UNDP Pakistan has been keen on using innovative approaches to make programming more consultative and responsive to needs on ground. Ensuring that beneficiaries are at the heart of any intervention and activities/processes in projects are empowering for communities, are key indicators of responsive and quality programming.

The pursuit to ensure inclusion and arriving at solutions with the target group itself enabled the Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP) to organize a consultation with transgenders. Transgenders from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh Province were invited so that we could  hear from them and learn from them. They shared with us that apart from this consultation, almost all other consultations feature people telling them how they will be empowered without getting first-hand information from them how and what they require assistance with.

The consultation was framed around the 3 E framework which includes Education, Engagement and Employment and form the basis of YEP’s programming. The following is what we have learnt from the Transgender community for programming for Transgenders.

For Education programming:

  • The only time which would work for an effective, functional literacy/education provision is in the afternoon. Transgenders work mostly at night to make ends meet, so conventional evening literacy classes will not serve this group well.
  • Language is an area which needs attention – transgenders are keen to learn other languages and improve their English. They were confident it would help them diversify their skills and generate better incomes.
  • Educational facilities should be transgender friendly and stigma free with the trainers and teachers being sensitized. The interventions offering these facilities should be in geographic locations which the transgenders can easily access; otherwise transport costs and potential discrimination in certain localities can be deterrents.
  • Transgenders rights, their stories and struggles should be part of the national curriculum. This will ensure that the future generation is tolerant, aware and welcoming towards another group which is different from them. This will reduce discrimination and increase acceptance.
  • Due to dissociation from families, transgenders miss out on social etiquette and manners which impacts their interaction with others. Social grooming and communication skills need to be part of transgenders’ curriculum.
  • The most popular subjects for vocational learning turned out to be beautician courses, IT and social media, driving, cooking and mobile repairing. The community as a whole wants to do more, but the group consensus was on these trades. 

For Engagement programming:

  • Confidence building was emphasized multiple times – transgenders lack self-confidence and self-belief; mostly due to the emotional trauma and discrimination they faced from an early age.
  • Art needs to be explored as an engagement avenue/modality for transgenders. Transgenders engage more comfortably through dance, theatre, music, prose/poetry sittings and open mic events.
  • Sport is not a preferred way of engagement – most transgenders felt they preferred art and music much more than sport and are most likely to not attend sport events.
  • Use of social media and exposure visits/interactions can play an instrumental role in engaging transgenders.
  • HIV prevention and SRHR education has to be mandatory as a cross cutting theme for all work with transgenders with a focus on how to protect oneself.

For Employment programming:

  • Transgenders felt that fashion and beauty, culinary industry and childcare were areas where they could generate incomes from – they could easily start small businesses in these fields.
  • Placing transgenders in organizations/employment where HR is not sensitive and proper policies aren’t in place, is a violation of ‘Do No Harm’ principle. This actually does them more harm than good.
  • The group felt that stand-alone vocational training does not work for them unless it comes with a job placement. They do not have time and money to invest on something which may or may not result in a proper job.
  • Sensitization drives should be organized for employers to ensure inclusive and sensitive recruitment, retention and staff handling. Many transgenders had left jobs and taken up dancing at events to earn livelihood just because of the discrimination they faced in offices.
  • For employment to work, the transgenders need sensitization too – on communication, mannerism, work ethics and respect for standard operating procedures as conventional office environments are too formal and alien to them.

The consultation served as a learning session for the UNDP team and triangulated some of our findings for our intervention. It mapped a number of entry points and various modalities for engagement which weren’t on the table before the consultation. As a result, members of the transgender community are now part of YEP’s advisory board.

As Jesse Jackson said – “Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth’



Yusra Qadir 
Youth Engagement and Social Inclusion Specialist
Yusra Qadir works at UNDP as Youth Engagement and Social Inclusion Specialist. She has rich experience of working with civil society, vulnerable groups and public institutions for driving long term development efforts. Mainstreaming vulnerable groups in governance processes, working on meaningful social inclusion and evidence basedadvocacy are her primary interests

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