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Dalit women kept away from knowledge: Krishna Tirath

Dec 13, 2012

Talking to Ashok Kumar from OneWorld South Asia, India’s Minister for Child and Development, Krishna Tirath, explains how education can be the weapon for the progress of Dalit women. The minister was interacting with the media on the sidelines of the first National Conference for Dalit Women organised by the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) in New Delhi. Excerpts from the interview:

Krishna Tirath

OneWorld South Asia: How can Dalit women fight against the atrocities perpetrated against them?
Krishna Tirath: Women need to organise themselves and stand united against the atrocities they face in their daily lives. Dalit women should stop bearing injustice silently and start raising their voice against any kind of atrocity. Awareness of women through media like newspapers, television and pamphlets will go a long way in the real empowerment of Dalit women.

Unless Dalit women are made aware of the government sponsored schemes meant for their wellbeing, this section of the society cannot reap the dividend of progress. Dalit women need to shed the fear in their minds and wage a relentless struggle for their rights.

Like former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, challenged and fought against the enemies of the country, Dalit women too should march together to move forward and struggle for their legitimate rights and spread the awakening in the society.

OWSA: You say that education is important to improve the lot of women. How?

Tirath: Dalit women need to strive for education despite all odds. Women empowered with education can also put a stop to the evil practices like child marriage. Baba Saheb, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, had said that education is an important weapon for Dalits, using which, women can demand the rights conferred upon them by the Indian constitution.

To spread education among girls and women in rural areas, the Ministry of Women and Child and Development (WCD) has suggested to the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry to open schools near the villages and also construct all weather roads from the villages to the schools. These schools should have enough teachers according to the strength of students enrolled in the school.

We have also asked the HRD ministry to equip girl schools with facilities like neat and clean toilets, ample desks and benches in the classrooms and the provision of clean drinking water. We have also requested to ensure adequate supply of electricity to these schools.

For children between the age group of three to six, we provide monetary support for pre-school education through Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) of our ministry. These children are provided nutritious food and taught basics of sanitation before they join the main schools.

OWSA: How do you think the challenges facing the Dalit women are different from those being faced by the women in general?

Tirath: The challenges faced by Dalit women are different, more so because they are mostly concentrated in the rural areas. Their work is mostly related to agriculture but they do not have much knowledge about various things related to their development. Traditionally, Dalit women have been kept away from knowledge. They were also discouraged from venturing out of their homes. So, essentially lack of awareness is a big challenge for the Dalit women.

OWSA: In what ways is this first National Conference for Dalit Women is going to help the cause of the latter?

Tirath: The suggestions coming from such conferences will help the government formulate better policies for the development of Dalit women. When we do consultations on such issues, we do take into consideration the aspirations of various welfare organizations including those representing various segments of the Dalit society.

OWSA: What new initiatives have been taken by your ministry to encourage public participation of women?

Tirath: We have successfully ensured that each Anganwadi centre (Government sponsored child-care and mother-care center) has a facility for a crèche. Apart from that, we have also written to various offices to make the requirement of crèche a must for every department of the government.

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