LAHORE: Moon is flying higher than her celestial namesake these days as her dream to work as a makeup artist has come true. She doesn’t have to dance or beg on the streets like other members of her transgender community.
“When my family kicked me out of the house, I was determined to lead a dignified life. I didn’t want to be part of a traditional group of transgender people who dance and beg to earn a livelihood,” she shares.
Moon Doll did a diploma in makeup and grooming from the Gender Guardian School in Lahore and secured a job at a prominent beauty salon in Johar Town. “I earned respect through my hard work.
Moon is not the only transgender person who has been successful in gaining respectable employment. Many of her peers have followed in her footsteps. Some of them learned skills, while others launched their own businesses.
Gender Guardian School Head Asif Shehzad says his institute provides vocational training to transgender people. He is happy to announce that in the last six months, dozens of transgender people have been trained and are leading comfortable lives.
“We are helping transgender people become respectable members of society. With training, we motivate them to actively look for a job.
Khushbu and Saroor have also set a precedent. Like many other transgender people, both of them used to dance and beg on the streets.
“I am not as pretty as my peers are, therefore, I could never attract more people. I worked long hours and earned peanuts,” says Khushbu. She adds that two years ago, she found out about Gender Guardian School and that offered vocational training for a few weeks.
“They also offer interest-free loan. I set up a small grocery shop in my area where I sell fresh vegetables, candies, juices, beverages and other stuff for children. I have a good earning. People in my neighborhood, who used to look down upon me, now respect me. I live a dignified life and I’m proud of it,” she boasts.
Khawajasara Society Programme Director Moon Ali says that since 2012, her organisation is helping transgender people provide jobs and many of them are now working for a living.
“Those who were considered a liability by their families are now sharing the burden by contributing their incomes.” Ali shared that her NGO had some transgender people who were good at cooking. “Keeping in view their interest, we started a home delivery service titled Konda Chari, which means eating food in Persian. She recalls that they started providing fresh meals to various offices. Initially, they had only a handful of customers, but the number has gone up to over 100, she claims.
Konda Chari’s chef Saima Butt says that she is a great cook and this is proven by the fact that people order her food repeatedly. “We try our best to provide delicious food to our customers. We go out to buy fresh vegetables and meat ourselves, make a week’s menu in advance and provide a variety of dishes such as lentils, vegetables, rice, bread, chicken, mutton, beef, salads, raita and sweet dishes. We charge between Rs110 and Rs135 for one meal.”
Former Khawajasars Society’s leader Neeli Rana says they are trying their best to make every member of the community a productive and respectable person. There are many transgender persons who are now studying at universities as their parents also support them, she said. “With time, people’s attitude and thinking is also changing towards our community members and this positive change is very encouraging and welcoming.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2019.