A Chennai-based transgenders’ rights activist has been invited to take part in the International Visitors Leadership Programme to be held in the US next month.

Elated over being invited to the two-weeks-long event, hosted by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Kalki Subramaniam said she was the first transgender from Asia to participate in the annual programme.

“They have informed me that I am the first transgender from Asia to have been invited to the programme and officials are verifying records to confirm if I am also the first from across the world,” Ms. Kalki told PTI.

According to the official website of the state Department, “International Visitors are selected and nominated annually by American Foreign Service Officers at US Embassies around the world.” Ms. Kalki was selected from a list of over 200 rights activists in the country and a final list of 30 persons from which she made the cut.

Chosen members from various countries would gather at the event and exchange views on various issues.

Ms. Kalki, who will leave for the US on October 1, expressed joy at being invited to the event which has been earlier attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Prime Ministers AB Vajpayee and the late Indira Gandhi and other world leaders at different points of time.

Ms. Kalki said she looked forward to the event as a “learning experience” and wanted to know the status of transgenders as well as the legal provisions to protect them in the US.

“During my interaction with officials and others at Washington DC, Salt Lake City and New York, I would also like to highlight the close-knit structure of transgenders in India. We are like a family which we derive from the Indian family system and I consider it a pride,” Ms. Kalki, also founder of Sahodari, an organisation for transgenders, said.

“I will highlight steps taken by the Tamil Nadu government for the welfare of transgenders such as the setting up of a welfare board and the Karnataka government’s pension scheme.”

Ms. Kalki said she will focus on issues relating to marginalised and impoverished women and that of girl children in poverty.

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