Pakistan’s vibrant but shunned transgender community is striking out into politics with individuals contesting elections for the first time. Seven out of 23,000 candidates have livened up an otherwise lacklustre campaign and set an important marker for their rights in the conservative Muslim country.
“My aim is to give justice to the poor, welfare to the old, promote meritocracy and the lives of cleaners and remove unemployment. Once elected, I will make my city cleaner and end the traffic chaos,” said Sanam Faqeer, an independent candidate in the southern city of Sukkur.
Faqeer has worked hard to get where she is. After earning a living as a dancer and prostitute for a decade, she invested in a textiles business and started supplying bed sheets and ladies clothes door to door, allowing her to make new contacts in the city. Then she branched out into welfare, providing care to elderly eunuchs and registered her own charity in 2009. Today, her two-room apartment serves as a home, an institute offering transgender people computer training and therefore the prospect of more respectable work, the headquarters of her charity and as a campaign hub.
“I decided to live for others, because everybody lives for themselves but nobody sacrifices their life for others,” she said.
Having won the hearts of Sukkur’s transgender community and hundreds of poor people, she says her community asked her to stand for election.