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Shanakht: Dignity for All

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

Photo of Samar Hasan

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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)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

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. Mavenlogix, CreativEdge, Brilliant Innovators are being explored for web/ecommerce

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 Kumail Hassan

Congratulation Samar for getting to the next phase.

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