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Komal Panwar

Blogger & Singer

Providing Employment Opportunities For The Trans, Neelam Jain Nods At The Existence Of Wage Gap

  • IWB Post
  •  July 22, 2017


We speak of employment opportunities in the country, or rather the lack of them, and with that, we ignore everyone who cannot find jobs because of the existing gender bias in their communities.While celebrating the #PrideMonth (June), we spoke to Chennai’s Neelam Jain who deeply felt for the Transgender community who couldn’t find jobs at all. So, she created Periferry, a platform that offers recruitment services and equal opportunities for them.

Neelam told us about how the idea didn’t pop overnight. You know what happens with ideas. You let them boil in a pot till the time they are well cooked, and by the time things begin to smell delicious, your stomach is already rumbling. Right, Neelam?

Right! In fact, ever since I started college, I felt the need to listen to the stories of the Transgenders around me. I would go out for walks, spend time alone at beaches, and never hesitate from striking up conversations with them. I would hear their stories, and somehow the thought of doing something, anything for their community existed in me.”

And so, after Neelam got hired in a corporate company, she got an option. She was to take up a social project. Neelam began her project which would train and develop Transgenders for new jobs. The idea was loved by many but it, unfortunately, didn’t get through.

Soon, Neelam decided to quit her job and dedicate herself wholeheartedly to this cause.

Me: When you converse with workplaces before the recruitment happens, in what ways do they gender-sensitize their workplace?

Neelam: We go through various levels of sensitization programs. There’s the involvement of HR Level, the leadership level, then we invite guest speakers, Transgenders from NGOs. Their experiences are shared, and the basic knowledge about the Transgenders are explained to the teams.

Me: Is there an existence of wage gap?

Neelam: The thing is that a lot of Transgender have great educational qualification, but no experiences. So, of course, the salary difference comes in there. But, there are a lot of other factors that also exist.  There is a stigma attached to being a Trans, and people will perhaps think that they will not perform as well as a man or a woman! 

To be honest, employers also tend to think that a Trans employee is cheap labor. 

Me: Please share a recruitment story with us.

Neelam: I cannot pinpoint one because there are so many stories! But, let me think. Hmm, okay so I happened to place one person. She didn’t want to beg or involve herself into sex-work. But, unfortunately, there was no other source of income for her.

She would go knocking doors of company after company, she’d show her bachelor’s and engineering degree, but no one wanted to hire her. Finally, when she got hired, she was so thrilled! It was the happiest day of her life.

The highlight is that once they get jobs, they do their best to stick to their jobs, and their performances make it very evident. The employers are also assured that they will really work as hard as they can, because sadly, getting opportunities for them is really tough.

Apart from that, there was an emotional story that deeply touched me. I know a person, who is quite old. And her story is so interesting that it can be made into a film. When she was a young boy who felt like a woman, she ran away from home and started living with the Transgender community. 

She knew that she wanted to get a surgery done, and that was not possible without money. To fetch the money, she turned into a sex worker and was later taken to the Mumbai brothels, and then to the Pune ones.

Today, she is the director of a trust that helps people with employment opportunities. Isn’t that beautiful?

Me: It really is. What would you change about your journey if you too had #OneChance to make a mistake?

Neelam: Umm, interesting question. It is really funny before I started with Periferry, everyone, including my friends, would ask me to back out. They thought that it wasn’t the best thing for me to do. So yeah, for them that was a mistake. And if given that #OneChance, this would be the only mistake I would repeat.

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