"Mr President. I wish a great success for the Obama Foundation. I am a transgender woman. My name is Dr Akkai Padmashali. I was a sex worker, I was a beggar. I was rejected by all the sections of society. And I am the black beauty. And I love you."
As Akkai, who is a well-known transgender rights activist from Bengaluru, introduced herself to former US President Barack Obama, the audience erupted in applause.
On December 1, the Obama Foundation organised a Town Hall, which was hosted by the former US President, in New Delhi.
Akkai was among the several young leaders from across India who had been invited to attend the event and discuss "what it means to be an active citizen and make an impact."
Akkai had a question and a request for Obama. She spoke about the discrimination and social exclusion that the LGBTQI+ community faces. She also asked how an individual could raise their voice against the government, if it was being oppressive, or the powerful patriarchal society.
"I am a criminal before Section 377... How do I raise my voice against this?" she asked.
Obama said, "The answer is, it begins with what you just did, which is to find your voice and to be able to articulate your views and your experiences and tell your stories. And that's true of any group that is marginalised, stigmatised."
"Finding that voice and being able to tell a story so that the perceptions that somehow you are different are broken down because people start recognising their own experiences in you. They see your humanity. This is one of the reasons, by the way, why art is often a powerful tool in social change," he added.
Akkai also asked Obama for a hug. Listen to his full response in this video.
"I'm a criminal," said Indian transgender activist. Barack Obama's response Read more here: https://goo.gl/jY1EtTPosted by NDTV on Friday, 1 December 2017
You can also watch the entire event here.