Contributor:Tushar Kanti Baidya
“After his loss, I realized the importance of having leaders like Xulhaz in the LGBTQI community in Bangladesh. I hope I will be able to continue to do similar good work like Xulhaz.”Manisha Meem Nipun, recipient of The Xulhaz Mannan Memorial Award of Diversity 2021
In April 2016 Xulhaz Mannan, a young, passionate and high profile LGBTQI activist from Bangladesh was tragically murdered, along with fellow activist Mahbub Rabby Tonoy by Islamic extremists. The shockwaves, outrage and grief that reverberated through the Bangladeshi community and beyond led many local LGBTQI activists and organizations to go into hiding. Five years on and fortunately the situation is improving somewhat with queer solidarity and activism again reemerging in the country.
To honor the memory of Xulhaz and as a way of keeping alive the passion and vision, an award has been set up in his name: The Xulhaz Mannan Memorial Award of Diversity. The award acknowledges his legacy and encourages other young community activists to continue to strive for equality and recognition. The award was the brainchild of EQUAL (more about them below).
The inaugural 2021 award was recently presented to Manisha Meem Nipun, a young Bangladeshi transgender activist, for her commitment and contribution to the transgender community. Manisha is a shining example of youth activism and volunteer spirit. Speaking at the award ceremony, Manisha acknowledged the significance of receiving this accolade:
“Although I never met Xulhaz Mannan in person, we had talked over the phone and collaborated on some community activism activities. He always gave me moral support and encouraged me to go forward with my plans. He really empowered me whenever we talked. After his loss, I realized the importance of having leaders like Xulhaz in the LGBTQI community in Bangladesh. I hope I will be able to continue to do similar good work like Xulhaz.”
Manisha recently founded “PathChola-Walking the Way” to support the highly marginalized transgender community during the COVID-19 pandemic and has in the past received many awards in recognition for her contributions to the community, including Youth Champion Bangladesh 2018, Best Field Facilitator Award in 2019 and Volunteer Activism Award in 2020. Manisha plans to use her award prize money for self-development and to complete her higher education. She also hopes to visit LGBTQI groups in the region in order to develop a working relationship with them and learn from their experience.
The Bangladesh Queer Partnership Platform, also known as EQUAL, is committed to advancing the human rights of the SOGIESC community of Bangladesh in partnership with various national LGBTQI organizations. EQUAL was established as a community empowerment project. Since its founding, it has continued to engage multi-stakeholders in various community development processes which include skill development training, UN human rights mechanisms training, advocacy campaign, communication campaign on intersex issues, IDAHOT celebration, awareness, etc. The platform was formed to create a space where like-minded community organizations can collaborate and leverage each other’s resources and skills to contribute to the establishment of equal rights for LGBTQI people in Bangladesh. EQUAL hopes that by keeping alive the spirit and memory of Xulhaz it can serve as a reminder and inspire young queer activists to continue his legacy for the future generation of queer activists.
The Xulhaz Mannan Memorial Award fund has been established and EQUAL welcomes contributions so they can further build on this award and what it stands for. Those wishing to contribute to this initiative and to find out more about the LGBTQI situation in Bangladesh can contact the EQUAL coordinator for further information at [email protected]