Indira Gandhi National Open University’s (IGNOU) bachelor’s preparatory programme (BPP) has enrolled the first person of the transgender community at its regional centre in Nagpur. Mahi Ratnakar Tete (26) will be studying along with 60 men and women students.

Mahi told TOI that she wanted to become a police officer and set an example for other people of her community. “Seeing me, I am sure more transgenders would be able to overcome the fear of getting rejected or ostracized,” she said.

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She said it is very difficult for transgender people to seek education because of the stigma attached to them.

“Seeing me, I am sure more transgenders would be able to overcome the fear of getting rejected or ostracized”- Mahi said

“I had to drop out after Class VII because other students used to tease me a lot. With no education, there was no option but to beg as per the tradition of ‘hijra’ community,” she said.

Mahi’s condition hasn’t improved despite enrolling in IGNOU. She begs everyday as that’s her only source of income.

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“Every day I am assigned a particular basti (area), where I beg. I get around Rs 300 as daily collection. After 1 pm, I would be focusing on studies,” she said.

“My family has accepted my sexuality, but the society hasn’t,” she added. Both her younger brothers are working in prominent hotels. Their parents passed away when she was 14.

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IGNOU had earlier decided to provide free education to people of the transgender community.

Regional director of the institute, P Sivaswaroop, told TOI: “At the start of this academic session, we had announced that IGNOU would offer free education to transgenders to help uplift and empower the community.”

Sivaswaroop added that getting transgender people enrolled in the institution is an uphill task. They are busy with their daily begging and not decisive enough with regard to their education.

“When we met them along with an NGO, they said they will come, but no one turned up. In the follow-up, they said their ‘guru’ was against their studying. But Mahi managed to convince her guru and got herself enrolled,” he added.

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