Bangladesh’s first transgender news anchor hopes her regular appearances on national television will help other trans people gain greater acceptance in a country where they often face discrimination and live in poverty.
Tashnuva Anan, a rights activist who previously worked with NGOs supporting transgender people and migrants, read her first daily news bulletin for a private television channel on Monday, International Women’s Day.
“This could be revolutionary and create a new dimension in people’s thinking,” said Anan, 29, who received several weeks of intensive training at Boishakhi TV after being selected for the job in auditions.
“The biggest problem is that people are not sensitised ... I hope this can do that, and urge them to look after the many ‘Tashnuvas’ around them,” she said.
Boishakhi TV’s chief editor, Tipu Alam, said Anan was the south Asian nation’s first transgender television newsreader. “I hope that this will bring greater acceptance and change the way people view the transgender community,” he said.
The government estimates that there are about 11,500 transgender people in Bangladesh, but LGBT+ rights campaigners say the true figure is likely to be at least 100,000 in a country with a population of about 160 million.
Transgender people in the socially conservative nation are often kicked out by their families at a young age and — with no proper education — many struggle to get jobs and end up living in poverty, rights activists say.
Anan, who said she had been “sexually abused, bullied and tortured” when growing up, left home aged 16, but was able to continue her studies and recently received a scholarship to pursue a Master’s in public health at a top local university.
While Anan said it was rare for transgender people to study and get jobs, there are some signs of greater awareness about the plight of many trans people in the country.
In November, a religious charity opened Bangladesh’s first school for the transgender community.
Tanvir Islam, who works for the Bandhu Social Welfare Society, a charity that supports transgender people, said that putting Anan on air would inspire other members of the community and have a “positive impact”.
“We’ve heard of transgender news presenters and lawyers in other countries, but we could rarely give such examples from Bangladesh ... But now, times are changing. These achievements are the result of a lot of hard work,” Islam said.
Despite the commitments of her new job and studies, Anan said she would continue fighting to improve the lives of trans people. “I’ll always try to work for the transgender community ... so they don’t drop out (of school) and don’t leave their families,” she said.