Training in Health and Child Care for Rural Dalit Women

Contact: Henry Thiagaraj, 46 Main (Butt) Road, St. Thomas Mount, Chennai - 600 016, India
Fax: 4913365 Email:
Note: Dalit is sometimes called the untouchable caste. More background is on-line in this issue.
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 8 (1998), 184.

Project Proposal

Many scholarly articles appearing in the 'The Economic and Political Weekly of India' indicate that even after 50 years after Independence and freedom, development activities have not benefited the rural Dalit people who live in segregated colonies. Millions of them in abject poverty trapped in a vicious cycle of disease, illiteracy and ignorance.

At the same time what sustained these people all these years is their hard work, the gift of an able body and their jest of life. Women who are affected by child-bearing, with child care are eager to learn and bring social change. The Dalit Liberation Education Trust within the last 13 years has succeeded in reaching out to these people and provided an opportunity to learn through media of songs and cultural plays etc. and to enable them to organise themselves to come up in life. In order to strengthen their education activities, as a result of the growing demand from the women, it is proposed to set up a project for Training in Health and Child Care for Rural Dalit Women at the DELTA Project Campus. It is proposed to have 30 women at a time for 40 days (approximately 6 weeks) with a specially designed course which will give them exposure to personal and social/(community) hygesine, social skills for community development, organising cooperatives, etc.

The estimated cost for 3 Courses of training in 1 Year is US$ 33780 ($1 = Rs.42). Any donors?


The Dalit Liberation Education Trust (DLET), Chennai, founded in 1985 has wide spectrum of activities designed for the social, cultural and economic development of the Dalits in rural and urban areas. Our programmes cover social education, rural community development, skills training for women, confidence building youth camps, legal assistance, untouchability removal are all designed to elevate the weaker sections from their inertia and ignorance. Our education empowers rural poor Dalits to come up in life. DLET have co-operated with the National Human Rights Commission in jointly organising a National Workshop on Societal Violence on Dalits on 3-4 August 1996 at chennai, which was attended by leading scholars and was inaugurated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha of India Parliament Mr.P.A.Sangma, who released the book: "Human Rights from Dalit Perspective". This historically significant National Workshop was appreciated by the eminent participants from all over India. With the sponsorship provided by the Department of Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Rural Development we have conducted a Seminar on Poverty Alleviation and Rally on 17 Oct'96 at Chennai. The Trust through its Youth Camps have trained about 200 persons in a year. On an average 200 youths per year attended the leadership camps for the last 13 years, 2600 young Dalit people who are at graduate level of education were benefited. Empowering women is a major achievement in organising rural poor.

We have supported the work of the State Human Rights Commission of the plight of the "Dalit Professionals - Vettiyans and Scavengers" held on 13.06.98at Secretariat Conference Hall. DLET has instituted the HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD for distinguished service in field of human rights which was first given to Mr.R.R.Sivalingam, Advocate, who suffered the imprisonment for his work in the Nilgiris area. This award presented to Dr.John C.B.Webster, historian and a scholar on Dalits issues and to Dr.R.M.Pal, Editor of PUCL Bulletin, New Delhi where the World Human Rights Day celebrations at Delhi in which the chairperson and Members of the National Human Rights Commission participated. The Shipboard Education of the University of Pittsburgh has established a partnership ship with our Trust for the last nine years to enable their students to understand the rural India. This year programmes included a Work Project in a urban slum and a visit to rural villages and a Farewell reception. These programmes promoted enormous goodwill for India. The press are invited to the Farewell Reception on 28th October'98 at 6.PM at Hotel Shreelekha Regency, Chennai. In our experience of working in the voluntary sector we observe that many of the rural poverty related problems are linked with environmental issues and sustainable development. It is in this area of integrating Human rights to Sustainable Development we are setting up a Training Centre at Palar River Delta area, South of Mamallapuram. This Training Centre has the object of running training programmes in skills development and providing the mental tools for organising cooperatives and self-reliant programmes. We will also have conference facilities for other NGO's for training the community organisers and capacity building.

In India the need for the growth of civil society is keenly felt so that the people's movement has to be free from politicalisation and at the same time evaluate the performance of political parties. A look at the economic scenario of our country after fifty years of freedom shows that still many millions of people live below poverty line and problems of Dalits remain unsolved, caste violence and communal strife have not been reduced. There is a clear linkage between low literacy levels and high violence rates among the Dalits. For example the State of Bihar which has low literacy is witnessing a high rate of crimes against Dalits, whereas in Kerala which has high rate of literacy has less crime against Dalits. This is more or less true even in the areas of Tamil Nadu where caste conflicts arise the Dalit victims predominantly are illiterate and ignorant of the laws and legal protection. It is in providing some education of empowerment through human rights that we are able to achieve success in our work. During the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it is important to highlight the need for radical change in educational systems that people will be able to think free from the mind-set of caste, treating each individual on the basis of human dignity and to contribute to create an egalitarian society. Through education, right from the school to adult literacy classes people should realise our human capacity for growth that we can accomplish and overcome all hardships. This educational method also highlights a rationalistic and scientific understanding of the human body and human society, thus the humanistic approach to education which may include liberative spiritual ideas which can solve the problems.

The social malaise like caste violence will destroy the economic development of the country. It is therefore important to accord high priority to remove social evils and to create a healthy society. It is important to declare that we will work to create a casteless society and to motivate youth to create a new India, a strong India and India in which human rights and human diginity is respected. It is for this purpose that the proposed Training Centre in the Palar River Delta region acquires importance as a national institution to contribute to human resource development. Our Trust has also taken initiatives to address both the Central and State Governments to declare the Palar Delta Region as a Natural Park so that the beautiful picturesque landscape can be protected and the soil erosion prevented by community afforestation which providing employment to the rural poor. The Delta Project is symbolic of Dalit Intellectuals and educationists and their contribution to build a new India with humanistic values, exploring alternative forms of development. We seek the cooperation of the Corporate Sector and Business Houses in this task of integrating human rights with sustainable development and preparing our young to face the challenges of the 21st century.

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