The transgender community and education: a forgotten issue
The transgender community in Pakistan has fought a long, exhaustive battle with the hate, prejudice and harmful stereotypes that surround their existence. With most people from the community being abandoned as children and being tortured mentally, emotionally and physically the question of their education has been neglected for far too long.
According to Supreme Court census of 2019, the transgender community in Pakistan is numbered at 300,000 with the actual numbers being much higher. Due to the legal and cultural biases that they face, most are forced to turn to dancing or sex work to make ends meet. Harassment and abuse are commonplace in these circumstances, and the lack of education further stands as a hindrance in the way for any progress. A research study showed, that 79% of the transgender community in Pakistan is uneducated and dropout rates are extremely high owing to sexual and verbal harassment as well as beatings by teachers.
Despite the bleak circumstances that we find ourselves in with regards to our minorities, there are efforts being made by organizations and individuals that provide some hope for a better future. The first school for the transgender community in Pakistan called: ‘The gender guardian’ opened in Lahore in 2018 to provide skill based education to members of the community with the goal of mainstreaming education for them. The school is more than just a place for them to learn skills, for many it is a sanctuary and a chance at a different life. For many others, the refreshments that the school provides are their only meals of the day. A video of the initiative is provided below:
The establishment of more schools of the sort across the country will play a huge role in uplifting the transgender community. However, the issues that they face are far deeper and systemic efforts are required to put an end to the social ostracism that they face. The cultural shame associated with being a member of the transgender community, is a major problem and acceptance albeit gradual will only come when the state as well as other organizations ensure security for them and provide more ways for uplifting and empowering them.