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Grihini Women re-enacting an Injustice with Dance

Grihini Women re-enacting an Injustice with Dance

Central to the program of the Grihini Community College is the task of understanding and confronting the many challenges experienced by the women in the remote villages of the Palni Hills. These challenges involve almost every aspect of life in a remote mountain village.

A powerful challenge is the caste system which identifies millions of people in India as being outside the caste system. These include the Dalits and Tribals in the Grihini program who must find a way to face their marginalized status and gain a new identity.

A second challenge is poverty. Because these women are born to poverty, have little or no education and are conditioned to believe they are destined to be manual laborers doing the meanest of tasks, such as carrying wood, they often live their lives with little or no income. Some families are indebted to the landlord all their lives.

A third challenge related to poverty is village conditions and the consequent state of community health. The need to clean water, clean streets and access to health care facilities is urgent.

Another challenge of village life is the abuse of women and girls by men, especially those addicted to arrak, the local alcohol. The fear of young women being abused by landlords often leads to parents marrying their daughters off at an early age—as young as 13.

A major challenge is education. Until recent years most Dalit and Tribal women were thought to have no real capacity to learn. Their lot in life was to be coolie workers. They were, according to popular opinion, ‘born to work, not to read.’ As a result, most women in these remote rural villages did not go to school or dropped out at an early age.

The voices of these Dalit and Tribal and repatriated Tamil Grihini graduates give us a rich appreciation of how they faced these challenges and came to terms with their oppressive contexts. The stories they tell are about fighting to get water, roads and education, among other things.

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