Pakistani university offers free education for transgender community

Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU)
Updated 24 November 2017
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Pakistani university offers free education for transgender community

ISLAMABAD: A leading university in Pakistan is offering free education for the transgender community, in a bid to promote inclusion and opportunity for the marginalized group.
“Our university education system is based on distance learning, so they can get the education without coming to classrooms, and avoid possible taboos attached to them,” Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, vice chancellor of the Islamabad-based Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), told Arab News.
Through this free education program, the AIOU will try to “return their self-respect and dignity.”
The Forum for Dignity Initiatives (FDI), a Pakistani NGO working for the rights of gender and sexual minorities, lauded the decision.
“This is a positive, welcome and much-needed step by the AIOU,” Uzma Yaqoob, founder and executive director of FDI, told Arab News, adding that the transgender community was never given such an opportunity before in Pakistan.
“The transgender community has a great desire to acquire and complete their education. I’m sure they’ll make use of this offer.”
In June, for the first time, Pakistani authorities granted third-gender passports after legally recognizing transgender people in 2009.
The transgender community has been registered with a separate identity for the first time in the country’s 2017 population census.
According to preliminary census data released by the government, there are 10,418 people in Pakistan. But some advocacy groups say the actual figure is half a million or more.
Since being legally recognized in 2009, transgender people have the right to possess identity cards and to vote. But despite this, the community continues to face challenges and even attacks by extremists.


French audit warns 840 bridges may face risk of collapse

Updated 19 August 2018
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French audit warns 840 bridges may face risk of collapse

  • The audit says says a third of the 12,000 government-maintained bridges in France need repairs
  • About 7 percent, or about 840 bridges, present a “risk of collapse” in the coming years if spending is kept at current levels

PARIS: An audit commissioned by the French government says about 840 French bridges are suffering from serious damage and at risk of collapse in the coming several years.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government had already promised new infrastructure spending, but is coming under new pressure after Tuesday’s bridge collapse in neighboring Italy that killed 43 people.
The audit, published Sunday by the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, says a third of the 12,000 government-maintained bridges in France need repairs. About 7 percent, or about 840 bridges, present a “risk of collapse” in the coming years if spending is kept at current levels, the audit says.
The audit doesn’t address thousands of other French bridges maintained by private companies or local authorities, which have seen budget cuts in recent years.
The government released a summary of the audit last month, blaming previous administrations for inconsistent and inadequate road funding, and saying the growth of traffic and increasing episodes of extreme weather have worsened the problem.
The Transport Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment Sunday. Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne told broadcaster Franceinfo last week that bridge “maintenance is our priority” and announced plans for a 1 billion-euro (($1.14 billion) plan to “save the nation’s roads,” including bridges and tunnels. She reiterated plans for a new infrastructure law after the summer holidays.
The Genoa bridge collapse has shined a spotlight on road maintenance in Italy. Italian investments in roads sank most dramatically among the top five European economies after the 2008 economic crisis, never fully recovering, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.