Job training transforms lives of Bangladesh transgenders

Published: September 14, 2012

DHAKA, Sept 14, 2012 (AFP) – A love for lipstick and eyeliner meant a lifetime of discrimination for Saiful Islam, until a transgender training scheme in Bangladesh helped bring him hard-won acceptance and land him his dream job.

Many transgender people in south Asia, where they are known as hijras, are thrown out by their families and forced to scrape a living through begging, prostitution or drug dealing.

But each morning, Islam pulls on a pair of low-cut jeans and a tight T-shirt, applies his own make-up, and heads off to work in Dhaka at the offices of ATN Bangla, Bangladesh’s largest private television channel.

"The best part of my job here is that my colleagues treat me like any other human being. For a hijra this is a great achievement," Islam, who started his new career eight months ago, told AFP.

"A crowd would build up to see me and my three other hijra colleagues when we joined ATN Bangla. Some would even tease us. Now everything is normal. We’re like any other staff."

Islam, 22, is the beneficiary of government efforts to help transgender people who are among the most marginalised and discriminated groups in India and Bangladesh.

Last year he was one of 30 hijras to attend a technical school to take courses in videography, garment-sewing and beauty care to help them get jobs and integrate into mainstream society.

After six months of training, his friends Bobby and Chanchal found positions as video editors at ATN Bangla, while Islam and Opu became make-up artists at the station.

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