Centre helps give Mak Nyah sense of belonging
New Strait Times Article
PINK Triangle (PT) Foundation is a non-governmental organisation with an outreach programme for the Mak Nyah community here.
Funded by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, its focus is on self-empowerment, human rights, personal development and health concerns related to HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease (STD).
PT Foundation advocacy manager Kevin Baker says the Mak Nyah community has been a misunderstood and disgraced group for a long time.
"They were accepted in the 1980s and early 1990s, but for some reason, they are now clearly sidelined."
He gives an example last year when a Mak Nyah was denied hospital treatment because of how she was dressed.
Baker says PT Foundation tries to help this marginalised community by being non-judgmental.
"We are trying to support them in discovering who they are and what they want in life, and at the same time, to prevent the spread of HIV."
PT Foundation programme manager Sulastri Ariffin, affectionately known as Su, says an average of 20 to 30 Mak Nyah come to the centre every day to rest and seek company with other community members.
"They can come to have meals three times a day, wash their clothes, shower and take a nap. They usually head back out around 6pm.
"They are also given religious counselling by Jawi (Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department), cooking and computer training and other classes via the programme," Su says, adding that most of them are sex workers who live on the streets.
"We don't want to change anyone, but perhaps, we can put some light back into their lives," says Su, who is also a transgender.
She says transgenders face a life full of discrimination and some even regret being born.
"They feel lousy about themselves and are sensitive. They also face the constant danger of getting arrested."
Despite their adversities, Su is confident that the Mak Nyah community have grown stronger.
"We know we can face anything life throws at us. I have come to a stage where I don't care what people think of me. I know who I am and that is all that matters."
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