Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Unbox Me: A Campaign Giving Visibility to Transgender Children

The United Nations has launched the initiative to promote greater inclusion and acceptance of transgender children and to support their rights
April 1, 2022
Unbox Me
A scene from short film The Mirror by UNAIDS and FCB India

The United Nations has launched a new campaign, Unbox Me  on the International Transgender Day of Visibility, observed every year of March 31. The goal of the campaign by UNAIDS is to raise awareness among parents, teachers and the wider community about gender identity during childhood.

“Many of us take our gender identity for granted, but for many children, it is not so easy. It’s a matter of daily survival, a daily struggle,” said Mahesh Mahalingam, UNAIDS Director of Communications and Global Advocacy, adding, “Children all around the world must be supported in expressing their identity freely.”

Unbox Me is based on the common experience of children, many of whom have boxes or corners where they keep their prized possessions and trinkets, which can reveal a lot about the child, such as their likes and dreams. For some transgender children, hiding treasures in a box can become a way of hiding their identity from judgemental eyes. This is where Unbox Me can help, UNAIDS said.

The UN agency aims to curb stigma, discrimination and criminalisation and give visibility to invisible transgender and gender-diverse people.

The Unbox Me campaign originated in India, where more than 90 per cent of transgender people leave their homes or are thrown out, by the age of 15; many up on the street with no money or education, or depending on sex work.

The campaign is now going global, as its theme of acceptance and inclusion is universal, said the UN in its statement.

Around the world, transgender people are often marginalised and suffer discrimination and violence. As a result, they are about 35 times more at risk of acquiring HIV than other adults, according to UNAIDS, which is working to stamp out the virus, and end AIDS, by the decade’s end.

Globally, about 24 countries criminalise and prosecute transgender people.

The Unbox Me campaign is part of an ongoing collaboration between UNAIDS and the advertising agency FCB India. Last year, they partnered on a short film, The Mirror, about a young boy looking in the mirror and dressing up as a woman. The film was part of the #SeeMeAsIAm campaign and served to raise awareness among parents, teachers and the community, about gender identity in childhood, which the current campaign builds on.

“In India, children usually have a box which they use to store their most precious possessions, but in the case of transgender children they need to hide their box of treasures since some of their most precious possessions don’t fit the gender norm that society expects them to conform to,” said Swati Bhattacharya, FCB India’s Creative Chairperson, who conceptualised Unbox Me.

The campaign has so far received support from the education community in India, UNAIDS has reported. Teachers in many schools across the country are using the boxes featured in the campaign as a conversation starter to raise awareness about gender identity. Indian personalities, like film director Zoya Akhtar and television anchor Barkha Dutt, and community leaders have also participated in the campaign.