My dear friend Tara Teng, who currently holds the title of Ms. Canada, has started a letter writing campaign to Dalit children in India. In his book Dalit Freedom Now and Forever: The Epic Struggle for Dalit Emancipation, Joseph D’souza explains why the Dalit people are vulnerable to abuse, trafficking, and sexual exploitation:
The root for the word ‘Dalit’ is found both in Hebrew and Sanskrit. It refers to people who are socially, religiously, economically and politically oppressed, deprived and exploited in India.
The word ‘Dalit’ is often used to describe a person who comes from any lower caste, even though technically authentic Dalits are kept outside the caste system as unworthy to enter the social and religious life of society. The are generally considered to be polluted socially, poor economically and powerless politically. They are not allowed to touch caste Hindus and are therefore treated as ‘untouchables.’ Dalits are found spread throughout the nation of India, South Asia and among the Indian diaspora around the world.
When a group of people is seen as lower than human, exploitation becomes the norm. Dalit children in particular are vulnerable, as they lack the opportunities that many of us enjoy and take for granted. In her blog, Tara Teng writes the following:
Dalit children are precious, precious children who have sadly, always been told that they are less than valuable, sub-human and untouchable by because of the traditional chaste system in India. But with education and empowerment- by investing the time to tell each child that they are valuable, worthwhile and capable of making a positive impact on the world- we can remind each child of their immeasurable worth! Words of encouragement can bring life to a child. Tell a child that he or she can make a difference in the world and they will.
There are 700 Dalit children that Tara is writing to, and she would love all our help! Wanna join us? Here are the instructions:
Letters can be hand written or typed. You can can also write a message on the back of a post card (this is what I am doing, because I love colourful pictures!) Send along photos or draw a picture if you wish. For those of you who are parents, this would be a great activity to do with your kids!
Or fax to: 1-604-535-4248.
If you prefer snail mail, send to:
PO Box 45645, RPO Sunnyside
Surrey BC, V4A 9N3 Canada
Not sure what to write? Start the letter with: “Dear Friend in India” and sign it as “Your Friend in Canada/North America,_________”
It would be best to have your letters/cards in by the end of July. You can also learn more about Dalit oppression here.
I am going out to buy some post cards this evening, and hope you will join Tara and me in sending some love to some precious kids!