Samikshya Behera, identifying as a transgender individual, is an Arts graduate, who has previously worked in the corporate sector. As her work contract duration was closing in and the pandemic brought with it job insecurities in the country. She contemplated the idea of returning to Delhi from Odisha. This was her plan until she received a life-changing phone call. As the news began to sink in, Ms. Behera’s face lit up with a smile. She had been appointed as the City Mission Manager (CMM) in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, Government of Odisha. Her role involved managing the initiatives under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM). It was a job that not only gave her a chance to serve the community but also got her the respect she deserves.

"There were many hiccups to achieve dignified employment for transgender individuals. I would have ended up entertaining people to earn money. I wanted to lead a dignified life, but it seemed to be slipping away from my hands. But that one call changed everything", Ms. Behera recalls.

The job at Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation gave her respect and recognition in society. This in turn encouraged her to continue her education in Social Work alongside carrying out the duties that her job demands. This not only ensured her financial security, but also gave her a chance to live life with her head held up high.

"The society at large identifies only two genders. Transgender individuals are looked at from a stereotypical lens and generally the societal bias highlights      that transgender people can only do menial or low-quality jobs. It is always difficult to carve a niche in society and break these stereotypes", Ms. Behera shared.

Previously, she worked on another development project that focused on providing sections of land to poor people living in urban areas. This particular job as the City Mission Manager provided a good opportunity for her to continue serving the low-income populations.

UNFOLDING THE LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE


When Ms. Behera started working as a City Mission Manager, she a substantial gap in the urban lives of financially disadvantaged people and aimed to instigate positive change. She worked with sanitation workers in identifying and enrolling them in the DAY-NULM program, helping them identify common interests for enterprise development and engaging them in small businesses,  guiding them to form groups and registering them on NULM portal to help them access revolving funding under the scheme and guiding them to Aadhar centres and places, which provide subsidised cooked meals.

Many urban poor were unaware about the schemes and benefits they can avail through the DAY-NULM. I discussed the various schemes in detail with them and helped them establish their livelihood s better through the program. My work also enables me to interact with the SHGs, monitor their activities and help them market their products. I have four shelter homes and six Aadhar Centres under me and I look after the overall operation and maintenance,” she said, beaming with pride.

Since her appointment in October 2020, most of her work is on the field, where she has to interact with hundreds of individuals on a regular basis. She has helped at least 150 Self Help Groups (SHGs) register formally.  It is like a huge family now. I am easily approachable, so those from financially marginalised backgrounds seek my support for all their problems, however trivial they may be.

LEADERSHIP IN THE PANDEMIC


Even a global pandemic could not keep Ms. Behera from carrying out her duty. Ms. Behera worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, without taking a day’s rest and helped citizens register for vaccination and guided them whenever required.

She engaged with SHGs during the pandemic to support them in their challenges. For instance, when some SHG members were struggling to sell their sanitary pad products, she suggested they first to identify the problem and then address it. Her guidance to other SHG members to approach local hospitals, clinics and corporate houses to sell phenyl has also been very helpful.

Her job has enabled her to not only help people from certain sections society lead better lives, but she is also inspiring members of her own community to dream bigger and become change-makers. She also thinks that the problems she had to face due to her identity makes her more empathetic towards the difficulties faced by others. There are times when I walk an extra mile and go beyond my job , roles and responsibilities to help the people", she said.

GOING FORWARD

 

 

Ms. Behera envisions generating more awareness about the schemes and benefits under the DAY-NULM, so that more citizens can choose to avail them and live better lives. Not only has she been working to help people lead better lives, but she is also inspiring members of her own community to dream bigger and become achievers. She feels her work will lead to more inclusivity in the social development sector and will benefit the transgender community at large. Her work is focused on identifying transgender individuals on priority. This will enable her to continue to help them under the Sweekruti scheme which is the Odisha government’s unique scheme for supporting transgender communities with equality and justice. She continues to aimto maximise the benefits for the people of her community.


National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance

The National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance is a collaborative body, convened in 2016 and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working with governments and decision-makers across the country at national, state and city levels to drive safe and sustainable urban sanitation in India.

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