5 Female Activists you should know about

Posted on: 2023-04-08 14:15:22
Dalit History Month Child Help Foundation

Battling through thousands of years of oppression has created many setbacks for the Dalit community. However, Dalits have proven themselves resilient and have broken through glass ceilings to make a name for themselves.

The movement started with Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, and today his legacy is carried out by several of his followers. To honour Dr Ambedkar, 14th April is celebrated as Dr B.R. Ammbedkar Remembrance Day.

But a single day is not enough to celebrate the achievements of the Dalits. Hence in 2015, a group of Dalit women started a project called Dalit History Month. The project took inspiration from Black History Month. It has also been formally recognized in Canada’s British Columbia province.

Story Telling Sessions, Discussions, Art Works, and Exhibitions are organised during this month by the followers of Ambedkar. Besides being an advocate for Dalit rights, Ambedkar was also a huge feminist. Ambedkar famously said:

“Unity is meaningless without the accompaniment of women.
Education is fruitless without educated women and agitation is
incomplete without the strength of women.”

So what better way to celebrate Dalit History Month than honouring five female Dalit activists alive today.

  1. Meena Kandasamy

  2. Meena Kandasamy Child Help Foundation

    Hailing from Chennai, Meena Kandasamy is a fearless Dalit activist. She is also a fiction writer, poet, and translator. She made her debut as a fiction writer in 2014 by publishing a novel called ‘The Gypsy Goddess’ . The novel is a fiction story based on the 1968 Kilvenmani massacre . Meena Kandasamy has faced numerous death threats for her criticism of the caste hierarchy. But Meena is not someone who is going to bow down easily. In reply to her death threats, she said:

    “This threat of violence shouldn’t dictate what you are going to write or
    hinder you in any manner.”

  3. Thenmozhi Soundararajan

  4. Thenmozhi Soundararajan Child Help Foundation

    Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a Dalit activist who lives in the United States of America. She voices her advocacy through songs and films. Her songs can be found on her Soundcloud profile. She explained her experience as a Dalit, living in The United States, in an essay titled ‘The Black Indians’, which was published in Outlook Magazine. She also hosts a podcast titled ‘Caste in the USA.’ For her efforts, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation included her in their first Artist as Activist fellows.

  5. Sanghapali Aruna

  6.  Sanghapali Aruna Child Help Foundation

    Sanghapali Aruna is one of the prominent and well-known Dalit activists we have today. She is the Executive Director of Project Mukti , which describes itself as ‘an incubator working as a Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi women and children focused start-up working to end the effects of caste, tribe, and class discrimination.’ Their workshops focus on building resilience, addressing trauma and mental health among women and children. She can also be seen during protests. She famously participated in Dalit Mahila Swabhiman Yatra (Dalit Women's Self-Respect Tour), travelling through India to raise awareness about Caste-Based violence.

  7. Asha Kowtal

  8.  Asha Kowtal Child Help Foundation

    Holding A Master’s degree in social work, Asha Kowtal uses the skills acquired by her education to good use. Currently, she serves as the General Secretary of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch. She is also a part of the Steering Committee of WinG-India , which is ‘a women’s network advancing the leadership of women from Northeast, Dalit and Tribal communities in governance at all levels to challenge exploitative structures towards a gender just society with freedom and dignity for all.’ Asha Kowtal also spoke for Dalit advocacy in Europe and was featured in the UN Women’s Virtual Reality Film Series.

  9. Christina Dhanaraj

  10. Christina Dhanaraj Child Help Foundation

    Christina Dhanaraj is a Christian Dalit woman and is currently working on a non-fiction book on Dalit women. Her essay titled Notes on Dissonance, published in Verve Magazine details the exclusion of Dalit women in feminist movements. In the essay, she goes in-depth about how being a Dalit woman, robs her of the fullness of life and also how Dalit women are given less representation in popular culture. She explains

    “Regardless of how my savarna girlfriends exercised their sexual
    freedom (casual sex, sex with coupled men, queer experiments), they
    never seemed to run out of prospects for dating or marriage.”

    Talking about Dalit representation, Christina says,

    “By casting savarna women as the love interests of its protagonists,
    popular culture has also reinforced that they are the only ones worthy
    of love, lust and legitimacy. Even in the case of Dalit male protagonists,
    the person who becomes their love interest most of the time is a
    savarna woman.”

    With intelligent excerpts like this, we can’t wait what Christina Dhanaraj has in store for us in her upcoming book.

    These five women have persisted and managed to find a voice through different and varied mediums. The Child Help Foundation applauds these women for their bravery, strength and intelligence. These women are inspirations to little girls all over the world.