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Welcome to the team

PeriFerry’s new residential programme works with the trans community and the corporate sector towards jobs that are inclusive and happy

At the ANZ campus in Bengaluru, 25 transpeople are currently undergoing a residential training programme.

From team-building exercises and digital literacy lessons to polishing their communication and honing soft skills, the trainees will learn the essence of being a part of modern-day workplaces over a course of 20 days. Their mentors include psychologists, HR professionals and guest speakers from various corporate companies. At the end of it, they will be interviewed by select companies at a job fair, for possible careers in inclusive work environments.

This is the first edition of Revive, the brainchild of PeriFerry, a Chennai-based organisation that works towards empowering the trans community. Plans are afoot to make this a regular feature, with the next one to take place in December. The first edition took months of coordinating, with ANZ Banking Group coming on board as corporate partner and sponsor.

Says Neelam Jain, founder of PeriFerry, “This is an attempt at helping transwomen and transmen get steady, sustainable jobs in corporate companies. The group is being coached in subjects such as English, communication, life and soft skills, digital literacy and receiving counselling as well. They are also receiving support to manage fear and build their confidence levels.”

Guest speakers from companies like Thoughtworks and Goldman Sachs have also committed to provide coaching during this programme. “For the first batch, we selected 25 transpeople from our network of over 600. We short-listed those who were actively reaching out to us for jobs, and those in particular distress,” explains Neelam.

Equality lessons and sari sessions

  • This happens to be my ninth job in eight years; nowhere have I felt accepted or been treated as an equal until now. At my previous jobs I had to wear an androgynous look even though I am a woman. If I seemed even a little feminine, colleagues would try to feel me up; they were not accepting of a transsexual woman. Only after joining ANZ have I felt like I have been truly accepted. Every member of the staff here treats me with respect.
  • At a fashion show in the company last year, I was asked to walk the ramp. I didn’t know how to drape a sari; my women colleagues helped me get the look right.
  • I am an engineer by qualification and have a diploma in aviation. But it hasn’t been easy to get and retain jobs. When I came for my interview at ANZ I did pretty badly, but they gave me a week to come back better prepared. The second time, I cracked it. And I am truly happy being here. I love to travel; I take off every couple of months. I have been to Korea, Rishikesh, Mysuru… All as who I am — a woman.

The 25 participants hail from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Delhi. They are staying at a common facility in Bengaluru.

“We have breakfast together and go for the training at ANZ, which goes on till about 6 pm each day,” says Neelam, adding that most of the participants are in their 20s, with a few 30-year-olds as well. About half the group holds graduate degrees but never had the opportunity to hone their skills; the others are high school dropouts. We are looking at helping them get jobs as customer support executives, HR professionals, or in communications or admin departments.”

One of the major concerns PerriFerry tries to address is acceptance by other colleagues. Often, even if the company might be inclusive, the workforce might not.

“We want to ensure that the employment is sustainable, so we are conducting sensitisation programmes as well for existing employees of the companies,” says Neelam. “We use theatre and workshops,” says Neelam.

The fine print

PeriFerry was set up in 2017 by Neelam in collaboration with Steevez Rodriguez, a freelance photographer. Back then, the organisation worked towards helping transpeople find respectable jobs. They worked towards busting the myth that transpeople are not well-qualified, when in fact several of them hold postgraduate degrees and are qualified engineers and doctors. What threw a spanner in the works was the mismatch in certificates (most of their certificates bore their birth names and genders) and general stigma.

Welcome to the team

Over the years, PeriFerry has managed to place members of the trans community in various roles — as outlet managers at food joints, B2B sales, BPOs, data management roles and much more. This programme however, is a more focussed approach at helping them join corporate companies.

In the last two years, PeriFerry has successfully helped transpeople who were forced into the sex trade, find steady jobs. Workshops and programmes helped them overcome apprehensions of interacting with members of the non-trans (cis) community and gain confidence to hold their own in a work environment.

Second chances

  • Though a qualified engineer, I did not have documentation to prove it since I ran away from home and all my certificates are still there. So landing a job was proving to be challenging. When NestAway launched, they were looking to hire trans people and I interviewed for a position. They took me on.
  • It has been nearly two years since I joined the organisation. The journey has had its share of ups and downs. My colleagues found it difficult to accept me for who I am. Some of them were quite curt with me; one of them even told me that I was not truly a woman. That was a blow.
  • I worked hard to prove myself. Things began to change gradually; my colleagues too changed their attitude towards me. But it is an ongoing process; I am yet to gain full acceptance. My current manager has been very supportive. I am now a top performer and recently got promoted.

The job fair at the end of this programme has on board companies such as ANZ, Accenture and The Lalit Ashok Group. “More companies have expressed interest and we are working on it,” says Neelam.

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