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#GroundStories| Putting Food on the Table for herself and others

By Aditi Joshi

Kalaiselvi* from Madurai, has been single handedly responsible for putting food on the plate for her family. She was pushed into sex work for a long time, however, educating her daughter was important to her and the society demanded her to do something that is more “respectable” to ultimately achieve all the goals. Looking for alternate livelihood options was becoming increasingly important.

She started her own vegetable shop at the age of 35 and has been doing it for the past 15 years now. She rented a house in a good neighborhood and started her small business of selling vegetables there. “I am a part of the community but no one outside our transgender community in the area know about it. There is still a certain stigma attached to it and I don’t know if I will be able to make business and maintain good relations with the people here if I tell people about my identity.”

Her day begins at 5 AM when she visits the wholesale vegetable market to procure the vegetables to be sold. “I sit here from 6 AM onwards and sit in the afternoon till my vegetables get sold or I get tired.”, she says. The pandemic hit and threw her off of the life she had built for herself and her family. There was no income in the house and no capital to invest further. #COVIDActionCollab was able to help during the first phase of the pandemic by providing relief to her and her family through the provision of ration kits, etc. She turned 51 this year and age has caught up fast, forcing her to take it slow and stay close to family. However, it was important for her to get back up on her feet.

To help Kalaselvi #BounceForward, the collaborative could help her by giving a loan to restart her business. This has given her the support and confidence to not only rebuild her small business but also help continue the education of her daughter. She says that now her only wish for herself and her business is to have an umbrella over her head and the shop to protect her from the long hours in the sun.

She is now also a board member of Sri Lakshmi Pengal Munnetra Sangam (SLPMS), CAC partner organization in Madurai. Kalaiselvi is now helping other members of the transgender community find alternative sources of livelihood. She says that life has been fair to her because she met the right people at the right time and she wants to continue giving back to society in whatever way possible.

*Name changed to protect identity