Nearly a hundred and fifty members belonging to the transgender community converged at a seminar organized in Chennai this week to promote health awareness among the community and to float schemes to help the members become self-employed and lead a life of self-respect and dignity.
Leading a life as a transgender is far from easy because such people can be neither categorized as male nor female and this deviation is "unacceptable" to society's vast majority. Trying to eke out a dignified living is even worse.
The seminar on Self-employment Skill Development and Training and Placement for Transgenders organized by the Board for Socio-Economic Concerns and Diaconal Ministry under the auspices of the Madras Diocesan Urban Rural Mission (MD-URM) was an outreach program aimed at lending dignity to the lives of the transgender community.
Members of the community were exhorted to give up being beggars and commercial sex workers, to attend screening programs for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and make use of the opportunities offered to them to regulate their lives.
The daylong seminar had people from different walks of life including representatives from the Central and State government offices encouraging the community to come forward with their interests/inclinations/availability for work, so that the organizers could channelize their interests in different occupations like cell-phone repair, fixing audio-video equipments, making broomsticks, baskets and so on. Some companies had sent representatives offering to give members of the community a decent job and a salary and the organizers encouraged members of the transgender community to take up such offers and stay on the job.
They were divided into groups with resource persons from the Board interacting with them and introducing them to self-employment schemes like tailoring, making incense sticks, candles etc.
Mr. Rao, Associate Director, Central Govt Small Scale Industries said the government had schemes to help the community if they were ready to work.
Mr. S. Ashokumar, Director of the Socio-economic Board presented the dynamics of the discussion. Mrs. Sarah Karunakaran, a professor in the Madras School for Social Work gave the keynote address in which she urged the members to come out of their "closed" community so as to help the government and NGOs identify their health issues and improve their standard of living.
The Board said it regularly had health campaigns and follow- up sessions to ensure that the transgender community members were consistent and determined in their commitment to lead dignified lives so as to find a space for themselves in the mainstream of the general populace.