Solidarity, Tour

For a Just Society – Visit to Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatan [photos]

Visit to Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatan
Dalit Women’s Collective

Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatan, a Dalit women’s collective, formed in 1999-2000. AID has supported the group through projects, fair-trade marketing as well as solidarity to the Sanghatan in various phases. Along with AID-Bangalore volunteers Chetana, Karthik, Disha & Tamia, Ravi, Khiyali and I recently visited the women to hear their own reflections on their experiences and successes over the years, fighting oppression based on caste, gender and class, as well as ongoing challenges on all these fronts. Here are some photos from our visit with these grassroots partners. Continue reading

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Poem

Aisa Kaha Unhone: “They Said …”

Aisa Kaha Unhone

Translated from English, “They Said” by Usha Narayan

Video: Performance by Andrea Pereira, Heidi Pereira and Katheeja Talha of Space Theatre Ensemble


They Said

You should not read thus sprawled on your stomach,

or in bed, or in dark recesses of the house, they said.

You will have to wear glasses, and then your poor parents

will have trouble finding you a husband, they said.

Continue reading

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Questions

“How would they know?” Dalit women talk about caste discrimination (part 1)

While having lunch with some of the Sanchalakis (coordinators) and karyakarthas (activists) of the Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatana, a Dalit women’s collective in Potnal.  We mentioned that while coming on the bus from Raichur station, we passed a number of elaborate temples.

Were these temples open to all?  We wondered aloud.

Yes, yes, they said.  Anyone can go there.  The temples don’t ban anyone.

“So you can enter any temple, if you wish?” we asked pointedly.  Mariamma replied that she was not very familiar with the rules of the temples.   Narsamma said, “other than in our own village, we can enter any temple.”

“And in your own village?”  we wanted to know.

“In our own village we can come to the steps of the temple but not inside the temple.”

“What will happen if you go inside?”

She laughed and said, “People will say, look at these people, they think they are so great they are brazenly going inside the temple.”

They said this so matter-of-factly that I felt I had to explain why we were asking particularly about this.   “When we talk about Dalits being denied entry into temples, many people don’t believe that it still happens today,” I said.

“How would they know?”  Narsamma asked me.  “We are stopped at the steps, so we know.  They are not, so they don’t see it.”


These Dalit women had begun organizing 15 years ago, a story they have told often and recently documented in a photo essay and video.  They united and gained the courage to speak up at panchayat meetings, to demand rations and anganwadi services, housing loans and access to other government services.  They were kind enough to share their stories again when we went to meet them.

[To be Continued]

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Conference

The Cup and The Conference

While some of us were chatting after the panel discussion on women’s empowerment, Kamayani asked me, “Why don’t we have a small group talk with women to tell them about the menstrual cup?  I wouldn’t have known if you had not told me about it.”

 

I remembered the day in 2005 when Kamayani Swami spoke in College Park about her plans to work in Bihar and the brief moment I caught to tell her about the cup.   I had since written, “Greeting Aunt Flo” but clearly it was time to bring the cup to the notice of a new set of AID women. Continue reading

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Letter to Editor

Not only toilets

Dear Editor,

While I agree that “access to sanitation and water are fundamental human rights”  the assertion that  “a lack of these services is putting hundreds of millions of children, girls and women at risk each and every day.” where the risks refer not to health and hygiene but rather risk to personal safety and freedom from violence, takes attention away from basic equality and humanity.   Continue reading

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