The Dalits – The Context
The Dalit community are discriminated against and deprived of any social privileges in India. They are deemed to be educationally backward, socially discriminated, economically deprived and politically powerless and neglected. In the main, they don’t have any access to resource or welfare support from Government or any other agency. All of our target beneficiaries reside in remote rural villages and belong to the Dalit community and in the main are landless and primarily engaged in menial work for survival.
The plight of women
However, within this context more often than not, the ultimate victim of rural poverty is the female. In most cases, the women are classed as secondary level citizens. Within these communities women are extremely vulnerable, asset less and invisible on the socio-economic front. They do not have access to any form of financial credit and are denied rights to property. They are therefore engaged in even greater menial work than their spouses and are often engaged in subsistence occupations to eke out a meagre living.
Therefore, the role of women becomes crucial in these families where the male contribution to the household income is low. Some men spend almost all their income on personal consumption like alcohol or tobacco. As a result, the family is heavily dependent on the earning potential of women (and or children) for survival and a significant number of women are sole contributors to the family income.
Henceforth, Dalit women end up working as bonded agricultural labourers with low/under paid wages, in spite of their knowledge and skills in other areas of life. The extreme perennial economic deprivation for women has also resulted in illiteracy, malnourishment and poor health conditions. In addition they are overworked, oppressed and victimised by entrenched patriarchal attitudes within the family and the wider community.
These women tend to have fewer resources, fewer rights and fewer opportunities to make life-shaping decisions than men. And when emergencies strike, they’re the worst affected. There are many, often complex, reasons why women are not reaching their full potential. Domestic violence, discrimination and lack of education are among the biggest barriers
Women’s skills, resilience, determination and ingenuity are valuable but greatly underused resources to overcoming poverty. We are committed to supporting these women claim their rights and make decisions that affect their lives. Long held and deeply entrenched prejudices will take time to break down but we know it can be done.
What we’re doing – Unlocking potential
Whenever and wherever we work with poor communities, we make sure that we consult and include women at every stage. Men are indispensable allies in this.
With an education under their belt, a whole generation of girls will have opportunities that their mothers never had. With literacy comes confidence and the chance to earn more money, become self-sufficient and speak out against violence.
With laws and systems that guarantee better health care, fewer women will die in childbirth and fewer children will die from easily preventable diseases.
With loans, seeds, tools, better farming techniques and business training, more women will be able to grow more food, sew, craft and make goods that they can market themselves.
And in emergencies, taking care of women’s specific needs is vital for ensuring survival, good health and dignity. Employing their skills and knowledge makes communities far stronger and more effective in recovering from disasters.
Our vision is that by focusing on women’s rights, many more women will gain power over their lives.
In the past few decades we have seen the role and status of women change in many communities. Despite the many often daunting challenges that lie ahead, there are many success stories but the battle continues…..