First Story Positive: THIS Transgender Icon from Assam is breaking barriers with free libraries

Rituparna Neog of Assam runs free libraries under the Akam Foundation breaking to break barriers around gender, LGBTQ communities and sexuality.

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Many children in this country are exempt from the gift of education due to unfortunate circumstances. For these poor souls, the choice between a book and bread is mutually exclusive. Rituparna Neog, who used to hide behind the library in her childhood, fell in love with books so much that today she is making free libraries in every village so that discrimination can be eliminated on the basis of education. Believing that no one should have to make this ‘either-or’ choice, she runs a free library with over 1200 books so that every child in her’s and surrounding villages is educated.


Rituparna from Assam had a happy childhood like any other child, but by the time she reached adolescence, she had to face taunts from her fellow schoolmates for her “girlish” demeanor. To escape from the bullying, she used to hide in the library and immerse herself in the written world of books. This period was certainly difficult but the power of education and the support of her parents never allowed her spirit to weaken. She says that she never had to “come out”, but always wore her queer identity with pride, finally embracing her trans identity after years of body dysmorphia. She was also fully embraced and supported by her parents, whose acceptance immensely helped her in staying true to herself.


Her love for books allowed her to understood the power of education in instilling gender equality, and took a solemn vow to make this power of education reach every person. She dreamt of building a free library in the village. She hoped to instill empathy within the people of her village through the power of books to eliminate “queerophobia” from her village. To fulfill her dream, she studied the field of social work. Later Ritupurna started working with different social societies and NGOs of Assam, all the while keeping her dream of opening a library secure in her back pocket. She used to buy some books every month with her own salary with finally decided to open her library in 2020.


Unfortunately, the world turned upside down and the COVID pandemic sent the country into lockdown. At that time, Ritupurna started an online storytelling program on social media. During the time of COVID, she discovered that people liked listening to her stories in her native Assamese language. Her program gained traction among the people. Following this, she acquired around 600 books and the help of her parents and started the first free library in her village of Kitape Katha Koi. 


The dream project that started with just 600 books, has now more than 1200 books in its inventory, which was made possible with the help of fellow bookworms like herself. Today she helps more than 200 children with her two free libraries in two villages of Assam. Not only this, she also makes regular visits to her neighbouring villages from time to time serenading the youngsters with her storytelling programs. 


She has also visited more than 40 universities and institutes in the last two years and reached out to more than 10 thousand people to raising awareness about Gender Discrimination, Queer identity and Education. Ritupurna still gets her strength to make all of this possible from her beloved books. Ritu works tirelessly day-in, day-out, trying to create a society where there is no class discrimination and everyone lives peacefully and in harmony with each other. You can also help expand her efforts by contacting her on social media. You can also help by donating books of your own, to help make her dream a reality.