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Educational Empowerment: A Question of Self-Identity

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The transgender community seeks an educational upliftment at the earliest but the social construction of gender is creating mayhem. The question is, are we willing to place education above Self-Identity?

While reminiscing those childhood days in school when life was full of giggles and nonchalant days, I wondered about the questions I was asked back then. What is your favorite color- blue or pink? The answer was blue but the expectation was ‘pink’, since girls could not like blue. Different notions and behavioral patterns have constructed the concept of gender. The gender roles assigned to each of us are based on an accepted set of characteristics. If anyone falls beyond them, they are rejected in society’s eyes. Then what happens to the transgender community? What about their unique Self-Identity?

Education makes everyone better off. It is education that develops everyone and helps them to choose better and work for the best. Knowledge empowers an individual to recognize opportunities, understand their rights and duties. Education has the power to make a person complete. Gender alone can not determine the character of a person but it is the empowerment by education that makes a person face the world. Moreover, this educational empowerment helps in the developmental process of a country. We claim to be a developing nation and have set our eyes on becoming developed. The irony is that we are the same people who are creating hindrances in the process. Education should be imparted equally irrespective of gender then why is one section of the society deprived of it?  Why is equality a notion of just two genders?

The word gender may sound quite peculiar and unimportant but the impact it has is way greater than we can realize. You and I can sleep tonight with calmness. However, it is this very word that has seized the peace out of many lives. In a landmark case, the Supreme Court of India recognized the transgender community in 2014. It acknowledged the right to choose one’s gender identity as it is integral to the right to a life with dignity. This gave formal recognition to the community. Yet, there is a long way to social acceptance.

The transgender community has been deprived of cultural and social participation which has resulted in restricted access to education and other needs. According to official reports, there are about 4.9 lakhs people who belong to this community. The actual number could be way higher than these figures. Out of which, about 55,000 belong to the age group of 0-6. In comparison to the literacy rate of 74% of the general population, the literacy rate of this community is quite low at 46%. Although the constitution guarantees them a quality life, they lack the means that create the ‘quality’ of life.

Formal education for transgender is not a very popular concept in Indian society. The enrollment is significantly low and the drop-outs are too high. They are reluctant to continue schooling as a result of all the bullying and harassment they have to face. The community is deprived of a healthy environment be it at school or home. This further deteriorates their standard of living. With the prevailing stigma and less education, the endless number of opportunities is only present on the paper for them.

Back in 2014, when the country recognized the transgender community officially, the University of Delhi also included the third gender in their application form. It seemed to be a big leap since a premier institution had opened its arms towards inclusivity. Nevertheless, there are accounts of students who received a cold shoulder from the officials along with bullying that followed them into their classrooms.

I approached a group of students to find get directions to the window for filling up the application for DU’s School of Open Learning (SOL). They called me a ‘Chaka’. I never thought that educated people could be so insensitive. We are also a part of society. I knew right then that I will never be one of them.

-Delhi based transgender via ED Times

Educational deprivation comes from the question of equality. We are in an era where people are still gripping on the concept of feminism. Even now, we are fighting for women’s rights and equal opportunities for them. We are still bridging the gap between the two genders. When there is an issue of fairness between men and women then how is equality going to reach the third gender?

In a classroom, when a student uses a slur like ‘Chaka’ and it goes unnoticed in the name of a joke, are we taking this issue of inclusivity seriously? Are we inclusive when we have generalized the use of slurs for this part of society?

The transgender community faces problems in all walks of life. Hence, an equitable education through social acceptance is critical. This makes the need for educational empowerment even more important for the working of an inclusive society. There is a long road that needs to be walked down to achieve the collective goal of their social acceptance that would ensure reimbursement of their lost quality of life

Read Also: The Need for Queer Collectives in Colleges

Featured Image Source: News 18

Ankita Baidya

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