Next time you stop at a traffic light don’t be surprised if you spot a transgender assisting a traffic policeman.

As part of efforts to empower members of the transgender community and help them earn a livelihood, NGO One Indian Road Safety Organisation (OIRSO), is training transgenders in traffic management.

“Since many transgenders do not have jobs, they resort to begging at traffic signals. Getting them to direct traffic will be a major morale booster. Initially, motorists may mock us. But we will learn to ignore such reactions,” said J. Sandhya, who has been selected as a trainee. There are around 1,500 transgenders in the city.

To help them interact with the general public on a daily basis, they will also be given lessons in etiquette and personality development, said K. Mahadevan, founder, OIRSO.

The training will be carried out in phases, with the first phase accounting for 15 transgenders. “By the end of this year, at least 100 would have gone through the programme. Following the training, transgenders will assist traffic police personnel for four hours a day, six days a week, for a salary of Rs. 6,000 per month,” said Mr. Mahadevan.

At present, OIRSO is bearing a huge chunk of the expenditure for the project.

The training will also include defensive or precautionary driving, first aid and lessons on traffic rules and violations.

OIRSO is supported in the project by Sahodari Foundation, a voluntary group that seeks to empower transgenders, and the Institute of Driver Training, a private enterprise. “In a month-long programme, we will teach them driving skills and traffic rules. We will also help them get driving licences,” said K. Karthik, who runs the institute.

Kalki Subramaniam, founder of Sahodari Foundation, said the job would be a shot in the arm for the transgender community, which is under-educated. She added that it would help counter social stigma and would hopefully give them the respect they wanted from the larger community.

Minister for social welfare, B. Valarmathi, has welcomed the initiative. She said it would further the government’s goal of helping the transgender community.

OIRSO members will meet senior government officials later this week to take the project forward.

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