I was  born  a Girl in this World.             ----            I am called a Minus

I was born in a Dalit Community             ---           Am I a Curse in this society?

These questions haunt us when we remember our childhood days.

Girls were felt expensive to be brought up and a burden in the family.  We were neglected of our desires like Food, Education and Health.   We were only meant to work in the kitchen with my other and take care of my young brothers and sisters when my mother had gone out to work in the fields.     We  were allowed to go out to fetch firewood with  the other women  but  had lot of restrictions. We were not allowed to speak loudly, taught to be submissive even to our younger brothers because he was a male and would carry the family name.

We  helped our mother in the house hold chores but our brothers used to play in the backyard.  We  would watch the men in the village come home drunk every day and  beat the women.  We were  scared of  our father and would sit in a corner  when he comes home drunk and beat my mother.   My mother but never raised her voice against my father she would only sit and cry, I would also  cry with her.

We girls were  married when we are 12 years and  never knew anything about life.   As usual cook and clean,  I have realised that I was  not found important in the family.  I had no status in  the family as a wife because I was a  dependant  nor in the society because I was a woman.

I was blamed when I gave birth to a girl child. I was not allowed to take any decisions, not even  to name my child,  educating them or regarding their marriage.   My man never felt  to consult me because I was  a woman  

I hate our bad culture which always dictates what women should do.   We were taught to fear men and be submissive to them.  Why should there be division of work.  I  play a dual role.   I cook for my family, take care of their needs and whenever there is work in the fields of the landlord I  work there to supplement my family with little earnings.

We have been sexually abused several times by the landlord in the fields  but we never raised voice as we had to depend on him for work.  Our  men spent the whole day earnings drinking and come home and beat us up if there is no food to eat.    There were times when we were kicked out of the house by them.   Where do we go?   We know only agricultural work but do not have other Skill in hand,  We have no Security.   

The Landlords say that they are from  Rich Community and abuse us that we are  Dalit Women "The Untouchables ".  But why then are we used by them for their pleasures?   We could not raise our voice against them as they provide us seasonal employment.   We  work equal hours like the men but we are not  paid equal wages or  right wages to the work assigned.   

We  were motivated and understand that to put a stop to all this we need to  be  confident and speak out fearlessly.  We analysed the situation of our women   and we took time to participate in group discussions,  share problems,  exchange ideas and planned to earn a living for a better future.

It was felt that a skill in hand is a must for every women as it will be useful all our life and  could be passed on to the other members in the family too.   We formed groups  selected two women as signatories and started to save 10 Rs per month .   To save this 10/- was very difficult and we had to forgo few things.

The Skills project helped us to get trained in making Leaf plates, decoratives with Jute and Coir Fibre.   We were also take for exposures to gain knowledge in purchase of Raw materials  and marketing of the finished products.  Though in the beginning we found it difficult to grasp the skill but a desire in us to learn made us acquire the skill.

Today we are economically independent and earn a living on our own.  We do not depend on the  landlords for work anymore.  We do not sit idle or go into the fields to work in the hot sun We also manage the affairs in the village.

Today we are leaders in the economic empowerment of the community,  the Dalit women are active members in the savings schemes and also avail the loans provided by the Government. The women groups raise voice against Gender Discrimination and Injustice caused to us.  As earning members today we are given importance in the family by our men as they have  recognised our dual role.  We women take decisions and plan for the future of the family.

We have realised that the best protection is a little money earned and saved of our own.   A skill in hand has brought lot of changes in our lives.