In a small but significant step, an organisation in Coimbatore has announced scholarships for transgender persons who want to study - whether in school, college or through distance education. Sahodari Foundation, an organisation that works for the welfare of transgender persons, is offering “The Sowmiya Tara Transgender Educational Scholarship Fund”.
This scholarship has been introduced in memory of two transgender women, Tara and Sowmiya. Tara died in November 2016, after she was found burnt outside a police station in Chennai in suspicious circumstances. Sowmiya had committed suicide because she was rejected by her partner and had no source of livelihood.
Speaking to The News Minute, Kalki Subramaniam, Founder of Sahodari Foundation, said, “It is the first time that such a scholarship has been introduced in the country in the memory of two transgender persons. Sowmiya had committed suicide in 2010, she was unable to cope with parental resentment and betrayal from her boyfriend. She was a sex worker. She could not hold the pressure. She was my best friend. She was a very jovial and happy person. None of us could save her,” she said.
There are hundreds of Sowmiyas in our society, said Kalki. “Tara was going through depression. These two transgender persons were very loving and their lives would have been different if their parents had accepted them and if they had access to education. They would have got the confidence to continue their lives with much self-esteem and hope,” she said.
Explaining the importance of education, she said, “They could never finish their school education and they were not eligible for a job. For both of them, their livelihood was only begging and sex work. I believe that suicide is never a solution. There are ways that one can stand up, I believe education is a powerful weapon and the only way transgender persons can stand up in their lives,” said Kalki.
Asked about the education opportunity for transgender persons, she said, “For transgender people education becomes a big dream. Most people cannot pursue education because they do not have the money, the resources or the support from their family. For them, when getting meals every day is a problem, education becomes secondary. This is the only way the community can stand up,” she said.
Through the scholarship, the organisation wants to support the education of transgender individuals who are out and living openly as transgender persons, and who wish to pursue their higher studies.
The scholarship can be applied for by transgender persons who are pursuing Class 10 and 12 in schools or through distance learning. It can be applied for by those who wish to pursue graduate and masters degree courses. It can also be applied for by those who want to enrol in specific professional or business training courses, or wish to train in visual and performing arts.
The website states that age is no bar and the scholarship is only for Indian transgender persons with Indian citizenship. The process is open through the year.
The scholarship will provide a total of Rs.20,000 (Rs 10,000 each) as a support to transgender individuals.
For more information, click here.