Paving the path to Gender Equality
Noor is the first ever transgender from District Shikarpur of Sindh to be associated with Save the Children in Pakistan as an active volunteer. According to her, this is the first time any International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) has approached any person from the local transgender community to assist in their activities.
Noor is 30 years old. She was born and raised in the city of Shikarpur and understands the intricacies of the local society well enough. She lives in a small house with her mother. As a profession, Noor performs in dance programs in the evening and earns enough to afford a decent living for herself and her mother.
The transgender community in Pakistan has very limited access to employment opportunities. Discrimination and harassment force them out of formal schooling and most of them resort to dancing or begging in streets to earn a living. The transgender community will be counted in Pakistan’s population census for the first time in 2017, and while this is a step in the right direction, a lot more needs to be done for the community to effectively engage them in the economic and social workforce.
Save the Children in Pakistan has a strong focus on implementing gender inclusive strategies across all its projects. Keeping this strategy in mind, Munawar, a Community Mobilisation Officer (CMO) for the Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) project, decided to approach Noor. Munawar knew Noor through a mutual friend. She briefed her about the Quality Improvement Team (QIT) and its role in IMNCH, and expressed the organisation’s desire to involve all marginalised sections of the local society in the project.
Noor joined the QIT for the District Headquarter (DHQ) RBUT Hospital in February 2017. Explaining her motivation to join the QIT, Noor says she wanted to be a voice for her community at the district level.
However, that was not the only reason Noor became a part of the QIT; she also shares a deeper, personal connection with the local hospital. In 2014, Noor was involved in a car accident that severely injured her leg. She was brought to RBUT Hospital where she underwent an operation on her leg. Unfortunately, a faulty surgery and the doctor’s negligence caused permanent damage to her leg.
“The pain in my leg constantly reminds me to do my part so that no one else has to go through the same pain as I did,”says Noor.
After becoming a part of the QIT, Noor has noticed a clear difference in the attitude of the doctors and the hospital staff towards her. The QIT values her opinions and incorporates her suggestions in all its action plans. She has also voiced her concern regarding the lack of medicines and facilities for disabled and old people during the QIT meetings. She also wants Save the Children to involve other members from her community who are unable to attend the QIT’s meetings in daytime due to daily wage issues.
“I am very grateful to Save the Children for finally involving my community in such development programs. Inclusion of all underrepresented sections of the society is key to lasting change,” concludes Noor.