Sanam Fakir sets her own terms of life as a transgender

Published: July 3, 2013
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Sanam Fakir, a transgender social worker in Sukkur, plans to open a shelter home. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Sanam Fakir, a transgender social worker in Sukkur, plans to open a shelter home. PHOTO: EXPRESS

SUKKUR: When Sanam Fakir describes her life, she admits it is not easy. “My life is like a tree, which stands under the scorching sun but provides shelter to others,” the 38-year-old transgender tells The Express Tribune.

“Though it is very difficult to spread flowers for others when you’re walking on stones yourself, but I think that is the spirit of humanity.”

Sanam has seen and experienced people treating transgenders an an object. Something to make them laugh, she says.

“But nobody tries to peep into our souls.” We are like this because God made us this way, she explains. “Otherwise we too feel pain and joy.”

Early years

Sanam Fakir was born in 1975 in the house of a pesh imam, Haji Syed Mohammad, in New Goth, Sukkur, and was named Syed Essa Gul. With four brothers and five sisters, Sanam is the youngest of all. “As I grew older my parents started judging me and figuring out that there was something wrong with me,” she recalls. “I always behaved and walked like girls.”

Sanam was enrolled in a school in New Goth. “I couldn’t study beyond middle school because of my classmates’ attitude,” she says. Even her brothers and sisters used to make fun of her but her parents always hushed them up.

“Everything was going all right until my father was alive,”she recalls. Soon after his death in 1994, her brothers’ attitude became intolerable. “They openly used to call me a ‘hijra’ and ‘zankha’, and would ask me to go and live with people like me.” Her eyes tear up with these memories.

Moving out

When she had had enough, Sanam decided to leave her father’s home. “I left home at the age of 20 and started living with a transgender, Shahnaz, in Sukkur’s Shamsabad Muhalla.”

She was heartbroken to leave her family behind and the lifestyle of the transgender community – which included dancing and other vulgarities – did not appeal her. “So I borrowed Rs2,000 from a trader and started selling bedsheets door-to-door.” This was the first attempt Sanam made at having an independent life and breaking the norms that the transgender community had made up.

“After sometime my business started flourishing and I started bringing dinner sets and blankets from Quetta and sell them in Sukkur,” she recalls happily, adding that her earnings were enough to ensure she led a happy life.

Social work

In 2002, Sanam decided to engage in social work. “I gave money to another transgender, Mujeeba, for an eye operation.” By the year 2008, Sanam established her own social welfare organisation, Sanam Fakir Welfare Association, which aimed at mitigating the sufferings of everyone, especially the transgenders.

“The well-to-do people supported my noble cause and provided funds for the purpose, which I used to arrange weddings of poor and needy girls,” she says.

The Sanam Fakir organisation also arranged relief goods for the internally displaced persons of Swat, apart from helping the flood survivors in 2010. “I have also established a computer centre for the transgenders so they can learn skills for a better future.”

Future plans

“I want to establish a shelter home for the transgenders and an old home for parents abandoned by their children,” Sanam adds. She believes transgenders can play a role of bridging the gap between men and women in society. She appeals to donor agencies to help her carry on her dreams. “I am already engaged in social work but I cannot do much with my limited resources,” she admits. For her fellow transgenders, she has only one message: to refrain from indecent activities and find respectable living.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (31)

  • Malik
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:56AM

    When you read stories like these, one does get an impression that all is not over for this unfortunate land. Rock on!

    Recommend

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:19AM

    Why do we have to judge others and who are we to judge others, why can’t we just accept them as they are, If one believe in God then it is God who created us all and none of us will match others . Kudos to you Sanam for working and helping others in this very close minded society of ours.If there is any consolation then look around you, how religious intolerance has taken over the country. People could be very cruel but if you are happy with yourself then that is what matters the most.

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  • Imran Khan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:52AM

    What a successful story I am impressed this should be front page news in every news paper.

    Mas SHAH Allah

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  • Ginger Transgender Society of America Texas
    Jul 4, 2013 - 7:56AM

    We have been keeping a watch as to the simple progress in Pakistan, they have achieved more in their young history of Pakistan that we have in the United States of America. The transgender society should be proud of their achievements. Last month the transgender society of Pakistan was featured in the Frameline festivals San Francisco in a award winning Pakistani collaboration of the film Chuppan Chupai We Americans got a closer look into the transgender community in the second largest Islamic nation Pakistan. Even though the film was screened on a work week day people were lined up to get a glimpse of the transgender world in Pakistan. People were moved by this great Pakistani short film showing the struggle, intolerance, hate & physical abuse they encounter & that too by people who proudly lay down the prayer mat five times a day. in spite of the obstacles they have made some in roads to bring the issue to the forefront. We wish them our love & support from here.

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  • Jul 4, 2013 - 8:02AM

    hats off to her! =)
    Inspired Me. Respect!

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  • m omar
    Jul 4, 2013 - 8:07AM

    If our Mullahs stop spreading hate speeches using Masjid platforms and start focusing on these social issues where humanity is given equal respect and status, only then can our society flourish. Hats off to Sanam!!

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  • citizen
    Jul 4, 2013 - 9:53AM

    wow ! i am so impressed . More power to sanam and other transgenders.

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  • bilal
    Jul 4, 2013 - 10:53AM

    I am so impressed.

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  • asr
    Jul 4, 2013 - 12:39PM

    well done keep it up.

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  • logic
    Jul 4, 2013 - 12:56PM

    Sanam you are the bravest person in Pakistan even more brave than Malala.

    I salute you

    ET should print her address so people can contribute to her cause.

    Recommend

  • AA
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:06PM

    So proud of Sanam. She gives hope to all the marginalized groups of society– whose marginalization is usually justified under the banner of so-called Islam.

    We need more stories like these so that people can treat all hijras with respect. Whether they are begging/ dancing or not, they deserve acceptance and respect.

    Recommend

  • Afridi
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:12PM

    We salute you for your bravery and courage.Recommend

  • Zubair
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:36PM

    ” For her fellow transgenders, she has only one message: to refrain from indecent activities and find respectable living.”
    Above last line is crux of story for me. Transgenders should try to earn respectable earning for themselves. Mindset of our society should be changed. This is responsibility of Imams and teachers to tell us brotherhood instead of ethnic violence.
    I live in Oman. Here all Imams deliver same lecture in Juma prayer and that lecture is being provided by ministry and approved. These lectures deliver humanity and brotherhood and I see Omani’s are very down to earth and polite.But in our society, most of Imams deliver hate speech and result of intolerant society is in front of us.
    This is the difference.

    Recommend

  • Muneeb
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:50PM

    ET there should be at least some sort of contact info that can help the readers who want to help. There are always such articles and programs on TV channels and news publications but there is never any information that how one can contact if he want to be part of this good cause.

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  • Nauman
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:10PM

    After reading such great stories you realize “There’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for”.

    Recommend

  • Kamran (Berlin)
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:18PM

    I am proud of you Sanam! We need more people like you! you should be awarded for your courage!!

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  • Shahzad Hasan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 3:01PM

    I would thank Tribune for sharing stories like these, first of. Sanam’s Story is not that of courage but of hope, that no matter what, we as Pakistani’s have a potential to rise up. God Bless Sanam and Pakistan

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  • Marriam Awan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 3:07PM

    It’s really very encouraging..! She has proved tht good may come out if we work hard with patience.. her story of leaving indecent life nd starting to get self employed izz a lesson for otherz.. sanam we all r proud of you..!

    Recommend

  • afza
    Jul 4, 2013 - 3:27PM

    sanam may ALLAH bless you.i feel pride that you are a pakistani.

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  • Hatf XX
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:05PM

    just being curious – won’t the correct term of address be it, its instead of she, her etc. I mean if its a she we are talking about, there’s nothing to talk about, is there.

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  • Nemah
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:58PM

    I’d like to contribute to her welfare association. How may I get in touch?

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  • Zeeshan Hasan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:39PM

    The story is inspiring but will soon turn into archives and nothing positive could be achieved from it except from saying wao and turning into archives.

    If you do publish such stories you should also facilitate in providing a way users can contribute to the cause.

    Recommend

  • Arshad Abbas
    Jul 4, 2013 - 7:44PM

    GOD bless u Sanam

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  • Stranger
    Jul 4, 2013 - 8:28PM

    Go Girl !!!

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  • Tariq Ali Sial
    Jul 4, 2013 - 10:06PM

    Sanam may Allah shower his blessing upon you always. I always feel sad when I see transgenders not being considered as a functional part of society, why because they are the minor part of society???? what would be the scenario if they had sprawling population, a dominating one??
    I guess they discriminated not because they are transgenders but because they are considered as minority.
    I really appreciate you Sanam and yes you are one of us!!!!

    Recommend

  • Syed Hasan Atiizaz
    Jul 4, 2013 - 11:15PM

    I am impressed. Prayers and good wishes for you SANAM,

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  • Sami
    Jul 5, 2013 - 3:37AM

    Mashallah! Such an inspiration, not just for the transgender community but for everyone. I think Sanam embodies what it means to be a human before being a man or a woman. I hope this changes many of the sadistic minds in our society who use Islam to marginalize others.
    How can I get in touch with Sanam and her organization?

    Recommend

  • Saira Javed
    Jul 5, 2013 - 4:53AM

    For all those who want to help out, google her try other methods, aren’t there search sites instead of waiting for staff of Express Tribune to connect them. Stop being lazy and do your humanitarian effort to do the right thing!

    Recommend

  • Saman
    Jul 5, 2013 - 10:56AM

    Inspiring!

    Recommend

  • Maha
    Jul 5, 2013 - 8:03PM

    Is there any contact number or bank account details where we can put money to help her.

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  • Trilliam Autumn
    Jul 8, 2013 - 1:56AM

    Quick grammar lesson. She is a transgender woman, not a transgender.
    Just like if you were describing a black woman or a short woman, they arent referred to as “a black” or “a short”. Thank you.

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