COMMUNITY HERO Honourees
Supported by our Community Partner – ILGA Asia
I am Farhan Wilayat from Lahore (Pakistan), a philanthropist, social activist and minority rights activist. I am running various projects for public welfare and community development for the rights and welfare of less-fortunate, underprivileged and marginalized communities. I also organize interfaith activities to reduce racial intolerance and to eliminate religious extremism in Pakistan. Many of my projects have been nationally and internationally acclaimed and acknowledged.
Please briefly let us know about your work
Rights & Welfare of Transgenders in Pakistan:
The status of transgender in Pakistan is very low. They are deprived of their guarded rights. People use vituperative language about transgenders and their rights are severely violated as they are not given due respect in society. Many transgenders fall victim to sexual harassment. Neither do the higher authorities take action for them, nor can they highlight their own issues. I therefore started campaigning about the basic rights of transgender people in Pakistan and also started welfare activities for needy and deserving transgenders through distribution of rations, warm clothes and blankets.
Business Loans for Transgender Community through the bank:
As I am a banker by profession, I arranged disbursement of small business loans to the transgender community. It is pertinent to mention here that I broke the stereotype as it was the first business loan through a bank in the history of Pakistan which was given to a transgender person. Before this, no transgender business person even received a business loan from any commercial bank.
Sindh Water Relief Project:
Water shortage is a major problem in the areas of Tharparkar. The groundwater that people consume is saline to brackish, and has a high concentration of various salts and minerals, which are dangerous for human, as well as livestock health. For this, deeper wells are the only possible solution. I therefore started a project titled “Sindh Water Relief Project” for the construction of water-wells and installation of hand-pumps in the villages of interior Sindh, Pakistan (especially in Tharparkar, Umerkot, Dadu and Sanghar districts of Sindh). This is one of my leading humanitarian projects which is being run through charities and donations collected from the general public through social media and other sources.Until today, I have completed more than 300 projects of water-wells and hand-pumps. Through this project, I have achieved a number of benefits in the desert areas of Pakistan, including;
- Arrangement of Healthy Drinking Water
- Reduced Hardship of Women & Children
- Reduction of Water-Borne Diseases
- Improvement of Health
- Reduction of Time & Labour
Distribution of Sewing Machines:
I also distribute sewing-machines to the widows (who are selected based on their skills and financial status). This distribution is intended to empower women by providing them with a livelihood. The opportunity for these women to earn an income and stand on their own feet goes a long way in women’s empowerment.
Distribution of Wheel-Chairs:
I distribute wheelchairs to the disabled persons; as wheelchairs can provide health, developmental and social benefits and the main goal of our charity funds (for disabled persons) is to inspire others to get outside and keep moving despite disabilities, fears, or excuses.
COVID-19 Ration Relief Projects:
The 2019–20 Coronavirus Pandemic was confirmed to have reached Pakistan in February 2020. Multiple regions across the country imposed lockdowns until the end of April to stem the outbreak. The daily wage workers in Pakistan started facing hunger and financial constraints. Many daily wagers could not earn even a single penny in more than three weeks as the whole country was already battling the outbreak of the coronavirus that had seen more than 4,000 people infected. In view of the said facts, distribution of free ration (as a lockdown relief) was being commenced by me. By collecting charities and donations from the public, I distributed ration bags in hundreds of deserving families located in various regions of Pakistan. Though this project was quite risky as I had to travel to different areas and locations for ration distribution (when others were locked down at home to save themselves and their families from corona virus), I initiated this step to help and assist those who were suffering with hunger and financial constraints.
What one achievement you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of
Many international organizations acclaimed my projects and services for community development and public welfare for which I received following international awards and recognitions:
|Details of Awards
|Gusi Peace Prize
|Gusi Peace Foundation, Philippines
|Kentucky Colonel Commission
|Governor of Kentucky State (United States of America)
|Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice
|The Green Organization (United Kingdom)
|The Wolf Award
|The Wolf Project, Canada
I am proud of these awards because they gave me more confidence that I can do my best for community service and public development.
What do you find most challenging about your work
Working for the betterment and development of transgender people is of course not an easy task in Pakistan, where society is extremely conservative and tolerance for non-conformity runs thin. The less-educated and conservative people do not even spare the activists who work for the rights and protection of transgender community (even their families pressurize them not to meet/ visit trans-people). Under these circumstances, standing for trans-rights is a big challenge when your own family starts turning against you. Also, pertinent to mention here is the fact that the transgender community in Pakistan faces cultural and legal discrimination on a regular basis, but things have become even tougher for them during the coronavirus pandemic. For this purpose, collection of charities to help and assist the needy and deserving transgenders in Pakistan (who are even unable to run their kitchen expenses) is the only option but things get worse when people refuse to share charities for transgender people. Given these conditions, I tried my level best to break the stereotype and started working for their benefits.
What do you do to recharge your battery
Well… when I turn an impossible task into possible then it really turns me on. I am encouraging and feel more confident, for example, as I already quoted above that the commercial banks in Pakistan never disbursed any business loan to a transgender in the history of Pakistani banking industry. But being a banker, I made full efforts and disbursed the first loan of Pakistani banking industry to a transgender (enabling her to establish a boutique), so it really made me realize that I can make wonders.
What is your vulnerability and how do you overcome it
Violation of human rights, especially the negativity in our society against the transgender community and religious minorities sometimes make me too depressed and tensed. Especially, in a country like Pakistan where transgender people are sidelined, tortured, kidnapped, harassed, raped and even brutally murdered, you cannot even guarantee yourself that such negative-minded people will even spare you for raising your voice for the rights and protection of transgender people. BUT…. I overcome my fears and my depression every day because I believe that, even if I am alone today, tomorrow I will get more like-minded people around me. No matter how dangerous my work is, these issues will be resolved through my efforts, dedication and continuous struggle.
What was your reaction to being named one of the honourees for the Community Hero category
Frankly speaking, when I saw your email in my inbox, I initially couldn’t believe my eyes that I had been nominated for this recognition. I am extremely excited because I always tried to keep low profile because working for LGBTs is considered as a biggest sin in Pakistan (as per the conservative thinking of local public) and it is totally unsafe as Pakistani people cannot tolerate it at all. This will be my first opportunity to be nominated for who I really am (as all previous international awards given to me by the presidents/ governors of different countries were only on my community development programs). I really look forward to hearing from your office.
Despite the fact that the COVID-19 is still with us, what is a message that you would like to share with the communities in the Asia Pacific
Coronavirus has made life more difficult for Pakistan’s transgender community. I hope you people know already that transgender people in Pakistan mostly work in the informal sector of the economy. Many of them beg on streets or perform sex work to survive but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan has made their lives even more difficult. Social distancing measures, and the stigma that transgender people are “unclean” have deprived them of the limited means of making a living they had before the start of the pandemic. In this situation, I try to encourage the Pakistani transgender community to stop begging on the streets and visit my office, as I shall try my level best to arrange bank loans for them under government schemes so that they would be able to enjoy a better and respectable way of living.