The caste structure stays intact and Dalits face endless violence even today ……
“I am happy about the accomplishments and I will continue my path till caste atrocities are abolished”.
Magimai is 49 years old, studied up to 9th standard, from Agannagar, Vellore District, Tamil Nadu. Magimai as a young child faced caste discrimination in her school. Water was poured in her hands at school and she could not use the glass to drink water. She was beaten by a boy from a different caste at the school assembly. As a child she was hurt and when she grew up she wanted to change the situation for Dalits.
As a teen aged girl she joined the “Rural Women’s Liberation Movement” and started mobilizing women on issues of land, basic amenities, Dalit rights and women’s rights.
In 1997 there was an incident of caste violence in southern districts of the state. Magimai along with the movement did fact finding, took up the issue with the Government to punish the perpetrators of violence and to get rehabilitative measurers for the victims. This made Magimai and her colleagues to realize that how caste violence targets women and women are doubly marginalized by caste and gender. With adequate discussion on this they started “Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Movement”.
Magimai worked to spread the base of the movement to 24 districts of the state. She trained women on violence against women, Dalit Human Rights, legal literacy and leadership. Women in district chapters started addressing issues of Dalit women. She was also instrumental in carrying out state level campaign for various issues which has impacted in reduction of untouchability practices.
Magimai narrates an incident in which children in a school refused to eat their mid day meal, because the worker appointed to cook the meal is a Dalit woman. Knowing this Magimai went with the movement, approached the collector and demanded that the cook should not be transferred and the children should eat the food cooked by the same cook. After negotiations the local administration saw to that the cook continued her work in the same school.
The movement demanded for removing a prawn farm which was polluting / salinating the adjoining agricultural lands and water. The movement struggled for long and got it removed.But there are three other farms are working in that area now.
Magimai proudly shares about the intervention of the movement in various caste violence issues to bring justice to the victims. She is quite saddened by the fact after all these work the caste structure stays intact and Dalits face endless violence even today.
Magimai also attended a one year leadership training program at Japan and she is a senior trainer on leadership now.
She has attended many international conferences to address the issues of Rural Dalit Women. She represented in the “Food Summit” by Food and Agriculture Organization to highlight the issues of Rural Dalit Women and natural farming practices.
She is trainer in ecology and in natural farming practices. She believes that promoting collective farm among Dalit women is a tool of empowerment.
Magimai s work has resulted in change in untouchability practices against Dalits and more Dalits are demanding dignity in public domain in her working area.She also notices the changes in the behaviour of dominant caste and in patriarchal practices .The women leaders are able to approach the legal system to seek justice on issues of violence against women.
She believes in mobilizing the oppressed, educating them ,strengthening them with leadership qualities and promoting collective leadership to bring in social change.
She wants gender to be mainstreamed in every policy reform.She demands equal wages, equal educational and employment oppurtunities and equal political participation for women.