Transgender people across the country are usually limited to selected occupations or life on the street. The limited choices often leave them with no options but a life of poverty while dealing with discriminatory attitudes.
Transgender people are stereotyped, and both public and private sector organisations usually avoid offering them any meaningful jobs.
In an effort to change this and mainstream transgender people, the Rawalpindi campus of the National College of Arts (NCA) has taken an initiative to hire several transgender people.
NCA Director Dr Nadeem Omar Tarar told The Express Tribune that the motivation behind the initiative was to create opportunities for transgender people in a safe work environment.
Though questions were initially raised about how the campus would receive transgender staffers — if they would be accepted by students and staff or harassed as usual — Tarar says the students and staff have accepted the new recruits.
“[Students and teachers] were shocked at first, and there were certain inhibitions on how they would adjust and address [transgender staffers],” Tarar said.
“But the gender confusion gradually passed, and Bubbly, who works at the canteen, is now very popular among students. Some call her aunty or baji (older sister), and the whole campus has accepted them for who they are,” he said.
Tarar said the initiative began with an MPhil student named Usman Mughal, who was working on a thesis on “engendering the transgender” and established an organisation called “Wajood” in collaboration with Bubbly.
Bubbly, told The Express Tribune that her main motivation was to provide some 46 transgender people — for whom she is a guru — with respectable job opportunities.
“We had already been running a catering business as well,” she added.
By setting an example on how one can contribute, Tarar said that he believed that other educational institutions should take a cue from here and start hiring transgender people in their own capacity.
“Instead of assisting them in starting up small businesses, there is a need to provide them with jobs in secure environments, where they are able to safely settle in,” the NCA director said.
Sharmili, a cook at the canteen, said she cannot imagine working anywhere else after three happy months on the job at NCA.
Veena, who has been working as an office assistant in the Fine Arts Department for the last four months, says she hopes to be able to quit her second job as a dancer because of the derogatory language and behaviour she has to deal with.
“There is a marked difference in the work environment here. Even though I’m not making as much money as I could by performing, I am happy and satisfied working here,” Veena said.
She said that her guru had given her full freedom to choose whatever job she wanted, and she still performed at functions for some additional income.
“I’ve even received job offers from other organisations after starting work here. I encourage other transgender people to go for decent job as well,” said Veena.
According to Tarar, a Supreme Court judgment from 2012 gave him the legal ground to move forward with this initiative.
“The Supreme Court judgment explicitly states that if there is a job which requires a bachelor’s degree and a transgender with a matriculation certificate applies for the job, the selection committee is required to give preference to the transgender when hiring,” Tarar said.
He felt the judgment needs to be enforced and rules of business should be set up to implement it.
“The judiciary has done its bit. The government must now take the initiative and streamline a mechanism through which transgender people can be hired,” Tarar added.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2015.