Moving from the margins to the mainstream, Priya Babu and Bharathi Kannamma are ready to fashion a new life for themselves.

Both transgenders, they have launched a tailoring unit in Nagamalai Pudukottai on Madurai’s outskirts, not only to help themselves make the cut in life but also to provide jobs to other women in the locality.

The Rs. 10-lakh unit funded by Coimbatore-based Thaila Garments is expected to employ about 15 women.

“We have taken orders to stitch undergarments for men and women. Women tailors who were stitching at their homes were identified with the help of the All India Democratic Women’s Association. Based on the output, we are planning to expand the business,” Ms. Kannamma said.

The entrepreneurs also have plans for a training unit exclusively for transgenders. “We are planning to set up at least five tailoring units in Madurai in the near future,” Ms. Kannamma said. “The women were hesitant to work with us initially,” Ms. Babu said. “But after we took them following an exposure to a tailoring unit in Vadamadurai, they have become extremely supportive and encouraging.”

AIDWA members said they had to organise a few sessions to win the confidence of women in the locality.

There were some like M. Muthulakshmi who harboured apprehensions of getting involved with transgenders. “When this offer first came up, I was not very keen as I had never interacted with a transgender before. But gradually, I began to appreciate their aspiration to mingle with mainstream society,” she said.

I. Velanganni, a school teacher in Pothumbu, who provided her a house on nominal rent to set up the unit, is impressed with how transgenders support and encourage each other. “I hope more such ventures will be launched and there will be a change in society where the rights of the transgender are recognised,” she said.

Ms. Babu believes Madurai was becoming a model city in mainstreaming transgenders. “We have legal aid centres and college students’ working with us on various social issues and speaking up for our rights,” she said.