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Street food business changes lives of transgenders in Sylhet

  • Published at 12:30 am November 30th, 2019
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Jabedur Rahman, middle, presents food carts to transgenders in Sylhet Dhaka Tribune

Sumi, a transgender, runs a profitable food cart at the college road area in Beanibazar upazila, and makes sale of around Tk14,000 a day

Street food business enterprise in Sylhet has helped more than thirty people from the transgender community to lead lives with dignity, without having to engage in petty crimes out on the streets for survival. 

Sumi, a transgender, runs a profitable food cart at the college road area in Beanibazar upazila, and makes sale of around Tk14,000 a day. 

20 years ago, 15-year-old Sumi was forced out of her home, as she had brought 'dishonour' to her family being born a transgender.

Last year, on November 20, Sylhet’s Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Police Jabedur Rahman with some of his peers, bought eight food carts and provided start-up money to 24 transgender people for street-food business.

Sumi said: "When we first started, local goons harassed us and demanded extortion money. But locals and police supported us and we dealt with the situation.

"Along with Khichuri, Akhni (Tehri), Piyaju, and Pitha (rice cakes), my cart has 75 types of Bhartas (spicy mashed food to serve with Chitoi Pitha).”

Akash, another transgender food cart vendor at the city’s Madina market, said: "I can now earn a living with my fuchka cart. My shop sells around Tk3,000 to Tk4,000 daily."

Kali Beauty has a food cart in Kadamtali area of Dakshin Surma upazila. "My shop is always crowded and I find most people quite supportive."

To spread the development initiative among the transgender community, ADC Jabedur Rahman founded an organization named "Hijra Janakallan Shangshta”, which is administered by people of the community in Sylhet. 

Daily Tk100 from every food cart is deposited at the organization’s fund and on November 21, the money was used to buy two more carts for four transgenders to start their own street food business. The organisation has been registered under the Department of Social Services of the Bangladesh Government.  

Sukta Hijra, president of the organization, said: "The initiative of Jabed sir made us self-sustaining. We are not segregated from the society anymore. We are grateful to him and our customers, who have supported us a lot."

ADC Jabedur Rahman said: "My job required me to attend programs and seminars that discussed the issues of transgender communities in Bangladesh. I realized that other than participating in seminars, very few organizations or people like me actually did something to help. So I decided to do something to make them a part of society."

Entrepreneur AK Ataul Karim and Mahiuddin Ahmed Selim in the district previously donated two food carts to the transgender organization and are  willing to donate a couple more for the cause.