The ICT Ministry is planning to provide IT training to members of the transgender community, four years afters the government recognised the “hijras” as a separate gender and granted them constitutional rights.
According to government estimates made in 2012, there are around 12,000 hijras in Bangladesh, although some experts say the actual number is much higher.
“We want to bring the hijras into the mainstream professional life by training them with IT facilities,” State Minister of ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said.
“Since we have already allocated sums for facilities of employment training and job fairs for the disabled, we could provide IT training for hijras by saving some amount from the budget. Furthermore, a department will also be given the responsibility soon.”
The state minister said that in order to proceed, a database must be created first.
“This will consist of the number of hijras, their location, and even their educational qualifications (so) these people can be trained according to their literacy,” he said.
Aiming to bring hijras into the mainstream professional life, the government is planning to provide them with ICT training so they can find suitable jobs in the fast-growing ICT industry Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu
The general secretary of Bangladesh Hijra Kalyan Foundation, Dr M Xane Alam Raabid, said that before training the hijras, their mindsets need to be changed.
“They will need to be informed and made to understand that training in IT will give them a better life than their ‘hijra career’,” Raabid said.
The “hijra career” can be defined as extortion of money from shops or people on public transport, or even gatecrashing a wedding or collecting money from the family of a newborn.
“Hijras think their profession of extorting money is a profitable one, due to which they refuse to give it up. It would be advisable to first change their mindset and then train them,” Dr M Xane Alam Raabid said.
According to Raabid, hijras possess significant intelligence and physical strength comparable to any man or woman.
He said: “Hijras could practice their skills in producing hardware and computer equipment, work at assembly plants, do graphics designing, and make security products and services for computers and mobile phones, among other tasks.
“But they have very low patience and are unstable, due to which, they cannot do one job for a long period of time. As a result, they should not work at call centres or create software. However, they will do very well in terms of traffic control.”
One hijra named Shuchana claimed she was a hard worker and earns Tk40,000 to 45,000 per month.
“I would like to receive IT training (but) I am sceptical whether I will earn an amount similar or even more than now,” she said. “I hope the government will arrange employment opportunities that would pay as much.”
Shuchana’s two companions, Rani and Pari (pseudonym), earn less than Tk10,000.
Pari said: “The education I have is not sufficient to use a computer. But, if the government trains me, I could learn too.”
Rani said that she had heard of using computers for data entry and composing, and even at call centres. “I hear this work is easy and can be done from home. Does the government have such work too?” she asked.
Bandhu Social Welfare Society is an association that works with hijras. The association’s sub-manager (advocacy and communication), Moshiur Rahman, said there are 40 to 50 people eligible for IT training in Dhaka city, but he exercised a note of caution.
“The hijras show less interest in learning about technology since their interests lie in work related to beauty and cooking,” he said. “(But) we are ready to give our assistance if the government wants any help from us.”
Moshiur said the welfare society currently has three hijra employees working with computers in its office.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune