A group of trans women in India have taken it upon themselves to make sure children from the ‘untouchable’ caste receive a quality education.
Priyanka and her friends are providing schooling to more than 40 children in the Dalit community in the West Bengal city of Malda.
The children belong to the Dalit community which are deemed untouchable in the Hindu caste system.
Moreover, children in Malda are highly unlikely to attend school and the numbers are even worse for Dalit children who mainly work in manual scavenging.
‘Although it is 2017, people still treat the Dalit community as untouchables,’ Priyanka told IANS.
‘The children suffer as the impoverished families are not able to afford education and often take their wards along while doing manual scavenging, cleaning tasks, etc. We wanted to do something for them.’
Priyanka and the other women opened the school at a local club house in June and teach all levels of education.
But because the children are all different ages and have different at different education levels, the women have to customize their lessons.
‘Some children know the alphabet, some don’t. So the challenge was to customise the lessons,’ Priyanka said.
‘We are providing them lessons in basic science, maths, English, etc. The idea is to get them up to scratch so they can go back to schools.’
It took a while for the school to really get into a groove, because at the beginning parents were not sure about sending their children to it.
‘The children were friendly with us. So we didn’t have much issues with them, but their parents were reluctant. It was not just that we were transgender, it was also the fact that they didn’t feel educating their children would be of much help,’ Priyanka said.
The school was also an opportunity to break stereotypes about the trans community. The women also receive very little salary for what they do. Any money for the school is sourced through crowd funding.
‘There is no fixed salary. Whatever comes, we are fine with that. If we do any social work for some gain, then it’s not social work. We want funding to run the school,’ Priyanka said.
Trans women to the rescue
Priyanka’s school is just one of many examples of trans women stepping up for their communities.
And over in Uttar Pradesh a group of trans women built a road for their community, after they got tired of waiting for the local council to do something about it.