A member of the Hijra community is creating waves in Rangpur city by taking a shot at a councillor post in the upcoming city corporation election.
Nadira Begum is spending day and night meeting the residents of wards 20, 21 and 22 in the reserved seats for women and
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Nadira Begum pledges to work for amelioration of underprivileged communities, including hers, if he comes out victorious in the election Dhaka Tribune
as a member of the third gender community.
Nadira, a hermaphrodite who lives in a rented flat near Rangpur city’s Lalbag Railgate, has been acclaimed for her work as a social worker and for raising her voice on various issues.
After her candidacy was confirmed, she proceeded to distribute leaflets in which she vowed to work for the betterment of everyone in the area, if elected.
Women appeared enraptured by her campaign while she has endeared herself to her elders with a strong show of respect.
“Voters accepted me more than I expected,” Nadira told the Dhaka Tribune while campaigning at the Babukhun High School ground.
“I am receiving a good response from people of all strata and they are helping me in many ways. Many women are voluntarily coming to my aid in the electoral campaign.”
Nadira was forced to leave her family home in her childhood due to her father’s resentment of his transgender child.
Rejected by her family, Nadira was later accepted and brought up by her maternal uncle in Dinajur, who used to treat her like one of his own children.
Fighting against all odds, she obtained her bachelor degree from Dinajpur Model Degree College before completing a Masters at Rajshahi University in 1999.
Nadira said she faced difficulties in finding employment because of her gender and was ridiculed quite a number of times.
Driven by these challenges, in 1999 she established a voluntary organization that works towards ensuring rights and protection of the transgender community.
“I took hope from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recognition of the Hijra community in 2013,” Nadira said.
For quite a long time, there had been only two gender identities (female and male) on the voter list, depriving the country’s transgender people of their voting rights.
However, as the government recognized Hijras as the third gender in a commendable initiative in November 2013, the Election Commission started to enroll them as voters.
The Hijras were issued with national identity cards which recorded their distinct sexual identity, clearing the way for them to cast votes and contest polls.
Nadira’s noble virtues
Out on the campaign trail in Rangpur, the Dhaka Tribune encountered many people who said they were praying for Nadira and had assured her of their votes.
Momtaj Begum, a woman living in the area, said Nadira is a good human being. "Whenever someone is in trouble, she rushes to solve the problem. This is why she deserves our votes," she said.
Nadira was seen embracing a woman named Salma as she asked for her vote. Salma said that Nadira treats everyone like her family.
Moniza Begum, a middle-aged woman, was another to lavish praise on Nadira.
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Nadira has been acclaimed for her work as a social worker and for raising her voice on various issues Dhaka Tribune
“When I fell ill, it was Nadira who took me to the hospital, a kindness I have not forgotten,” she said.
Nadira said she is contesting the polls so she can serve society.
“I believe the third-gender people should participate in social development, and they have a lot to give to society,” she said.
She also pledged to work for amelioration of underprivileged communities, including hers, if he comes out victorious in the election.
She said: “My dream is to ensure that every Hijra living in Rangpur has a place to live.”
Nadira is not the first member of the Hijra community to run for elected office in Bangladesh; two members have previously contested councillor posts in Bagherpara of Jessore and in Kalaroa of Satkhira.
She may, however, be the first with a strong chance of winning.
Voters will go to the polls in Rangpur on Thursday.