In Tonga, the leitis (transgender) community and same-sex relationships are not recognized or protected by law. This lack of legal recognition contributes to social invisibility and a lack of influence on policy makers and officials responsible for resource allocation and service delivery. The Tonga Leitis Association (TLA) was established in 1992 to focus on improving the rights and celebrating the contributions of leitis in Tonga. In May 2013, the TLA celebrated the opening of its drop-in centre Ofa he Paea (‘love for those in need’). This centre is the first of its kind in the Pacific that is funded solely by the TLA and operated by its members. Many leitis are shunned by society and neglected by their families. Others come to the centre as dropouts from educational or training institutes. The centre is seen as a safe haven for the leitis and many others. In 2016-17, RFL supported four people from the TLA drop-in centre (or affiliated organizations) to enter into or complete their training at the Ahopanilolo Technical Institute (ATI), with the goal of achieving financial independence. ATI provides quality vocational training qualifications and life skills, including courses in commercial cookery, accommodation services, fashion and design, and art, design and culture. As the only technical institute in the Kingdom of Tonga, ATI has developed strong relationships with job and continuing education/training opportunity providers, both within Tonga and overseas. These four students sponsored by RFL in 2016-17 have now completed their studies and started jobs using the skills attained at ATI. Following the completion of the four scholarships issued in 2016-17, RFL has entered an agreement with the Tongan Leitis' Association (TLA) for RFL to fund ten new scholarships beginning in 2018. Among these ten new scholarships, RFL will fund six people from the leitis community to attend a full two-year programme at Ahopanilolo Technical Institute (ATI). Four additional half scholarships will be offered to students who have attended their first year at ATI but are not financially able to complete their training. The overall objective is to transition people who are currently not in schooling or employment into training and financial independence.

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