“I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.” - Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar
Dalit girls and women, those from the lower caste communities, traditionally called “untouchable”, are the most vulnerable of all people in India. These are our students, fellow teachers and our friends at Jai Bhim International, inspired by the social activist and Chief Architect of the Indian constitution, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. Females in this community are oppressed in a triple way; because of their gender, because of their caste, and because of their limited economic and educational opportunities. One of the ways that the traditional caste extremism is enforced is through violence on Dalit women. When a low caste community is targeted for violence, it is the women and girls in the community who are harassed, who are fondled, who are beaten, who are paraded through the street naked, who are gang raped, and are either killed or driven to suicide. In this way the entire Dalit community is humiliated and trained to live in fear.
In addition, many Dalit girls are forced into prostitution and other forms of modern slavery. And when natural disasters strike they strike the Dalit communities harder and women and girls are hit hardest of all. When atrocities happen against women and girls in the Dalit community it rarely makes the press. You won’t hear about it on the radio, you won’t see if on the TV, you won’t read about it on the newspaper. Fortunately, social media is changing this. In these women’s own voices.
So when we speak out against violence against women, against girls, we must always include the issue of caste in the conversation. Dr. Ambedkar, who inspires our work, called the caste system a system of “graded inequality”. All are unequal, some are more unequal than others. And women and girls are the most unequal of all.
The United Nations and the European Parliament have recognized caste oppression as an international human rights issue. Education is one way that we can change the lives of girls and women. Our organization, Jai Bim International, is collaborating with girls and young women to develop their talents, to grow in confidence, to find their voice and to become the next generation of leaders. And we work alongside boys and young men, so that they get accustomed to listening to women, to cooperating with women, and to respecting women. Please support us in this vitally important work. Dr. Ambedkar said, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress in which women have achieved.” When we come together we become a network of support, we tell the truth, we inspire and encourage one another. And we stand for justice.
Dr. Ambedkar inspires us. He taught that, “For a successful revolution, it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and full conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights.”
Dayamudra is Creative Director at Jai Bhim International, and splits her time between San Francisco, California and south India.