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A relentless crusader

by Sudha Umashanker

Ruth Manorama started her work with the urban poor in her youth; there has been no turning back ever since. She is the powerful voice of Dalit women today.

Is it easy being a Dalit in India? And a woman at that? Have things changed for the better for the Dalits who constitute roughly 16.23 per cent of our population, since the Constitution of India “cast a special responsibility on the State to promote with special care the education, economic interest of the Scheduled Castes and promised to protect them from all forms of exploitation and social injustice (Article 46)”?

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Our women must either be a wife, widow or a Devadasi

by Olutosin Oladosu -Adebowale

In our community, there are only three roles for women; a wife, widow or Devadasi......

Please go to my village and rescue other girls who are about to be initiated too…

I was told that I was dedicated to our god when I was three months old and was taken to the temple and initiated, a chain was tied to my neck and my grandmother took to me to her house to serve the god, ever since I have been living with her, until the age of ten when I was introduced to my parents. I have lots of struggles, my brother died five years ago, followed by my father which was two years ago and my mother will die any moment from now, nobody believed that it was the incurable disease. Everyone in my community believed that I have brought evil on my parents because of the chain that was removed from my neck and taken to Bandhavi….I have lots of issues….

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Dalit women cases: Crime conviction rate poor

JAIPUR: Preliminary findings of a study by the state's Centre for Dalit Rights reveal that the conviction rate in cases related to rape and sexual assault of Dalit women is less than 2%. The centre is compiling a detailed study of over 50 such, the final report of which is expected to be released later this year.

The centre initiated the study a year ago and selected 50 most controversial and disputed cases across the state. The study was ordered after complaints of increasing "false cases" being filed by Dalit women. It aims to study the role of all stakeholders in such cases, including the victims' family, civil society, local administration and even the judiciary.

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Grain banks prove a boon for Dalits

PATNA: About 150 Grain banks being run in Patna, Bhojpur, Gaya, Jamui and Saharsa districts by Dalit women have come as a great relief for Musahar and other poor families. 

Fed up with hunger and poverty, around 2,000 Musahar Dalit women had set up Grain banks in 2002 in about 60 villages under Paliganj subdivision comprising Paliganj and Bikram blocks in Patna district. These banks, which provide grains on loan to needy Dalit families, have proved a boon for the poor and destitute families of the region, who had to hitherto depend on rich farmers and moneylenders in times of crises. Later, such banks were opened in Bhojpur, Gaya, Saharsa and Jamui districts.

Not only has the move helped the Dalit families to overcome hunger, it has also instilled self-confidence among them. It has rid them of high interest rate on loan besides encouraging the savings culture. 

Says Sudami Devi of Maner Telpa village under Bikram block in Patna district, "Earlier, we were forced to live in penury as we did not get enough wages as farm labourers. We were left to the mercy of rich farmers for sustenance. Now, we get grains at low interest rates from these banks," she said. 

Jirmania Devi of Paliganj block said, "These banks meet the needs of around 35 Musahar villages in Paliganj, with nearly 400 Musahar families benefiting." 

"Exploitation led to establishment of these Grain banks as Musahars and other landless agricultural labourers were exploited by landlords and not given their due wages, " said Pradeep Priyadarshi of Pragati Gramin Vikas Samiti, who was the man behind this initiative of Grain banks. 

"For a day's labour, we used to get one kg of grain, which sometimes went down to half-a-kg on the excuse of having been adjusted against pending loans. This encouraged us to set up the Grain banks," said a village woman, who refused to disclose her identity. "We were also humiliated on failing to return the borrowed foodgrain," 

Starting with an initial stock of 55kg of grain in 2002, the bank today has 1,560kg of rice as capital, said Punam Devi, one of the 26 members of the village samiti in Maner Telpa. The family borrowing wheat and rice has to pay one kg grain as interest for every five kilogram of grain, said Sudami Devi, the bank's secretary at Maner Telpa village. The banks do not charge interest from extremely poor women. Besides, they also donate foodgrains to families free of cost in the event of any death or physical disability. 

When contacted, food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak said, "The government is willing to provide help to such groups financially as well as in developing infrastructure. We would provide all possible help to them." 

Courtesy: TOI, June/15/11

Dalit women's aspirations brought home impact of 'double discrimination'

dalit women Dhaka Emily Esplen visited a community in Dhaka where inspiring community organisers are showing change is possible.

When I met members of the Dalit Women's Forum in Dhaka last month, they told me about the changes they want to see in their lives and communities. They want their daughters to go to school and stay in school.

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‘The Hague Declaration on the Human Rights and Dignity of Dalit Women’

The Hague, 21 November 2006


WE, the participants of the Hague Conference on Dalit Women’s Rights, held in The Hague on 20 and 21 November 2006, after deliberating upon the issues of discrimination, violence and impunity against Dalit women, adopt this Declaration on the Human Rights and Dignity of Dalit Women.

In South Asia – that is, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – Dalits have endured discrimination based on work and descent for centuries, and this discrimination continues today. The Dalits – known as ‘untouchables’ or outcastes – number around two hundred and sixty million people in South Asia. On account of their caste, they experience discrimination, social exclusion and violence on a daily basis. Although economic growth in the region has been strong over the past decade, caste disparities remain and are in fact increasing. The situation of Dalit women in these countries needs urgent and special attention. They constitute one of the largest socially segregated groups anywhere in the world and face systemic and structural discrimination thrice over: as Dalits, as women, and as poor Systemic Discrimination, Violence and Impunity.

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