Hope for Dalit Women Dinner Returns to Vancouver Lower Mainland
I had never heard of the Dalits until a couple years ago when my sister invited me to attend a charity dinner here in Canada in aid of the Dalit Freedom Network. The network’s website states, “The Dalit people, also known as ‘Untouchables’, have been the most oppressed caste for over 3,000 years, living at the bottom of India's rigid social order. " The word “Dalit” means, “broken, ground-down, downtrodden, or oppressed.” Dalits comprise of about a quarter of the population of India, that’s seven times the entire population of Canada!
"In India, the mere touch of a Dalit is considered ‘polluting’ to a caste member. Due to their low social status, Dalits often have no choice but to perform occupations that are considered 'polluting,' such as handling bodies in preparation for cremation, leather work, street sweeping, or removing human waste and dead animals. " – DalitFreedom.net
This particular dinner I attended was to fund-raise toward building a school through the Dalit Freedom Network, a global organization that provides as much relief as they can to the Dalit children, in particular females, who are at the very bottom of the barrel as they are deemed a lower class then males.
"These women are living under a form of apartheid: discrimination and social exclusion is a major factor, denying access ”to common property resources like land, water and livelihood sources, [causing] exclusion from schools, places of worship, common dining, inter-caste marriages.” - Apartheid in New India
In Indian Hindu religion, caste is determined by birth and remains fixed for life. All social interaction is dictated by caste, and norms are strictly enforced by humiliation, violence, and poverty. Dalits are born below the lowest caste, and are denied access to public spaces such as schools, clinics, and temples.
In Canada, the Dalit Freedom Network holds events to raise awareness and raise funds to build schools in India so Dalit children can be educated. They also build tailor training centers filled with equipment, sewing machines, materials and staff needed to put Dalit women through 6 months of training so they can have a trade .
"Our Good Shepherd Tailoring Training Centers provide Dalit women hope, dignity and a way to escape the extreme discrimination and exploitation. Unskilled unemployment is extremely common across India, particularly among the Dalit women. These women, because of poverty and family pressures, have never had the opportunity to pursue an education nor a vocation. Through our training they will have the opportunity to gain vocational skills and economic independence."
So what can we do? Support as best we can. First of all, you can join me in attending the 5th annual Hope for Dalit Women Dinner on October 20th at the Bombay Banquet Hall - 7475 135 Street, Surrey (behind Costco). The evening will include an Indian meal, henna, and craft items made by Dalit women. Don't miss this opportunity to learn about the struggles faced by Dalit women and how you can be part of changing their lives and bringing hope for the families.
Dr. Beryl D'Souza is the guest speaker, and she is the Director for Dalit Freedom Network's Healthcare Initiative. She will be sharing about the realities that Dalit women and girls experience in rural India and how the healthcare and education programs are transforming lives.