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How Shyama S Beat Poverty & Social Censure to Win Kerala Govenment’s First Transgender Scholarship

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In a significant achievement, Thiruvananthapuram-native Shyama S has become the first recipient of a ₹20,000-award introduced as a part of the Kerala government’s transgender policy to encourage greater community participation in the education sector.

Hailing from a financially backward family at Karamana, a suburb of Thiruvananthapuram, Shyama lost her father when she was studying in class 12. Her mother worked as a maid, and Shyama herself had to dance and do comedy shows to make ends meet, until her brother got a job in Gulf last year. However this was not the only challenge that came in her way towards becoming a teacher.

Being a transgender woman meant that she had to face obstacles and criticism at every step.

“Right from my school days I was ridiculed for the way I walk and talk. During my adolescence, when I found out my gender issues, I even had to undergo counselling sessions to come out of the mental trauma. I went through all that only because I did not want to step aside just because I am a transgender. But even after all my efforts, I was denied a job because of the gender-insensitive society,” Shyama told TOI.

Shyama’s mother was always supportive and could understand her behaviour. It was because of her family, and her dedication towards studies, that Shyama could complete her Master’s in Education, specialising in Malayalam literature, from the University of Kerala. Now, after a long battle Shyama has become the first to receive the state scholarship, with the help of Oasis Cultural Society—an organisation that works for transgender persons.

She dreams of pursuing PhD in Education at Jawaharlal Nehru University or the University of Hyderabad.

In November 2015 Kerala became the first state in the country to announce a policy for the transgender community, released at the International Conference on Gender Equality in Kovalam. The policy is extensive, encompassing transgender men and women as well as intersex people. It also stresses on the rights of the minority community to self identify themselves as man, woman or transgender as stated in the Supreme Court judgement (2014).

Though Shyama faced humiliation and discrimination during her first interview for the post of teacher at a school in Kazhakkoottam in 2014, she is determined to look ahead and apply again as a teacher or a research fellow in literature.


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Written by Manabi Katoch

A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at manabi@thebetterindia.com. You can also find her tweets @manabi5