Pakistan Opens First School for Transgender Students

Students exit the Gender Guardian school, Pakistan's first school for transgender students. (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan recently welcomed students into the country's first-ever school designed to serve the transgender community. Forty students are enrolled at the Gender Guardian, a school for transgender students that opened its doors April 15.

The response to the school has been so positive that two more schools for transgender students are reportedly slated to open in the next few months.

Transgender students at the Gender Guardian
The Gender Guardian offers courses in graphic design, fashion, cooking and computers. (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Located in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab province, the Gender Guardian school is currently offering courses in computers, mobile repair, graphic design, cookery and fashion. The curriculum and courses were designed according to the educational needs of the students who planned to enroll.

The school offers 12 years of education, from elementary school to college and vocational classes that can help students land a job once they're ready to enter the workforce. It was launched by the nonprofit Exploring Future Foundation (EFF).

Transgender students at the Gender Guardian
A teacher at the Gender Guardian snaps a selfie with students on the first day of classes. (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Asif Shahzad, director of the Gender Guardian, noted that the idea for the school came about after the 2016 bombing of a school for transgender students in Indonesia. "It was the only such school in any Islamic country in the world," Shahzad tells Dawn, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan. "After that, we decided to provide them education and bring them to the mainstream," he added.

While there's still a long way to go, the opening of the Gender Guardian school is just the latest in a series of steps that show a new openness toward the transgender community in Pakistan. Last month, the country’s Senate unanimously approved a bill protecting the rights of transgender people and empowering them to determine their own gender identity. The country also recently welcomed its first transgender newscaster, Marvia Malik, to a Lahore-based news program.