Transgender woman finds a niche in tailoring

Published 13 Apr, 2021 10:31am

Jiya set up her shop ahead of the busy Ramazan tailoring season.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

As Pakistani transgender woman Jiya measures customers at her tailoring shop in a brand new Karachi market, her eyes gleam with the prospect of a busy Ramazan season and her ambitions to expand.

Already, Jiya, 35, who goes by a single name like many trans people in Pakistan, has broken ground by opening a public shop to make clothes for women and transgender women.

Other trans people running tailoring businesses have tended to do so out of their homes, wary of ostracism in a country with many conservative Muslims.

Many landlords were reluctant to give a shop to a transgender woman, Jiya told Reuters at The Stitch Shop in the southern port city. She finally secured one in a new market, which she opened with two other trans women in March in time for the start of Ramazan in mid-April.

The Islamic holy fasting month is traditionally a busy period for tailors as people buy new clothes to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival that ends Ramazan.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

For Jiya, who studied at an all-boys’ school and learned tailoring with the help of her fellow transgender women, opening her shop marks the start of her ambition.

“We want to expand this business. We want a boutique with Eastern and Western designs, all types of dresses,” she said.

Many of her customers are women, who said they preferred a transgender woman to make their clothes, a change from most other tailoring shops run by men.

“I felt comfortable while she took my measurements,” customer Farzana Zahid said.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Pakistan’s parliament recognised the third gender in 2018, giving such individuals fundamental rights such as the ability to vote and choose their gender on official documents.

A 2017 census recorded about 10,000 transgender people, although trans rights groups say the number could be well over 300,000 in the country of 220 million.

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