This blog post in long overdue, but still holds a special place in my heart.
On October 18, 2010, We (Miss Charity BC, Miss Fraser Valley and a few Miss BC 2010 contestants) partnered with the Dalit Freedom Network to host a benefit dinner in support of the 250 Million Dalits living in racial oppression and discrimination in India. Due to the traditional Indian caste system Dalits are viewed as the lowest of the low within the social order; the creator god, Brahma, did not even want them to be part of his body and therefore, they are literally the dust of the ground that you walk upon. One would think that such an inhumane practise would be unheard of due to its violation of human rights. Yet this is not the case. Although the caste system is formally illegal within India, many of the ancient practices still thrive due to deep rooted cultural and spiritual beliefs.
Dalit women are viewed of as the “Dalits of Dalits” because they have the unfortunate circumstance of being born both Dalit and female, which means they cannot reach enlightenment until they are reborn both a man and into a higher caste system. The life of a Dalit woman is so oppressive that many women would rather kill their newborn baby girls than have them suffer the life they live.
Why does these atrocious practices still continue?? Because no one speaks out against them!
Last month we joined with 130 Canadian women and stood in solidarity with our Dalit sisters in India. We acknowledge and declare that as members of the human family, we all deserve to live free and equal, valued and cherished. It was a beautiful night of both awareness and compassion.
Dr. Beryl D’Souza, herself the daughter of a Dalit woman, gave a moving speech about the plight of the Dalit women today. I also had the honour of meeting with a very remarkable young woman, the 2010 Canadian living “Me to We” winner Julia Thicke, who was so inspired by the struggle of the Dalits that she raised enough money to build a playground for Dalit children at one of the Dalit Freedom Network’s “Good Shepherd” schools in India. The Canadian women in attendance gave generously and many young Dalit children now have sponsorships that will send them to school and education will enable them to break the cycle of poverty and oppression.
Yes- change is coming. Oppressive social norms can be reversed when good people do their part in setting things right. You too can do your part in setting Dalit children free from oppression and rising up a new generation of leaders in India. To support a child through sponsorship or fund other projects with the Dalit Freedom Network go here: http://www.dalitfreedom.net
** For photos from the event, check out my personal blog following my journey as Miss BC- http://www.tarateng.wordpress.com