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International Women’s DayEquality of dalit/Adivasi Women is the Foundation for Social Progress

DSS organised a meeting on the eve of International Women’s Day at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, Hyderabad on 11th March 2022. Telangana State Co-ordinator, Ms. Bhagya Lakshmi presided over the meeting. The dignitaries who spoke on the occasion were:

· Ms. Jhansi Geddam, National Convener of DSS.

· Sri. Tarachand, General Manager, BSNL.

· Ms. Sruthi, Senior Psychologist, Women and Child Welfare Department.

· Sri. Jnaneswar, Senior Ambedkarite.

· Dr. Sneha, SWAROES, District Convener.

· Dr. Siddoji, Convener, IAS/IPS Officers Forum.

· Sri. Govardhan, Industrialist.

· Ms. Vijayalakshmi, Retd. Employee.

· Ms. Hemalatha, Co-ordinator, DSS, A.P. State.

Ms. Bhagya Lakshmi, in her presidential remarks, appraised the gathering that DSS conducted

gender campaign on the eve of International Women’s Day in both the state for a week. She told the audience that every year DSS conducts International Women’s Day on a gender theme relevant to dalit/Adivasi women. This year the theme is: “Equality of dalit/Adivasi Women is the Foundation for Social Progress”.

Ms. Jhansi Geddam touched upon the gender concept and said that our country is ranked at 123rd in the world in terms of gender equity. This is due to the fact that despite advances in science and technology our people are still steeped in traditions and traditional thinking. Women are still treated inferior. The unfortunate fact is that women themselves are unconsciously believing in patriarchal ideology and they themselves are supporting subjugation. In a recent survey in A.P. a large number of women stated that it is perfectly proper for a husband to beat his wife and believed that it is his right. This situation shows the need for all of us to educate the society and bring about transformation. Traditions, religious beliefs and other factors play an important role in consolidating gender roles.

The age-old stereo type gender concepts are instilled in the society consciously and unconsciously, thereby consolidating and continuing the patriarchal gender roles. She cited how these stereo types have crept into the syllabus of LKG/UKG level. For example, the lessons say, who is Head of the Family? which is answered as ‘Father’ and similarly, the lesson says, who cooks food for the Family? and this is answered as ‘Mother’. Likewise, the language of all in all aspects is loaded with gender inequity. When the politicians of leading political parties are accusing each other, they are frequently saying, “we are not wearing bangles”, by which they mean we are not woman. Sometimes, to insult other politicians for their failures, these parties send bangles, etc to signify them as equal to women. It is necessary to thoroughly address the gender question and bring about changes in all aspects. Exploitation and atrocities on dalit/Adivasi women and girl children is continuing unabated even today, due to this male dominant and caste dominant attitudes. All intellectuals, politicians and other opinion makers should come forward to change this situation.

Ms. Sruthi enlightened about the Sakhi centres being run by the government and various facilities available at those centres. She pointed out how the society and media ascribes and fixes the role of

women by praising that she is symbol of tolerance and that she is symbol of mother hood. During the time of Covid, one media showed how a woman was cooking while taking oxygen. While everyone shows woman in various ways, no one asks a woman what she wants or what she likes. TV serials also are depicting woman in objectionable roles. All this can be eradicated only when woman become conscious of their own personality and practice what they want. Change should come from the woman first. She narrated the problems of harassment at work places and enlightened about the provisions of the law to fight against such harassment. Despite the existence of protective laws, in most cases the women hesitate to approach the police due to fear of prolonged legal process and also lack of support from the family. Everyone would suggest to bear the agony instead of approaching the police and courts. Due to this atmosphere women have been bearing the anguish and are not fighting for their rights. In all such instances, Sakhi centre is highly useful.

Dr. Siddoji Rao, in his speech pointed out that during 2010 more number of women used to complain on men but by 2020 it is more men that are approaching to complain. He felt that women are not weak as such but it is psychological factors that make them suffer the domination and attacks.

He cited the situation in villages where even when the dominant castes are very few in number and Dalits are more in number, still due to psychological factors, Dalits accept subjugation, while the dominant castes intrude and exercise power over the Dalits. He said that women are more honest compared to women and are more hard working. The progress of society is to be measured on the basis of the progress of women of that society. He detailed about the attitudes of women against women and said that the women belonging to dominant castes do not see the dalit women as equals. They look down upon dalit women as unequal and exploit them. This should go. He appealed to women to realise their strengths and struggle for equality in all aspects.

Sri. Jnaneswar, appreciated the committed work of Dalit Sthree Sakthi for the empowerment of dalit women. He said, he had been associated with dalit movements for the past 42 years, but he couldn’t

identify any other organisation which is as committed and as sincere as DSS. He much-admired the documentation of DSS which he felt will go as a recorded history of the dalit women situation. He highlighted the need for recording everything so that it may serve as a reference for future generations about the facts. He added it is a matter of pride that Ms. Jhansi Geddam played key role in the struggles against atrocities like Tsundur and Lakshim Pet. He wished DSS grow strong further and continue to serve the cause of dalit women empowerment.

Ms. Vijayalakshmi acclaimed the committed work of DSS and said that it is adorable. She appealed to women to educate and encourage the youth amongst the women as they are the future of the

society. She observed that the young women are not aware of what is happening in the society, policies of the government and about gender concepts. They are being swayed away by whatever is being thrust on them by the media, TV and fashions. It is of utmost urgent need to educate the young women and bring them back on to social reality.

Sri. Tara Chand applauded DSS and said that activists are greater than IAS and it is the activists that are serving the society. He commended the way in which DSS is serving the dalit women victims of atrocities, working in the slums and villages by providing succour to the hapless dalit women. He called upon DSS to further work against domestic violence.

Sri. Govardhan praised DSS for its consistent work in empowering dalit women. He stimulated the dalit women to develop boldness and feel confident to do or face anything. He reminded that the

dalit women should remember that Constitution of India has provided them full protection. Dalit women should feel strong about their rights as enshrined in the Constitution. He lamented that within the family, we look down upon the girls and bring up the girl children as unequally. This outmoded culture should go.

Dr. Sneha opined that if 50 per cent of women are not developed it is impossible for such a society to

develop. As on now there are many impediments for the progress of women. Even when the women are educated, they have to face lot of barriers in their path towards development due to inequality practices. She encouraged women to take self-determining decisions for their own progress. She advised women to be self-aware and suggested that they need not abide by whatever others say. It is necessary to properly socialise girl children from a very impressionable age, with equality and gender self-respect.

Ms. Hemalatha, State co-ordinator of DSS explained the campaign activities of DSS for the past one week and how DSS took the message of gender equality among dalit/Adivasi women of its working area.

Dalit women, intellectuals and women collective leaders of DSS actively participated in the meeting.

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