'Before coming here, I used to live where I could not claim any social rights. We have been regular victims of public harassment as we are the people of the third gender. But now, we have a place to live, a place to live happily as we wish,' Rupa said with a smile on her face while talking to Dhaka Tribune
Rupa Hijra can now breathe a sigh of relief as no one can evict her from her newly-acquired abode in Ullahpara in Sirajganj
“Before coming here, I used to live where I could not claim any social rights. We have been regular victims of public harassment as we are the people of the third gender. But now, we have a place to live, a place to live happily as we wish,” Rupa said with a smile on her face while talking to Dhaka Tribune.
Rupa’s home is part of a village under a government initiative, Ashrayan-2, in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina allotted houses to 50 transgender people.
The small village, built beside the Dhaka-Rangpur highway near the popular “Aristocrat” highway inn, is situated in a calm and quiet area beside the Saraswati River.
This is the very first time that the government built residential houses for the transgender people, who still remain as the most neglected community in the country.
During a visit to the village, Dhaka Tribune found that a total of 20 semi-puccha houses are now accommodating 50 transgender people.
Each house comes with a separate kitchen, washroom, cowshed and a small area for cultivating vegetables. All the houses were found to be very neat and clean, including the kitchen floor.
“Being a transgender person, no one wanted to rent a house to us. Even if someone did, sometimes that landlord had to face pressure from the society to evict us. Actually, we lived a life without dignity despite being human beings,” said Baha Moni, a 27-years-old resident of the village.
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“Now we have our own home, and we are very grateful to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for giving us a place to stay,” Baha Moni added.
According to officials, the housing project was built for 20 hijra community members under three guru mothers (leaders of hijras). Later, these 20 people brought another 30 transgender people, mostly their friends and co-workers.
Surprisingly, the transgender community has completely rejuvenated the landscape of the village in just seven months after settling down into their new homes.
They transformed the area, which had been a barren land for years, into a place full of life by raising livestock and cultivating vegetables to earn their livelihood.
“We do not want to beg to survive. We are raising 10 cows and cultivating vegetables around every house. We want to show the society that transgender people can live a life of peace and prosperity if we can get some support from the society,” Rupa Hijra, who is also one of the leaders of the village, told Dhaka Tribune.
However, their transition to a normal and healthy livelihood continues to face challenges and barriers from society, including security issues.
“The elders from our neighborhood treat us in a positive manner but some of the youngsters still continue to harass us. Sometimes, they even try to enter our place and insult us. So, we want a boundary wall around our housing project so that we can live peacefully and safely,” said another resident Barsha Rani.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Mahbub Hossain, project director of Ashrayan-2 housing project, said: “We have instructed all DCs to incorporate transgender people in their respective districts under the housing project for the homeless people.”
According to the government database, there are around 10,000 transgender people living across Bangladesh.
When contacted, Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, principal secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, said: “Gradually, we will build more housing projects for transgender people across the country.”