Famed for its many temples, built from sandstone dotted around the old city, Odisha is also home to over 70,000 transgender women. Most of whom lack access to education and employment opportunities, with risky sex work or begging often being the only viable forms of income. In 2014, the Supreme Court passed a judgement recognising India's third gender and called on all governments to ensure their equal treatment. Progress, however, is slow.
Bhubaneswar is also home to Rani, a transgender pioneer trying to break free from the societal stigmas transgender people in India face by forging a path to sustainable employment as a driver on a ride-sharing platform. Rani lives in a simple, small house, which she shares with over 30 other transgender girls, to whom she is an aunt. In this leadership role, Rani provides support and guidance to this community who have been rejected by their families.
Rani started her career as a driver of a three-wheeled autorickshaw and went on to get a commercial drivers licence. Her career progressed to becoming a volunteer ambulance driver, transporting poor patients to their cancer treatments. Rani also started driving on a popular ride-sharing platform, using a fleet partner's vehicle to make trips.
Whilst driving Rani had many amazing experiences with her passengers and maintained a solid five-star rating. One passenger she picked up from the airport was so impressed to have a transgender driver, they invited her into their home for tea after the trip was completed.
Sadly, Rani was unable to continue driving for the fleet partner. The limited and restricted hours available for use of the shared vehicle, coupled with the time taken to pick up and return the vehicle each day made the work unviable. Rani temporarily stopped driving on the ride-sharing platform and now has aspirations to buy her own vehicle which will give her full flexibility and freedom.