"There’s nothing transgender people can’t do; we’re educated, have degrees, but no opportunities, no encouragement. I want to change this." — Marvia Malik, Pakistan's first #transgender news anchor https://t.co/aHGpSUlR1rpic.twitter.com/GfbTT13xms— Jon Hutson (@JonHutson) March 26, 2018
On Friday, television audiences in Pakistan witnessed a first for their country as Marvia Malik, a 21-year-old transgender woman, anchored the primetime news.
But she fought an uphill battle to make history.
"Like other trans people, I did not get any support from my family,” Malik told Voice of America. “On my own, I did some menial jobs and continued my studies. I had always wanted to be a news anchor, and my dream came true when I got selected.”
Malik trained for three months with Lahore-based private broadcaster Kohenoor before making her on-air debut. After her first broadcast, the journalism school graduate and former model reflected on the difficulties of her barrier-breaking path with international media.
"I am a journalism degree holder, but I faced the same difficulties [as] the transgender people who simply beg or dance in the streets," she told Voice of America.
Malik told the BBC that she had to stop herself from screaming when she found out she got the job.
The owner of Kohenoor, Junaid Ansari, said that he made the decision to hire Malik solely “on the basis of treating all humans equally,” and not to make a social statement, according to Voice of America.
Many transgender people in Pakistan have trouble finding employment because of discrimination, and are forced to beg to make a living. Earlier this month, the Pakistani senate passed a bill making it illegal to deny people jobs or admission to schools because they’re transgender. The bill also ensured legal protections for transgender people against sexual and physical assault and harassment.
Malik hopes that her achievement is just one of many steps toward full equality for trans people in Pakistan.
“I am now being appreciated around the world for the work which I am able to do in Pakistan, but I hope to do more in the near future,” she told the Express Tribune, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan. “I also wish to see transgender people run for public office and an increase in government jobs.”
“I believe transgenders must not be marginalised for who they are and we should be considered as equal citizens in Pakistan,” she said. “I want to tell the world that nothing is impossible for the transgender community.”
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