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Dalit Women Make Their Voices Heard

Prerna Srivastava
14th Mar 2008
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As mentioned in a previous post, land ownership is a critical factor in determining social and economic status in rural communities. This is especially true of the dalit community, who, for the most part, don’t own their own land, and must work for meager wages as majdoors (labourers) on other people’s land. For women, in particular, who labour for countless, backbreaking hours in the fields, land ownership holds significant value, both in terms of income and social standing. Aswathamma, 42, a widow and mother of two, explains how owning land would change her life:

“Land means social prestige. It is just not an individual struggle. If I get land it will mean respect for my community as a whole and a better future. Access to land will help us cultivate crops to sell in the market and feed our families,” she adds.

Recognizing the the need to make their voices heard, dalit women in Andhra Pradesh are rising up and demanding their rights by filing applications for ownership of unused land. To date, over 25,000 applications have been filed by women in response to a July 2007 government order that states that “…assignment of government land wherever available to landless poor for agricultural purpose shall be granted within 3 months from the date of receipt of application.”

This historic campaign, backed by ActionAid and the people’s movement of Dalit Samakhya, aims to file a total of 1,000,000 applications for land by year-end.

Source: OneWorld South Asia

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