ITANAGAR- “The power of a shared story of lived experience is enormous, it empowers, helps us relate and connect to other individuals”, said Arunachal queer rights activist, Sawang Wangchha (He/Him). He shared that for LGBTQIA+ individuals of Arunachal Pradesh, it can be a very lonely existence for the individuals who identify as part of LGBTQ+ with very little, if any, awareness, visibility and understanding regarding queer issues in the state. He is working to change that through his organization called AP QueerStation.
Sawang (He/Him) was one of the 10 selected participants for a 6-day-long Rainbow storytelling workshop supported by the U.S. Consulate, Kolkata and hosted at American Centre, Kolkata. During the week-long workshop, he shared the life scenario of the queer community of Arunachal with fellow participants and activists from U.S. and other parts of India.
The workshop focused on training queer individuals and activists to share their stories and lived experiences using art forms & digital storytelling methods and also enhancing their capacity on community building. These stories and videos are aimed to amplify voices typically ignored by mainstream and online media, engage audiences in reflection and action, and lend honesty and dignity to important civic dialogues at local, national, and international levels.
The stories that were produced during the workshop will be leveraged as advocacy tools for awareness, visibility and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ rights in country and around the world. The workshop was organised as part of a project implemented by Story Center, U.S. The workshop was designed and facilitated by Amy Hill, Director, Silence Speaks, Story Center and Raymond O Caldwell, Producing Artistic Director, Theater Alliance, U.S.
The workshop ended with a half-day dialogue on World Human Rights Day, December 10, 2022, where some of these stories were showcased, followed by an interactive conversation on LGBTQIA+ rights titled “Inclusion and Diversity: Are we doing Enough?” The dialogue had a 250+ strong participants including students, educators, employers, chamber, lawyers, activists, media and other development partners from across the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, Orissa, Nagaland, Tripura and West Bengal. It was locally facilitated by Rudra Kishore Mandal and Prithviraj Nath, from BRIDGE, a Kolkata-based non-profit.
Sawang (He/Him) is presently working on how to share his learning amongst the larger queer community in Arunachal Pradesh and also exploring ways to create similar learning opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ community in his state.