Education and Empowerment Among Dalit (untouchable) Women in India

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This book explores the problems of how caste and gender issues are related to the education and empowerment of rural Dalit women in India. The key focus is on the presentation of Dalit female voices regarding their educational experiences. Specifically, this study explores the nature and role of education and its relationship to empowerment among thirty-three poor, rural Dalit women and girls who volunteered to become involved with an explicit women’s empowerment project, the Mahila Samakhya program in Karnataka (MSK) during the years 1994 to 1995. This book will be of interest to practitioners in the fields of development: sociology, cultural studies and education; caste, gender, post-modern and subaltern academics and students, the general public and policy makers in India; Dalits and Dalit women in particular.


“There are two major strengths to this work. The first and foremost is the data gathered from the women themselves. We do hear their views and their voices. This is extremely important because they are all too often ignored. The second is his critique of the work of the Mahila Samakhya in Karnataka among these women. While endorsing the sound feminist educational principles of which these projects are based, he faults them for their failure to take class (poverty) and especially caste (untouchability) factors into consideration in planning and implementing its programs among these women” – Dr. John Webster, author of A History of the Dalit Christians of India (Mellen, 1992)

Table of Contents

Author’s Preface
1. Listening to the Subaltern – Theoretical Mapping
2. Challenging Hierarchies – Historical and Social Dimensions of Caste
3. Sink of Localism, Den of Ignorance – Research Setting
4. Frogs Inside a Well: Gender, Caste and Class Status of Respondents
5. We Were in Fire, Now We’re in Water – Literary and Changes Among Dalit Young Women
6. We Came Out Through the Door – Literacy, Employment and Changes Among Dalit Women
7. Jai Bhim (Long Live Ambedkar) – Change in Caste Identity and New Social Options
8. Not A Single Pisa (Cent) – Class, Caste, Gender and Development Practices
9. Learning from the Poor – Empowering Development Practitioners

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