Report of the one-day conference of social workers and activists at the Dalit Women’s Centre
A one-day conference of social workers and activists on the theme of “Growing Violence against Women and Children” was conducted on October 14, 2017 at the Dalit Women’s Centre, Kurichy. The conference started with expressing condolences at the sad demise of our two friends, Ms.K.J.Enayammal, social worker and Dr. V.C.Harris, Director School of Letters, M G University.
Ms Maya Pramod, Dalit activist and research scholar at Calicut University, made the presentation on the theme. Juxtaposing a brief account of Dalit women’s history and the contemporary socio-political situation of Kerala, she drew our attention to various related issues of atrocities against women and children. The focus of her lecture was on violence against women and children of Dalit and Adivasi communities. She identified caste, gender and landlessness as key factors of such violence. She shared her experience of visiting the family of the two Dalit teenage girls who presumably committed suicide at Walayar. In this case, homicides are reported as suicides and the culprits themselves act as moral police accusing the parents and subjecting the poor family to social exclusion. Such incidents of sexual offences are common among the middle classes but they cover up them out of shame.
Ms Maya also shared her experience of visiting Govindapuram colony at Palakkad from where cases of caste discrimination were reported. The problem started when non-Dalit Gounders occupied the major portion of the colony originally inhabited by Dalit Chakiliar community. The Gounders deny the Chakiliars access to shops, tea shops, temple, public water taps, etc. As a result, the Dalits decided to have their own shops, temple, and water taps. This attempt at Dalit assertion is the bone of contention. The political parties and the state apparatuses are turning deaf ears to the grievances of the discriminated Dalits.
It is high time, Ms Maya feels, we declare that we do not want this kind of colony life or purampoku life (squatters on untitled public land). We must, not the state, decide what we want and what to do. The attempt of our State to formulate child policies on European lines to put the victim child to the protection of the state is neither acceptable nor desirable. Once the child is under state care, we do not hear about her any more. We need combined efforts from below to take care of such children. We must impart sexual education to children and provide support to victims for continuing education, finding a job, and for holding their heads high in society. This is possible through developing a new solidarity network of social workers, advocates, and academics. This network can expose and point out loopholes in State laws for women and children.
Grassroot activities should lead us various studies and data collections, said Maya. We must have a complete picture of what we are at. We must conduct studies on the present situation of children at Chengara, issues of women working in different areas such as plantations, construction work, domestic work, etc. We must focus on children of colonies and purampoku with the aim of training them from the pre-primary to the academic level. We must not impose unnecessary controls over the girl child. We must bring up both boys and girls as equals.
More than fifty persons from different districts of Kerala participated in the conference. Mr Lovewin Cherian, Secretary, Kerala SCM, attended the conference. Lovely Stephen, Shylamma P.S, Priyamol K.C, Achamma John, Aniyan K.C, Rajan George, Jose M.J, and Lincy K.Thankappan participated in the discussions. The conference came to an end by 4.15pm with the decision to follow up with a campaign programme.
Kurichy Lovely Stephen
14.10.2017 Programme Director