When you’re a member of Pakistan’s transgender community, life is tough. It’s difficult to get a job and even more difficult to get an education. The government has made it a bit easier on the community by adding the third gender on ID cards but they still have a tough time in the employment market. That’s where The Gender Guardian comes in.
The Gender Guardian is Pakistan’s first all-transgender persons school and it wants to empower the community by equipping them with skills to find employment.
When it started its operations in Lahore on April 15 it had 40 students and on September 9, 17 students received skill-based training diplomas.
The school is the Exploring Future Foundation’s first project, The foundation was started by a group of students.
Four-month cooking, beautician, driving and spoken English courses are offered at the school. There is also no age limit — anyone can do a course.
There are around 30,000 transgender people in Lahore.
Asif Shehzad, the owner of the school, told SAMAA Digital that apart from vocational training, they also provide formal education. “Currently, two students are doing their Matriculation while one is completing their Intermediate from our school,” he said.
In collaboration with the Akhuwat Foundation, loans are provided to transgender people if they want to set up a business. Students who complete the beautician course are being given paid internships at salons. “A former student has been hired by Akhuwat University as a computer operator,” said Shehzad. He said Coca-Cola Pakistan has also contacted them to hire transgender persons at their company.
Speaking to SAMAA Digital, transgender activist Kami Sid appreciated the initiative to educate transgender persons. “I want to see transgender persons as doctors, engineers and lawyers,” she said.
The Gender Guardian plans to open campuses in Karachi and Islamabad soon.
Nisha, a final year law student at Sindh Muslim Law College, said that it’s better to have designated educational institutions for transgenders. “Many transgender persons are not comfortable studying with other students or vice versa. I felt alienated when I joined college,” she said.
“I enrolled at the Pakistan American Culture Center for an English language course. The students there ignored me and their attitude was indifferent towards me,” she added.