When Rudra was a boy, the only thing big enough to hold the pain of his darkest days was music. He grew up in a small town and farming lands of Itawah, UP in communities that offered only narrow social boxes. As a child, Rudra knew he did not fit these boxes: he loved speech and music but he had a disability, he was a transperson. Thrown away by his family, he sought refuge in the open spaces of Delhi where the average person was too busy living their own lives and the insignificance offered Rudra some peace. But Rudra had a secret longing; to prove back to their father that a life of acceptance and dignity is possible even as a trans person. Learning Computer and English speaking from Transformation Career Progression Fellowship offered by Connecting Dreams Foundation (CDF) seemed like a step to make his dream come true.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not conform to expectations associated with the sex assigned at birth. It includes people who identify as transgender, transman, transwoman, or gender non-conforming.
The Transgender community faces multiple discriminations and is not represented equally in the formal or informal sectors and is highly vulnerable. But where there is despair there is also light. Avery Dennison, a multinational manufacturer and distributor of apparel branding labels and tags, RFID inlays, and speciality medical products came forward as a ray of light, sponsoring 45 Transformation Fellows through CDF. The Fellowship is India’s First Fellowship targeted at building careers and financial independence for the LGBTQ+. It has directly benefited more than 350 Transpersons and has impacted the lives of more than 3000 people.
Sitting on the shores of the Mumbai Sea, Rudra still sees threats to young transpersons and barriers to acceptance. He evangelizes the lessons he learned. Rudra, as a student of General Management at TISS where CDF is an ecosystem partner, feels lucky. Travelling to Mumbai 3 months back he today is working towards a management degree and has an assured internship offer with an MNC. He considers this opportunity the stepping stone to developing his skills in leadership, organization, and management. If you watch closely, he says, the sparkling sea, its waves and breeze and storms offer a map to a different future—one interconnected with a more spacious idea of what it means to be human.
Over the years, collaboration between MNCs such as Avery Dennison and society has changed significantly. Today MNCs are augmenting government efforts by leveraging their knowledge and assets towards integrated development. The initial step is for all corporates to follow the example of Avery Dennison and to have an inclusive culture that relies on a multidimensional approach designed collectively to address the challenges of both internal and external environments. For the last two years, CDF and Pride Circle its Strategic Partner, with allies like Avery Dennison, has been aiming to bridge the gap between the community and dignified livelihood opportunities. Some Fellows have excelled and are now placed at MNCs like Amazon, Accenture, Flipkart, and Governmental bodies such as NOIDA Authority, and the Ministry of Culture, and many have set up small businesses.
The program has seen several other transpersons finding easy success. These include Dinesh Singh, a batchmate of Rudra at TISS, Aryan Choudhary who set up his independent clothing venture on men’s clothing, Deepak Gupta & Sameer Alam working as the designer on the GendrFluid state of mind clothing concept with CDF and Satyam Saxena employed at Amazon as a Good receiver. This is just a small proof of how strategic CSR programs from MNCs can play the role of a catalyst to enable the building of a socially inclusive society.
Dr Simi Mishra
A catalyst for Building Socially Inclusive Societies