A train network in Kerala, India has become the first company in the nation to offer work to transgender women, the Guardian reports.
Kochi Metro Rail hopes the new initiative will encourage the wider community to interact with the local hijra (transgender women) and better understand the community.
“We want the metro to be not just a means of transport, but also a livelihood improvement project,” says Rashmi CR, a spokesperson for the network. “People don’t interact with trans people."
“They live separately from society, they are not given jobs, their rights are not respected," CR continues. “We want to bring them into the mainstream by ensuring that people interact with them every day – on their way to work, for example.”
The rail network has employed 23 members of the hijra community who will work as ticket collectors and on housekeeping teams.
“Kochi metro is the first company in India to accept us,” says Vincy—who was recently employed by the company. “It is a huge achievement for us."
Vincy says the program is significant because the hijra community is being recognised for the first time.
“Trans people don’t get work, not even in big multinational companies, IT firms, not in government jobs, nothing.
“Even when we do get jobs, we are often made fun of.
“If I work in an office, the other workers for example will make fun of how I walk like a woman. I will be the laughing stock,” she said.
Vincy says she hopes other companies take notice of the Kochi Metro initiative and “start hiring trans people”.
Rashmi CR says the transgender community in India is restricted from applying for jobs in most sectors as “a lot of them have criminal records because they have no choice but to do sex work."
“Plus many of them have never had the opportunity to go to school, so they don’t have any qualifications.
“You need to have some level of education to get a front-end job but many of these people have been denied that opportunity," she says.
As well as employing members of the hijra community, Kochi Metro is hiring 530 workers across 11 stations as part of an initiative by the Kerala government to eradicate poverty.