It's hard to believe that in this day and age a practice like manual scavenging still exists. Yet across India there are Dalit communities that are still forced to clean out toilets and gutters of human excrement and carry to the outskirts of the village to be disposed.
Recently, Human Rights Watch released a report, Cleaning Human Waste “Manual Scavenging,” Caste, and Discrimination in India, that highlights the horrific injustice and discrimination faced by modern day manual scavengers. Here are a few excerpts from the report that provide a glimpse into what life is like for Dalits trapped in manual scavenging:
I clean toilets in 20 houses every day. I use a tin plate and broom to remove the excrement that has collected in the toilet, I collect the excrement in a basket, and then I take it and throw it away. This work is so awful I don’t feel like eating. —Manisha, Uttar Pradesh, January 2014
They called our men and said “If you don’t start sending your women to clean our toilets, we will beat them up. We will beat you up.” They said, “We will not let you live in peace.” We were afraid.
- Gangashr, Uttar Pradesh
I studied till 8th standard, but here we don’t get any other job no matter where we go. I have tried. If I go to a hotel to find work, they ask my caste. Once I tell them I am Valmiki, they will only give me work cleaning the toilets. I want to do something else, I know this is discrimination, but what can I do?
- Bablu, Rajasthan, June, 2014
We encourage you to learn more about the plight of modern day manual scavengers by taking the time to read the full Human Rights Watch Report.
Every day there are stories in the news about the plight of the Dalits. These articles keep us aware of the struggles that Dalits face on a daily basis. Please click on the titles below to read recent articles.
Educate girls to check trafficking: A former victim of trafficking shares that poverty and a lack of education made her vulnerable to human trafficking.
Dalit youth fighting for his life: Family members of an upper-caste girl set a Dalit boy on fire for allegedly having an affair with her.
13 bonded labourers rescued from brick kiln: Thirteen people, including three children, were rescued from a brick kiln. All of those rescued were from lower-caste and Dalit backgrounds.
India lack of toilets increase rape attacks on women: This short video from BBC News highlights the danger that women and girls in India face when going to the bathroom.
I have one more day here as Dalit Freedom Network's graphic design intern and I am in disbelief. Three months is a long time and yet I feel like I just sat down at my desk and am still contemplating whether or not to bring items to decorate it. I’m sad to leave. I can recognize how rare this time has been, to be able to come to a welcoming office full of passionate, joyful and truly caring people who are all joined together on one mission.
The executive director said something close to the beginning of my time here that has stuck with me. She simply stated an epiphany she had had while on a break from work, on her way to Starbucks to grab a coffee. Realizing that the four dollars she spends every day or so on coffee, could easily give a child in India the education they deserve. With that, she turned right around and sponsored another child. How true is this? It convicted me about how I spend my time and money, and also my motives behind where I spend those two things. As a young adult, my mind is so preoccupied with where I am heading, how I can succeed, what would bring me pleasure; whenever I am faced with giving money to something outside of myself, it is a struggle.
I was moved everyday working at Dalit Freedom Network. Getting to produce visuals and print pieces felt like a small role, but I hope that it can play a role in grabbing the attention of people and opening their eyes to see the plight of the Dalits.
This is a cause I want to stand behind. It is a message that needs to be heard, especially by my own demographic of young adults. I hope they can be jolted, as I was, to join this global movement that actually impacts others.
Sundeep is a bright and confident student in his final year at AMP Good Shepherd School. Next year he plans to attend the local college and his goal is to become an electrical engineer. Looking at Sundeep today, you would hardly believe the hardship and despair he experienced as a child.
His mother was widowed when Sundeep was still a baby. She had no family support and because of her low status as a Dalit she was shunned by the village. With no land, no education, and no money it was a desperate situation for both her and Sundeep.
Then she met some of our staff who brought her to the local Good Shepherd School. They saved her life by giving her a job at the school. She has been working there for 14 years now. Sundeep has been able to attend since he was in Kindergarten. He is so grateful to his teachers and staff because he knows that without this school his life would have been very different. As he explains, "if it wasn't for this school I would be a poor agricultural labourer today.
Generous Canadian sponsors are helping thousands Dalit children like Sundeep attend school and find hope. Learn more about how you can help free a Dalit child.
With three small children and a husband that struggled with alcoholism Eshwar was left to provide for the family on her own. As a Dalit woman she struggled to find steady employment and would often turn to money lenders to make ends meet. The money she borrowed came with very high interest rates. When she could no longer afford her repayments threats were made against herself and her family.
Fortunately Eshwar came to know about one of our Economic Empowerment initiatives in which local people combine to form self-help groups. Within these groups, members receive information about job opportunities, training, mutual support from members and the opportunity to receive small business loans.
Eshwar was granted a small loan to buy a buffalo for her family. As a result, she is now able to make enough to provide for her family and has already paid off part of her debt. Eshwar is thankful that the program is helping her find a way out of crippling debt.