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FAQ – Livelihood

Livelihood issues are a serious concern for many LGBTIQA+ people in India. Widespread socio-legal stigma, discrimination and various forms of violence contribute to denial of equal opportunities in the spheres of education, skills building and work for LGBTIQA+ people. Transgender people in particular are often unable to access these opportunities in their desired gender identities. On the positive side, some of India’s policies, laws and social security schemes are gradually becoming inclusive. Here’s how LGBTIQA+ people can make the most of the livelihood related opportunities :

If for some reason you were unable to complete school or college, what can you do now about formal education?

If for some reason you were unable to complete school or college, what can you do now about formal education?

Depending on the stage at which your formal education stopped, you may have a number of possibilities. The National Literacy Mission runs programmes for people in the age group 15-35 years to impart functional literacy (three R’s – reading, writing, arithmetic) to non-literate or semi-literate individuals. It also implements programmes that involve market-research based vocational training courses for non-literate, semi-literate as well as newly literate individuals. These programmes are run by several regional Jan Sikshan Sansthan units.

Pratham NGO runs the Second Chance Program that can help school drop-outs, especially women, to complete their secondary education. The programme focusses on completion of formal education till the 10th standard, which may prove useful in pursuing further education and employment. Learners are prepared to appear for the secondary board or open school examinations. They are taken through a brief foundational course, followed by a longer main course. This includes formal syllabi on different subjects, assessments and vocational training opportunities. An interactive learning environment is encouraged (discussions, debates, presentations, group learning and peer learning).

Completed intermediate college, but couldn’t study more? What higher education opportunities can you tap into?

Completed intermediate college, but couldn’t study more? What higher education opportunities can you tap into?

One of the best bets would be to join an open university, where a wide variety of traditional and newer courses in different disciplines are offered, including certificate, diploma, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and PhD courses. The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is probably the most well known open university in India, but there also 13 other state level open universities that you can enroll into. IGNOU is also considered as a standard-setting institution with regard to open universities in India.

The mode of learning in open universities is called distance learning. It doesn’t require teachers and learners to be present at the same place or at the same time. It is often flexible with regard to modalities and timing of teaching and learning as also the admission criteria. Teaching is done through printed, audio-visual and digital modules and periodic teacher-learner interfaces (including counselling sessions) at study centres. Evaluation is continuous-assessment and term-end examination based.

Such a mode of learning is helpful not just for working individuals, people looking to go back to formal education, but also those looking for upgrades of skills and knowledge. Another point of interest is that issues around gender and sexuality diversity have also started figuring in some of the open university courses in India.

Formal education is not your cup of tea. What skills building or vocational training opportunities could you go for?

Formal education is not your cup of tea. What skills building or vocational training opportunities could you go for?

There is a growing interest in vocational training opportunities in India. There are several central and state government programmes that offer vocational training as part of their larger objectives. These include the National Literacy Mission (for illiterate, semi-literate and neo-literate individuals), National Rural Livelihoods Mission (for the rural poor) and the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (for the urban poor).

The government also focusses on technical education through more than 2,000 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and 500 polytechnics. The ITIs are in the nature of post-secondary schools. They provide training in both engineering and non-engineering trades. Eligibility for admission is usually completion of eighth to 12th standards of schooling.

The government run polytechnics offer diplomas in diverse areas like civil engineering, computer applications, fashion designing, interior decoration and mass communication. Completion of at least the 10th standard is required as eligibility, but polytechnics are popular choices even after the 12th standard and graduation.

Gradually, all government programmes providing vocational training opportunities are being brought under the umbrella of the National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015.

Among NGOs, Pratham’s Second Chance Program is noteworthy, particularly for women. Another pan-Indian NGO Pradan focusses on building the skills sets of rural communities, provides them livelihood opportunities, and connects them to markets and sources of funds for their own enterprises.

In the private sector, several companies across India implement corporate social responsibility projects that focus on education and skills building provision (among other issues like health care). This is often done in collaboration with diploma courses offered by government-run or private sector polytechnics. In addition, the private sector also runs more than 10,000 ITIs similar to the government-run ones.

Discrimination in the workplace is a reality, but LGBTIQA friendly employers can make all the difference. Are they for real?

Discrimination in the workplace is a reality, but LGBTIQA friendly employers can make all the difference. Are they for real?

The fear of discrimination against LGBTIQA people in the workplace or while trying to get a job is quite real and justified. Instances of sexual harassment faced by LGBTIQA people also happen, but are often not reported officially for fear of stigma and ridicule – quite similar to the experience of many women. But fortunately there are a few positives to look out for.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India gave a verdict recognizing transgender identities and rights in April 2014. This verdict also directed the government to ensure that transgender people have equal opportunities in education and livelihood. The verdict is part of law of the land, and transgender people can leverage this judgment to fight discrimination against them in the workplace.

Similarly, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which often causes a lot of fear and anxiety, can be no basis for any employer to deny any member of the LGBTIQA communities equal opportunities in the workplace. This law criminalizes specific sexual acts and not you being a person with any gender identity or sexual orientation outside the so called social norms.

The United Nations too has come out with a set of standards that corporate bodies can utilize to prevent discrimination against LGBTIQA people in the workplace. This document is titled Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business, and it has been developed by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Quite encouragingly, a number of Indian businesses are gradually adopting these standards.

There are some positive ground level examples beyond laws and policies as well. There are a growing number of queer-friendly employers across India, even if in limited sectors. While multinationals like Google, IBM, KPMG, LinkedIn and Microsoft have long been known to have non-discrimination policies, Indian businesses like Dr. Reddy’s, Godrej, Lupin Laboratories, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Steel and Wipro have also been moving towards ensuring non-discrimination. Some of these companies have in-house LGBTIQA groups to provide employees with supportive spaces.

These positive developments are not limited to big businesses. Smaller enterprises in states like Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur and West Bengal are also changing their policies for employment, particularly for transgender people. The same is the case with some media houses and NGOs. Unfortunately, most government employers are yet to get their act together in this regard. Moreover, recent attempts to make labour laws inclusive of the concerns of transgender people have faced many hurdles.

Being your own boss is what you love. How to make the most of your desire to run your own enterprise?

Being your own boss is what you love. How to make the most of your desire to run your own enterprise?

To a certain extent, many of the non-formal or adult education and vocational training programmes mentioned earlier also provide entrepreneurial learning at various levels. Beyond these options, one lead specific to this area is the National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development, which is run by the central government.

This is a premier organisation of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and is engaged in training, consultancy and research to promote entrepreneurship. A sample of the training programmes offered by the institute – digital marketing, export-import procedures and documentation, handmade chocolates, social media marketing, solar energy as well as one on how to start your own business.

Coming to colleges and universities, apart from the entrepreneurship cells present in colleges, there are several educational institutions in India that offer various courses to support entrepreneurial learning. You may well know about the Indian Institutes of Management located in different cities and other popular business management institutes like the SPJIMR in Mumbai and XLRI in Jamshedpur. But there are other institutes also that may be suitable for people from diverse social circumstances. Example: KIIT School of Management in Bhubaneshwar, Mudra Institute of Communication in Ahmedabad, and Amity Business School in Noida.

Another exciting area in the world of business is social enterprise, which focusses on using commercial strategies to maximize improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being of disadvantaged communities. This often includes maximizing social impact alongside profits. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences is one of the best options for learning on social enterprise. International NGO Ashoka offers fellowships to social entrepreneurs for innovative social development projects.

The Government of India is currently engaged in planning a scheme on entrepreneurship development. This will help equip early stage entrepreneurs in India, connect them to peers and mentors, provide technical support through entrepreneurship hubs, and encourage grassroots innovations. Women and other under-represented social groups will be prioritized by the programme.

Many LGBTIQA+ people are engaged in running businesses and small trades of their own (including those that cater mainly to an LGBTIQA+ clientele). These may range from small groceries, tea stalls or paan shops to entertainment, tourism, fashion, and hospitality sector businesses. Enrolling for some of the government, private sector or NGO entrepreneurial courses/programmes may help these entrepreneurs upgrade their business practices, expand their access to bank loans or other sources of funds, and improve their earnings.

Are there any educational schemes specific to transgender people?

Are there any educational schemes specific to transgender people?

Following the Honourable Supreme Court’s verdict on transgender rights in April 2014, the University Grants Commission directed all universities in India to add a transgender option in their admission application forms for students. Many universities complied and several schools and colleges in different states followed suit.

In 2015, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India proposed a number of schemes to facilitate greater educational opportunities for transgender people. These included financial support of Rs.1,000/- for parents of transgender children as an incentive to retain them within their biological families, monthly scholarship for students in classes 7 to 10, monthly scholarship to pursue higher studies in India, and a vocational training scheme. However, implementation of the schemes has varied from state to state because most of the schemes were to be part funded by the states and part by the Centre.

Among NGOs, Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) promotes legal education among socially marginalized sections, including transgender people. IDIA works in close coordination with major law colleges in India. They conduct legal career awareness workshops for students in classes 9-12, carry out aptitude tests for students interested in studying law, provide subsidized coaching for selected students through eminent coaching centres in preparation for the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), sponsor the CLAT forms, and place students who clear the CLAT in various national law schools according to their rankings.

What is social security?

What is social security?

Social security implies a system that aims to ensure that socially disadvantaged individuals and communities have a minimum degree of access to key facilities and services around health, development and overall well-being. The factors of social disadvantage can be diverse – age, gender, disability, health status, class, caste, race, religion or even geographical location. Social security is practiced the world over by governments, particularly those that believe in a public welfare agenda.

A simple way to understand social security in the Indian context would be to look at its key components, in all of which the government has a major role to play through policies, enabling legislation, budgetary allocations and often also free or subsidized service delivery programmes. These days such programmes may often be outsourced to non-government or private sector agencies.

There are four broad, inter-linked aspects to social security provisions in India:

(a) Citizenship and identity proof documentation – birth certificates, passports, voter identity cards and ration cards for citizenship; and PAN cards and Aadhaar cards for identity proof
(b) Social welfare schemes targetted mostly at facilitating education (National Literacy Mission), skills building (Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana), livelihood opportunities (most prominent being the National Rural Livelihood Mission and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), housing (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) and pension access (National Pension System)
(c) Subsidized or free legal aid services provided by the District and State Legal Services Authorities
(d) Public health programmes like the National AIDS Control Programme, those that facilitate maternity benefits (Janani Suraksha Yojana and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram), and health insurance schemes like Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana

How to access various social security schemes?

How to access various social security schemes?

Each of the social security schemes mentioned above can be accessed through government portals and websites. You can complete the application process yourself online. Alternately, there are government accredited agencies, which can help you file your application along with necessary paperwork and follow up the application. They are likely to charge you a small fee for the application work.

NGOs like SAATHII also run programmes in different states to help socially disadvantaged communities access government’s social security schemes. After the application process, timely follow-up is crucial for successful access to the scheme. Unjustified delays in completion of the process should be reported through the complaint system of the scheme, though a process of negotiation with higher officials facilitated by NGOs may also help.

Last Modified: 15 October 2020

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