THE EDGE IN INDIA
Caste discrimination in India is trapping Dalit communities in a cycle of poverty and exclusion.
Illegal yet culturally ingrained caste discrimination against the ‘untouchable’ Dalit minority in India is causing children to be ostracised from education and denied their rights.
The caste system assigns individuals a certain hierarchical status according to Hindu beliefs. Traditionally there are four principal castes (divided into thousands of sub-categories) and a fifth category of people who fall outside of the caste system; the Dalits.
The word Dalit translates as ‘oppressed’ or ‘broken’ and is generally used to refer to people who were once known as ‘untouchables’ because of the impurity and pollution connected with their traditional ‘outcaste’ occupations.
Dalits face discrimination at almost every level, from access to education and medical facilities to restrictions on where they can live and what jobs they can have. Deep-seated low self esteem and abuse has trapped Dalit communities in a cycle of poverty, abuse and exclusion.
WHAT ARE WE DOING TO HELP?
Through education and collective activism, Dalits are realising their rights and breaking the cycle of discrimination.
Working with two local partners (NESWSD and Parivartan Kendra) we are currently tackling barriers to education through the support of 37 community Learning Centres in Patna, Bihar.
Over 1,000 children are becoming proficient in maths, science and language, while our partners work with local schools to encourage eventual integration into the mainstream system. The curriculum includes a focus on self esteem, human rights (under Indian and international law), caste discrimination and local justice systems.
Centres also form a platform to bring change in the wider community. Through ten 'Children's Parliaments', 200 children learn how to influence their communities and campaign about the issues that matter to them. Over 60 women’s groups are supported to realise their rights, bringing change through the creation of dialogue and the use of nonviolent action.
The time is right for investing in work that informs Dalit communities about their rights, gives them the tools they need to practice self-determination and develops their ability to create better lives.
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