about a lot of advocacy for the transgender movement, as well as spread knowledge of sexuality and gender.

Blueprint
The Blueprint for the Provision of Comprehensive Care for Trans Persons and their Communities in Asia and the Pacific is a much-needed publication that will provide public health officials, community led organizations, clinical service providers and more with complete transgender health information. This publication is in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the USAID-funded Health Policy Project (HPP), along with support from Linkages. The Blueprint is an adaptation of the PAHO Trans Health Blueprint, which focuses on the Caribbean and other Anglophone countries.

The purpose of the Blueprint is to strengthen and enhance the policy, clinical and public health responses for trans people in Asia and the Pacific. It is expected that the Blueprint will improve access to competent primary and specialized care for transgender people in the region. It will also help to promote the health of trans persons in Asia and the Pacific as it will identify the healthcare needs of the population. This publication is essential as there is no official trans health guide in Asia and the Pacific. However, this publication comes as the third regional Trans Health Blueprint.

The Blueprint details what the health issues are for the region and also includes recommendations for progressing trans health and human rights. Activists will be able to use the information in the Blueprint as evidence to push for changes within their own countries.

The Blueprint was a consultative process, engaging trans communities, stakeholders and experts. In order to complete the Blueprint, we had three regional consultations. Two of these took place in Bangkok while the other one took place in Nepal. After the Blueprint has been finished, funding has been set aside to create advocacy toolkits for selected countries to help turn it into local action plans.