Tashnuva Anan Shishir, an activist and actor, has become the first transgender news anchor in Bangladesh after she delivered her first broadcast on a private TV channel on Mar 8, International Women’s Day.
After delivering her three-minute bulletin on Boishakhi TV, the 29-year-old broke down in tears of emotion. “I had to prove to society I exist,” she told the New York Times.
Shishir, who told AFP she was bullied and sexually assaulted as a child, fled home when she was 15 and moved to Dhaka.
There, she started working for charities and acted in theatres while studying.
She eventually underwent sex reassignment surgery in 2015 and became the first transgender person to study for a master in public health t the James P Grant School of Public Health in Dhaka, according to AFP.
She said she had tried audition for jobs at a number of TV stations, but only Boishakhi was “brave enough to take me in.”
Shishir told the BBC she has spent her life advancing her career so she can speak her mind, and “today I got that platform.”
There are more than 10,000 trans people in Bangladesh, according to government data, but estimates say there may actually be over 500,000, the New York Times reported.
Although Bangladesh recognised trans people as a third gender – known as “hijra” – in 2018, granting them the right to vote and stand for election, it is still difficult for many of them to access jobs and education due to conservative social values.
Some have to support themselves through singing and dancing performances at weddings and births, begging or through sex work in cities, the BBC reported.
The country opened its first school for transgender people in November last year, which teaches students Islamic values and vocational subjects to help them with getting jobs.