Educational Inclusion of Transgender People in Argentina

Mocha Celis: Accelerating the Inclusion of Transgender and Non-Binary Persons

July 4, 2023
Mocha Celis

During the past decades, the transgender population in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has managed to raise awareness about their existence and needs, increasingly gaining space in decision-making processes regarding issues that directly affect them. From the legal recognition of transgender identities to improved access to healthcare, the region has slowly progressed in the protection of transgender and non-binary person´s rights. 

In the LAC region and worldwide, transgender individuals experience a cycle of vulnerability, discrimination, violence, exclusion, and lack of opportunities, resulting in a life expectancy of 35 to 40 years. According to Uruguay's census of transgender persons, only 23% of adult transgender people have formal employment. Data from the National LGBTI Survey in the Dominican Republic reveals that 39.8% of the participating LGBTI individuals reported being employed, with 30.6% having permanent employment, 3.8% having a temporary job, 2.8% having a job but suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2.6% having occasional work.

Another major challenge and area of significant exclusion is education. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), approximately 75% of transgender individuals in the region do not manage to complete their secondary education. Exclusion in education has severe consequences for individuals and groups. It represents a violation of a human right that directly affects the personal development of the affected groups, exposing them to unprotected or unhealthy environments. It also impacts subsequent rights, such as the right to work, subjecting them to higher poverty levels.



Organizations led by transgender persons, community groups, and regional networks have emphasized the need for educational systems to end discrimination against transgender persons and to take measures to ensure that they can complete their studies on equal terms with the rest of society

In the face of structural violence and slow progress, some community groups have taken control of their education and promoted educational spaces led by and for transgender people, where official educational curricula are implemented in environments completely free of discrimination and stigma.




The Experimental Educational Management Unit No. 16, known as "La Mocha" was founded in 2011 as a free secondary school with the mission of promoting the inclusion of transgender/transvestite people in formal education to address structural discrimination.

It owes its name to Mocha Celis, an Argentine transvestite, who was killed by police gunfire in an unresolved situation. Mocha Celis did not finish high school. 

The center has over a hundred students each year, ages 16 to 60. Although it is a non-exclusive school, the students who join are predominantly transgender individuals whom the staff of La Mocha seeks out and invites to their meeting places. Non-transgender individuals from other sexual diversity groups, Afro-descendants, migrants, single mothers, and others also attend.

This school emerged from the intersection of transgender/transvestite activism and the educational tradition of popular high schools. La Mocha aims to train and empower leaders who can strengthen the transgender movement and promote integration into the workforce.





"I took part in a vocational training course at Mocha Celis to gain the necessary tools and skills to navigate the work environment. Even though I now have my first formal job, I spent over five years without my rights guaranteed (…). It was amazing to discover the same opportunities as any other person in an employment relationship because it opened doors to a new world. Mocha Celis provides us with these tools and helps us build together." - Atenea, 26 years old, Public Administrator.



UNDP, through its office in Argentina, provides technical support to the Popular High School Mocha Celis to strengthen its educational program and expand it with the development, implementation, and adaptation of the "Occupational Training Project." This project aims to improve the employment prospects of the transgender and non-binary community, including those who were studying at the institution and the extended community associated with it. With the support of UNDP, Mocha Celis provided occupational training to 35 transgender and non-binary individuals in 2022, all of whom completed the course.

The results of this collaboration and support complement important legislative advances that Argentina has achieved over time, especially with Law No. 27,636 on Access to Formal Employment for Transvestites, Transsexuals, and Transgender People "Diana Sacayán-Lohana Berkins," also known as the Trans Quota Law, which formally reserves 1% of public sector jobs for transgender and transvestite individuals. This legal framework has facilitated employment for 574 people so far, according to the Ministry of Women, Gender, and Diversity.



UNDP supports the efforts of civil society and governments to promote the social inclusion of the transgender population in Latin America and the Caribbean, contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly by ensuring that no one is left behind on the path to achieving these goals and that the most vulnerable and marginalized groups are included in the public development agenda.

In 2018, UNDP conducted a regional consultation on different strategies for the social inclusion of transgender people, discussing their effectiveness and ways in which such initiatives could be exported to other countries. Since then, direct work has been carried out with various countries, national organizations, and regional networks to strengthen their efforts.



Photos: Mocha Celis