Meet Moni Bhatt, Karachi’s Transgender Barista at ‘Coffee Wagera’

Meet Moni Bhatt, a 23-year-old transgender barista in Karachi, Pakistan.

3 min read

Producer: Garvita Khybri
Camerapeople: Umer Bin Ajmal and Syed Hasan Haider
Editor: Rahul Sanpui


A group of university students in Karachi are helping the city’s transgenders get jobs.

These student activists from the Institute of Business Management (IoBM), Karachi, have formed a group called ‘Actcept’ that believes in “being supportive rather than being sorry towards the transgender community of Pakistan.”

Our society’s treatment of trans people is shameful. They are denied basic human rights. Many parents even abandon their kids if they don’t subscribe to the traditional “male-female” binaries. 
Samee’a Jamal, student and member of Actcept

The idea behind ‘Actcept’ was to counter hate by creating an environment of acceptability for the transgender community.

The biggest challenge for Actcept, however, was that the trans people lacked any kind of skill or formal training. The group, then, began working towards training a few individuals from the community with the help of National Institute of Skilled Training, Pakistan, to prepare them for jobs.


Coffee Wagera and a Breakthrough for Moni Bhatt

Actcept has celebrated its first success when a local coffee shop, ‘Coffee Wagera’ in Karachi showed interest in hiring a 23-year-old transwoman, Moni Bhatt.

Mush Panjwani, owner and ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ at Coffee Wagera – a coffee outlet located in one of Karachi’s busiest commercial areas – says he was clear about his coffee shop being an equal-opportunity employer.

I was sure that there will be no bias for race, religion, age or gender.
Mush Panjwani

Panjwani was born in Mumbai, India, grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and spent over 20 years of his life in Hong Kong. He moved back to Karachi six months ago to start his own business. He admits that when he first thought about his business offering equal opportunities, he hadn’t thought about trans persons.

I was surprised when I saw the news of Marvia Malik becoming the first transgender newscaster in the country. There I realised there are trans people in Pakistan who must be looking for employment opportunities. I wasn’t aware of the issues faced by the transgender community here as I lived for about 20 years in Hong Kong. But from there on, we made a commitment that if there are trans people looking for jobs, we will hire them.
Adds Panjwani

Thus, he found out about Bhatt through Actcept. Many people asked Panjwani as to what happened after Bhatt was hired, he says,

Nothing. They just work, like everybody else.

Bhatt, too, likes to work and is happy that now she has the opportunity to fulfill her dreams.

Initially, I was reluctant to take up this job. But with the support of my family and those around me, I was able to overcome my fears. I want to make a name for myself and I can’t do that while sitting at home. So, I had to be brave and take this step.
Moni Bhatt

Bhatt’s hiring and the Actcept campaign has come at a time when there has been a trend of unprecedented acceptability for trans people in Pakistan.

A 16 June, 2018 editorial published in Pakistan’s premier English daily, Dawn, called for recognising trans rights in the wake of the country’s general elections.

On 19 June, 2018, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the formation of a committee, to provide free computerised national identity cards (CNICs) for people of the transgender community.

Whether or not the government takes the necessary measures to provide them with the rights owed to every citizen, the courts will do whatever is in their capacity to ensure they are provided justice. 
Mian Saqib Nisar

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