United Way of Chennai upholds the values of social inclusion and diversity. In the journey that we have embarked with our CSR partners, we have been actively working with the transgender communities across the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Pondicherry on various Transgender Livelihood Programs. Our focus lies in ensuring livelihood enhancement for the transgender community and wean away as many trans persons as possible from commercial sex work and begging. This Pride Month, we are delighted to reflect on our journey with the trans community as we have impacted the lives of 6,602 trans individuals.
We have enabled 3 fully functioning trans kitchens across the districts of Coimbatore and Chennai. Each of these trans kitchens have employed 10 trans individuals comprising both transmen and transwomen. The vision of this initiative is to bring about greater acceptance of the Trans community by enabling mainstream job opportunities.
Sanjana, a member of the trans community, who is currently working in one of our trans kitchens in Chennai shares her journey thus, “We did not have any regular source of income and we would end up asking money from others. This changed when we were presented with this idea. Our community is known for its culinary skills though we may not follow a recipe or steps. Through the training on culinary arts, we can cook well. This restaurant is a joint effort by all of us”.
One of our projects which is the Transgender livelihood project focused on tailoring and driving training, to help members of the transgender community find a stable means of livelihood. Through this program, we engaged with forty-seven transpersons across Chennai and focused on health-related awareness, capacity building, soft skill training and vocational training. The objective is to equip the community to go ahead with conventional livelihood practices or even start their own enterprises.
Divya studied till 10th standard but had to discontinue her education to work for a living. She came to Chennai and began working at a restaurant. 5 years into the job, she was promoted as a cook, which is when she chose to undergo a sex-reassignment surgery. She was uncomfortable in a man’s body. Post the surgery, when she went back to the restaurant, she realized she was not welcome anymore.
Divya is among the 25 Transpersons, who are availing driving lessons through UWC’s Transgender Livelihood Program. She says that she always wanted to learn to drive, but never got an opportunity to. She has completed 15 classes so far. She has been struggling to make ends meet for herself and her family and aspires to become a full-time driver once the classes are over. She dreams of owning a home and pursuing a good job.
As a civilized society, we have a responsibility towards our fellow human beings to treat them with the utmost kindness, respect and fair bias, irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, color or gender. This Transgender Livelihood Programs is a small step in the right direction & with more support, we’ll be able to reach many more such communities.