Aside from being a minority, the Dalit community or the “untouchables” have little political influence and live in extreme poverty, resulting in the majority of girls failing to attend school.
Janet Medina Navarro
Though the institution provides them with an allowance, uniform and lunch, the shame prevents them from going to class, as they are forced to sit on the ground and leave the desks for children of a higher status.
In the ruling caste system in Southeast Asia, the Dalit are considered the result of a sin committed in another life, and their mere shadow or smell could leave a stain on others.
Dimpy is an adolescent Nepali of the Dalit caste, the lowest in the Hindu structure, and though the government gave her a study grant, rejection from her fellow pupils made her leave school.
Dimpy’s parents immigrated to the Kathmandu valley ten years ago, fleeing from rural life and violence, but now both work eighteen hours a day in a carpet factory while Dimpy takes care of the house and prepares meals.
The Nepali government established a scholarship scheme to improve the literacy skills of this minority, which comprises 13% of the country’s population, but school desertion is still on the rise.
Frequently, the daughters are expected to stay at home and look after the younger siblings or work in the fields.
In general, their purchasing power, mother tongue, faith, or ethnic group predetermine their marginalisation, meaning that large sectors remain out of government reach and lack their basic rights.
In the last few decades, there have been minor attempts to reshape this discriminatory viewpoint by abolishing the lowest caste – the untouchables. Nonetheless, these groups are still seen as pariahs.
In recent years, Nepal has been focusing more on education, and one of the country’s objectives is to reduce gender inequality and put an end to discrimination.
In collaboration with international organisations, the government is financing scholarship schemes to bring education within reach of the castes that are considered inferior, as well as poor families, orphans and girls.
Dimpy received an allowance that covered costs related to uniform and school materials, such as tuition fees and even accommodation if her home was far from the school.
When she had almost finished secondary school in Kanti Bhairab, in the Dachi neighbourhood located in the outskirts of Kathmandu, her mother got sick and her father discouraged her from going to university, where she would not be able to be free from her Dalit origins.
One of man’s most prized resources is his intellectual ability, and even today, literacy and education continue to be undervalued in countries like Nepal.
The United Nations estimates that approximately 759 million adults lack basic competency in reading, writing and maths, and two percent of these are women. Two percent??? I suggest that the original version should say 2/3 and not 2%
For Dimpy and for other young girls that belong to the lower castes of Hinduism, a future without education means surviving off the land or making crafts. For centuries, the untouchables of Nepal have dedicated themselves to chipping rock to supply brick ovens or making trays made from plant fibre, in an endless cycle that dictates the fate of those not yet born and steals their freedom of choice. (PL)
Fotos: Pixabay – (Translated by Lucy Daghorn)