India Interior

‘TRANScend’ing to the mainstream

Preeti Mehra | Updated on May 01, 2020

A still from a film on transgenders. TRANScend organised a transgender film festival in Madurai

An ambitious project fights for social inclusion of transgenders

“Though the transgender community was given the right to identity as the ‘third gender’, we had no clue how to go ahead and be part of the mainstream. But now this platform serves as a bridge between employers, society and transpersons,” says 27-year-old Nishtha Nishant, Scientific Researcher with Lilac Insights, a genetic health assessment and diagnostic centre in Navi Mumbai.

Nishtha is referring to the TRANScend project for social inclusion of transgenders, which has been pushing for their acceptance by all sections, including corporates, educational institutions and the bureaucracy.

Nishtha is lucky to be adequately qualified and in a job, unlike thousands of others who have either opted out of formal education or passed some years at school before they started struggling with their sexual identity. And the ‘bridge’ she refers to is the effort to make corporates and institutions more accepting of the third gender, while imparting skills to them so those who want to leave behind their life of begging and sex work can do so, and join the employment/educational mainstream.

“We started TRANScend over three years ago as a corporate responsibility programme to focus on the social development needs of the country and the under-served in order to make a transformational impact,” explains Chetna Kaura, who heads CSR at Publicis Sapient India.

With the 2014 NALSA judgement as the inspiration, a team member suggested working with the transgender community. “To bring transgenders into the mainstream we partnered with The Humsafar Trust. Since then it has been a real journey.”

The team had to start at the very beginning with a situation analysis on the socio-economic status of the community and the educational background of members. For this, it undertook a survey of 518 transpersons and qualitative in-depth interviews with 17 members in Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai.

Capacity building of community members from a rights perspective came next, including strategies for mobilisation, grant writing and the setting up and strengthening of State transgender welfare boards.

To begin with, 175 transpersons were trained under 17 skill-building programmes. Since the majority had limited education, vocational education was the choice. The popular courses turned out to be VLCC Institute of Beauty and Wellness’ entry-level course in beauty and wellness, Network for Information and Computer Technology’s basic computer and spoken English courses, and entrepreneurship-focussed skill development.

Meanwhile, the team was going full throttle on the advocacy front to prevent discrimination, stigma, harassment and violence faced by the community. Manuals were prepared that explained to companies and education institutions the nuances of gender and sexuality and suggested workplace policies and solutions to build an and inclusive environment.

To bring scale, over a hundred workshops have been conducted with leading corporates and educational institutes in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi and around 3,119 have participated in them.

Promoting people, not labels

“A significant progress with transgender-inclusive policies in major corporates like JLL, Bank of America, Nomura, Godrej and Tinder has been made. In JLL and Bank of America, transpersons got hired and the HR sought our assistance to incorporate policy changes that would create a conducive environment for them and other transpersons in future…The training team at HP has incorporated the gender awareness module developed under TRANScend as part of their employee-training modules,” informs Kaura.

Shwetambera, Programme Manager of the project at The Humsafar Trust, says that employers have been very receptive. “They have made sure that the employees are sensitised before a placement.

However, the good news is that when they started placement last year, they received 200 resumes. Nine people were employed in companies such as DDB Mudra, Flipkart, Societe Generale and the Lalit chain of hotels. The project has also roped well-known companies, including Capgemini, KPMG, Accenture, Thoughtworks, ANZ Bank, Infosys, SAP, CMS, Cognizant and IBM.

To bring the community closer to entitlements, the team has also been helping members access their identity documents ,including Aadhaar card, PAN card, voter ID, bank account, ration card, gender certificate, caste certificate and name change in the gazette.

To widen public involvement, TRANScend organised a unique transgender film festival in Madurai. “Our India Studio Team undertook a probono project about issues faced by the community. For this, 753 hours were contributed by eight of our company employees,” says Kaura, hoping that the effort will continue as a movement that promotes people and not labels.

Published on May 02, 2020

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