Identities are the bedrock of our existence. Our legal and social existence depends on our identity, with religion, caste, creed, language, and sex being used to define it. But when the legal statutes and society refuse to recognize one of those factors, our identity collapses. What follows, is marginalization, discrimination, and suffering. This is exactly what is happening to the transgender community in India. Sex forms an important part of identity in the Indian legal and societal hemisphere but society’s constant refusal to accept transgender as the third gender has resulted in a lot of suffering for them. Rather than living fully, they survive on the edges. And it is this peripheral living which inspired the birth of PeriFerry – a social inclusion start-up working for the upliftment of the transgender community.
Founded by Neelam Jain in 2017, the organization helps in providing hopeful transgender candidates with suitable employment opportunities. They act as the bridge between candidates and potential employers. Along with job opportunities, they provide training to candidates in their required field to become more effective and also run a special sensitization program to remove the prejudices people may hold against them.
Neelam initially worked at Goldman Sachs in Bengaluru. As part of an internal company competition, she was tasked to come up with a social initiative. She put forward the idea of an inclusive workplace for transgender persons. Although she didn’t win, the idea inspired her enough to quit her job and start PeriFerry. Through PeriFerry, Neelam and her team have managed to create an efficient network within the transgender community. Transgender individuals on the lookout for safe inclusive jobs and HR personnel from organizations exploring opportunities to hire from the trans talent pool alike can simply use PeriFerry’s website to initiate the process.
They feel that often the problem lies in countering the negative influence of the jamath system and also in matching the individual skillset with the industry requirements. PeriFerry ensures that the aspirant gets adequate training through its training program to quickly make the transition into the designated work and the workplace. Currently, they are primarily based in Chennai with a reach to major Indian cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, etc.
Trans-people are often tabooed and pushed to pick-up roles as beggars and sex workers in India. Nothing beyond that. A lot of companies even reject them blatantly without even entertaining an interview, irrespective of their credentials or skillset. While there are a few trans-people employed at large MNC’s, most of them are closeted and rarely any information comes out to at the least create a precedent for others. This forms the basis of what PeriFerry is fighting against. They staunchly believe that you are at your most productive when you bring your whole self to work. This ethos is validated when you hear about the different people who have benefitted through PeriFerry.[infobox]
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Sumangali, a former sex worker in Bengaluru, currently in an organization for a new line of work. Despite the less income, she is extremely satisfied with herself. Another individual who transitioned from male to female finally got accepted by her family after getting a job. She even performed all the rituals at her brother’s wedding as a female. Sanjeev, a trans-man was able to self-sustain enough to be able to send money to his family after connecting with PeriFerry, erasing the feeling of helplessness that haunted him.
While the trans-community faces innumerable issues in India, employment seems to be a fundamental one – the solution of which can change the schematic of the community for the better. As we saw above, a lot of trans-people got accepted by their families and society after getting a job. Thus, while PeriFerry on the surface deals with employment issues, their work has a deep-rooted ripple effect on various other problems faced by the transgender community. But one problem which isn’t affected by the ripple effect is accommodation. Most minorities in India face problems with accommodation and the transgender community is no exception. Often tenants reject them on their face while those who do accept, ask for a higher rent. This, in turn, makes the transgender community ask for higher wages than cis-gender people, again reducing their employment chances. This forms a vicious cycle which organizations like PeriFerry and others are trying hard to break.
In the current political and cultural climate, an organization like PeriFerry is needed to help the transgender community move forward. And maybe that in itself is the main problem. Maybe they need for the existence of a PeriFerry is what the organization is fighting against. So I asked Nishant Agarwal the COO of the company, “What are your future plans?” He simply answered that in the next 5-10 years that problem we are fighting shouldn’t even be a problem.
Thanks to their small but profound impact upon the transgender community, Periferry won the 3M – CII Young Innovator Challenge Awards 2019, in the Service Innovation category.
If you know someone who might require the assistance of PeriFerry, be it employment or hiring or you would like to involve in the sensitization programs conducted by them, you can get in touch with them by clicking on the button given below.