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Shanakht: Dignity for All

Address challenges of social exclusion, stereotyping, persecution & lack of economic opportunities for transgender community

Photo of Samar Hasan
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

The target community & involved stakeholders agree that the intervention is required on an urgent basis in order to address the former’s socio-economic exclusion that has evolved into chronic stigmatization forcing them to lead a life of poverty & misery.

The proposed idea capitalizes on a mix of socio-economic interventions aimed at alleviating the fundamental dynamics holding the community in isolation. Refined with feedback from the target community & organizations working with transgender persons, the program integrates existing resources (both human and organizational) to implement the multi-faceted transgender empowerment program, including skills & business development, psycho-social support, establishing synergies with financial institutions, industry, civil society & other service providers. It is designed to impart a sustainable & community-based mechanism & infrastructure for long-term sustainability & growth, & leverages existing skills found within the community.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

The entire community exhibits desensitized behavior towards the transgender community, systematically marginalizing them from social, economic & political arena. The systemic marginalization is to such an extent that parents are forced to give up their children, if different, due to societal pressure. Our initiative is designed to bring them into the mainstream, open socio-economic avenues for them & change public sentiment & perception of the community at large so they are treated as equals.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Given the overwhelming & systemic genesis at the heart of transgender marginalization, the idea espouses a multi-faceted intervention in both approach & content. It involves developing synergies with existing stakeholders both within the community and outside; working directly with individuals on a wide array of action areas including skill development, access to finance, business support & a concomitant sensitization, mobilization & advocacy campaign for sustainable & widespread behavior change

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Within project life: 300 transgenders trained (100 direct trainees train 2 persons each) & employed in businesses; 10 transgender-owned businesses, each employing 2 people; medical support to 1000 members.
3 yrs: Acceptance within transgender community & general public for diverse professional occupations
Sustainability ensured through training of additional members by direct beneficiaries, income generation through e-commerce & exhibitions, contributions by employed/self-employed transgenders

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

The Beneficiary Feedback necessitated the refinement of both the content & approach envisaged for the program. In terms of content, the feedback helped identify the need for additional & diverse skill, business development & personal grooming programs, psycho-social & medical support. The feedback also highlighted the need for sensitization not just in the larger community but also within the transgender community to create awareness & acceptance for alternative occupations.

The beneficiary feedback reinforced the need for proactive role of the community in the implementation of the program itself. The existing organization of the community into sub-groups has the potential to act as a platform for identification, recruitment & training of suitable members to act as role models & resource persons for their local communities.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

The attached Gantt Chart depicts the key activities to be implemented under the project with indicative timelines.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Epiphany will recruit a core project management team to ensure project is executed as planned. Additionally, partnerships have been explored for different elements of the project, including skill development, tech & financial support. Medical support partnerships are being explored for psycho-social counseling and health related issues. Some market linkages for employment opportunities have also been explored. This will be further expanded once the project is initiated.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

Skill development of 300 transgender persons (tuition fee, stipends, transportation, equipment, resource materials)
Psycho-social & medical support for 1000 transgender community members
Funds for establishment of 10 transgender-owned businesses & market linkages development
Exhibitions/fashion shows/e-commerce platform
Media campaigns & engagement, panel discussions, publications for sensitization
Community outreach and advocacy efforts for advocacy & behavior change
HR & management cost

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

Q1: What are the international best practices that can be employed to initiate and pursue behavioral change within the transgender community and the larger community in relatively shorter time? We would like to know the experts’ opinion in order to refine our approach in light of the examples from other communities.

Q2: Since Shanakht’s target community is ostracized by the larger community, even their own families for their lifestyle and identity, we would like to know what has worked in similar situations for the experts in other communities. The views shared will help us refine our goals and pace in the given time. The expert opinion on the matter will also help us rationalize the trajectory of impact vis a vis the project timeline.

Q3: We would like to receive an expert overview of the program in terms of the content, approach, timeline and expected results. This will help us in refining the contours of this program as well as the expansion of this program beyond BridgeBuilders fund.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Transgender community is one of the most marginalized groups in Pakistan. For nearly 70 years, they have been denied the most basic rights as citizens like right of identification (CNIC), legal inheritance & respectable livelihood. It was only after Supreme Court’s order in 2012 that CNICs started being issued to transgender people. This systematic marginalization has forced them to beg for their living or indulge in prostitution to make their ends meet. They are seen as lesser humans, are abused, attacked or even killed without any legal consequence. Shanakht (identity) is an innovative initiative designed to address multifaceted challenges faced by transgender persons in their daily lives – social exclusion, stereotyping, persecution, lack of respectable career fields, economic opportunities & recourse to legal action. The program is aimed at uplifting their situation by providing them a chance to earn a respectable living and lead financially viable lives through skills-based trainings in tailoring, cooking, fashion designing, beauty industry, digital skills. Shanakht will also create web-based platforms and ecommerce sites through which orders/selling can take place. Linkages will be created to enable them to receive orders from food businesses, existing beauty parlors, boutiques.

Through multidimensional public events, including fashion shows/exhibitions where challenges faced by the community are highlighted, activists/role models from within this community as well as beneficiaries from this program are brought in the limelight, it aims to humanize the transgender community. Finally, it will educate them about their basic rights & recourse to legal action

The project falls under “bridging peace and prosperity”. One, it actively seeks to address the stigma, social exclusion and violence faced by transgender community. Two, it aims to prepare them for respectable careers, provide economic opportunities. Three, it will enable them to seek legal recourse.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

1. Transgender persons selected for TVET & legal trainings & additional transgender persons trained by them. As part of the sustainability of the program, each trainee has to train one more person. 2. Indirect beneficiaries include the larger transgender community, which will benefit as a result of increased income generation. Since the transgender community is a close-knit one, we expect the increased income to be invested in better nutrition, health, education and well-being. Furthermore, the larger transgender community will also benefit by getting inspired and motivated by these trainees to pursue alternate careers. 3. The training institute that will train these participants, partner organizations sourcing their work, guests at the fashion shows/exhibitions to showcase the work produced by them, including journalists, general public are indirect beneficiaries of the program.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Our idea is more comprehensive than any other initiative for transgenders which are charity-like and simply provide food and clothing. Along with capacity building, we are creating ongoing economic opportunities - trained tailors/fashion designers can work for other fashion houses/boutiques/tailors or pursue work independently through Shanakht’s web-based platform like; Through an ecommerce site, trainees can sell their products online like, The ones trained in culinary skills can market their products through existing initiatives such as Plate101 & Chefling Tales, work for online cooking and baking businesses, join restaurants. The ones trained in digital skills can start earning money online through freelancing websites like Upwork. The element of sustainability is built in right from the onset & a portion of the income will be channeled back to cover marketing costs, maintain the platforms & train more transgenders.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Epiphany is an impact-driven consulting firm & social enterprise, focused on harnessing ideas to transform the world. Epiphany is the result of years’ long struggle to find sustainable pathways of addressing a growing set of challenges, while best employing the skills and expertise we have amassed over the years. Our core focus areas are: enterprise & human development; impact consulting; women & youth empowerment, financial inclusion, dialogue & advocacy.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

The inspiration to work for the transgender community stems from a deep set desire to create a more equitable society for everyone. More specifically, transgender persons were killed at a wedding and gunned down recently and became the trigger for us to take action before it is too late.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is influenced by aggression against hijras – the name for transgender people, intersex people & eunuchs - who are attacked, murdered, raped, gang raped, kidnapped & tortured in Pakistan. In KP alone, reported deaths since 2015 have risen to more than 50.
They are ridiculed by police, have limited access to justice & legal action.
Prosperity has been impacted due to severe discrimination they are faced with - they are not accepted in society, are disowned by their families, face issues related to property inheritance, are often refused medical treatment, face burial issues & lack basic rights such as education, right to live & right to respectable livelihood. There are hardly any career opportunities for them besides begging, dancing and prostitution. Lack of education & lack of employment opportunities both result in continuing exclusion for them &l iterally no way to move out of poverty.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We are collaborating with Islamabad Vocational & Technical Institute, a well-established organization since 1997. IVTI has extensive experience in training people in various fields - cutting, stitching, designing; beautician courses, cooking/baking courses, computer courses etc. The Principal/Founder has been a master trainer for 2 decades, has trained disabled women from Balakot, worked for 15 years with NRSP to train marginalized women & worked with refugees. They also have experience of organizing fashion shows. We also have commitments from Pernia Couture (, SIA Multibrand store ( to outsource their stitching requirements to Shanakht; Needs Kitchen (, Plate 101 ( for culinary relationships. We have decided to partner with Brilliant Innovators web/ecommerce portal creation.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Pakistan is a country of predominantly young people desirous of change. There is a strong spirit of philanthropy. Organizations working on equal economic, social & political rights are easy partners for us - Smile Foundation works with acid attack victims; Bedari works with sexually abused women; Behbud provides economic opportunities to artisans. The ease with which IVTI, Pernia Couture, SIA, Needs Kitchen agreed to partner with us also give hope that the time is right for such an intervention.

Geographic Focus

Transgender community in Pakistan, starting from Islamabad and Rawalpindi, expanding nationwide

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


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Photo of Marnie Glazier

Very timely project idea and great work putting real faces behind this effort, documenting your work and personalizing the community you are advocating for.

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