IHEU member organization Social Development Foundation (SDF) held a Humanist workshop at Ghazipur, India with the Dalit community on 15 and 16 of August 2007. SDF’s project in Ghazipur has provided education and training for over 60 girls who would otherwise have been condemned to a lifetime of demeaning manual scavenging. SDF’s director, V B Rawat writes: “The issues we discussed included inculcating the spirit of critical analysis in our life, Humanism, rationalism and how we can use these practices in improving our life. We honoured the girls who were part of our scholarship scheme as well as learning computer skills and sewing at our centre.”
It was an emotional occasion for some of the participants. One of them was Vibha, whose father had wanted to stop her education but was persuaded by SDF to continue with it. Deepmala had once needed jeans and a shirt but felt deeply discouraged by her father’s apprehension of what society might think.
V B Rawat presents a bicycle to one of the top-performing scholarship winners
August 15th was a day of liberation for many of them and this photograph shows their reactions and how the community rallied around the SDF initiative. Using Ghazipur as a role model, SDF has decided to send the Ghazipur group to tour other parts of the state every month or two, to ask the community to give up the traditional, demeaning occupation of manual scavenging and live a life of dignity. SDF is not only using human rights but also developing community leadership to fight against this great evil in India.
Since 2005, SDF has raised over Rs. 200,000 (US$ 5,000). This funding has provided four sewing machines, a computer and a printer; four girls have been trained in computer skills and 18 more supported with school fees, stationery and books to enable them to attend school; five of them have completed the Indian Board examinations; 35 girls have been trained in sewing; a small library has been started for the community.
Plans for 2007-2008 include a scholarship programme for 15 girls; sewing training for 40 girls; and appointment of a computer instructor to make computer training freely available to all.
See also the Dalit FAQ.