As part of the programme 22 trans women were given training in organic soap making, art and craft utilities, photo frames, candle making and so on.

Workshop for trans women in perumbakkam
news Trans Rights Saturday, March 06, 2021 - 07:19

A six-day training workshop was conducted for trans women living in Chennai’s Perumbakkam in the month of February, spearheaded by Olga B Aaron, a trans woman activist. The workshop was aimed at encouraging trans women to become entrepreneurs. As part of this programme in which 22 trans women from Mappedu, Thazhambur, Perumbakkam TNHB, Semmancherry, Kannaginagar, Taramani, Pallikaranai and Keezhakkattalai areas participated, training was given in organic soap making, art and craft utilities like pen stands, photo frames, badges and fridge magnets, and candle making.

Olga who founded the BRAVOH Movement, BRAVOH for BRinging Adequate Values of Humanity, in 2009 says the idea behind this project was to make sure trans women were given equal opportunities to develop their employability skills. Olga organised a similar culinary programme for about 20 trans women in 2019, and she says that such a training programme is meant to serve as an exposure for trans women who have been neglected by their families.

“Many trans women in the society are shunned by their families, the stigma around them begins from a very young age and they tend to withdraw from the society. Rehabilitation programmes become very hard for them. Because, frankly we can’t just suddenly pop into their lives and ask them to drop all that they’re doing,” Olga reasons.

“I only wanted to show them that they could be self-employed. My girls who took the culinary training programme are still working in food outlets today, some are in organic farms. So this is just an idea to create an opportunity. It is not creating employment, it is creating employability,” she continues. “It is creating skills for the future… or today.”

Olga, who is part of the Tamil Nadu Transgender Welfare Board, was tasked with the disbursal of the coronavirus relief fund. “When I travelled all over Chennai, I found these women in remote parts of the city. They had no exposure to anything. I was in touch with a very friendly organisation in Perumbakkam called Samarpanam that helped me with the mobilisation of the participants,” says Olga.

At the end of the programme, the participants were taken to organic shops in the vicinity to get a sense of how to market their products. The participants were also provided with materials to continue with their work. “We are trying to reach out to self-help groups, Rotaract clubs etc., who can help with taking this ahead. Many organic shops have shown their support by agreeing to give us a counter,” Olga explains.

“I thought of naming the product Truvina, meaning act with respect. But it is up to the women to decide,” she adds.

In future, Olga plans on paying 15-day visits to some of the participants regularly to help them make soap, introduce new products and so on. “The workshop was a success just by seeing how everyone showed up 100% for all six days. The women were extremely cooperative, very attentive and focussed. It shows promise. I have high hopes that even if not today, in future they will become business women. Motivation is all that matters,” Olga says. 

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