The Global Ambedkar Scholars Association (GASA) has initiated the Bahujan Women Week, a platform dedicated to honouring and celebrating the pivotal role of Bahujan women in shaping Indian society.

Pratikshit Singh

Lucknow- Globally, women’s empowerment movements often spotlight the struggles and achievements of women from diverse backgrounds, yet in India, the narrative has often been overshadowed by the experiences of Savarna women, neglecting the significant contributions and challenges faced by Bahujan women.

Bahujan women often find themselves sidelined in discussions surrounding International Women’s Day due to the predominant focus on mainstream narratives of women’s empowerment, which typically center on the experiences and achievements of women from more privileged backgrounds. The voices and struggles of Bahujan women, who come from marginalized communities, are often overlooked or overshadowed by these dominant narratives.

Moreover, systemic inequalities and discrimination based on caste, class, and gender intersect to create unique challenges for Bahujan women. These challenges may include limited access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and political representation, as well as higher rates of violence and exploitation.

To address this imbalance, the Global Ambedkar Scholars Association (GASA) has initiated the Bahujan Women Week, a platform dedicated to honouring and celebrating the pivotal role of Bahujan women in shaping Indian society.

Through this week-long event, GASA aims to shed light on the often overlooked stories of Bahujan women, from political trailblazers like Mayawati to lesser-known figures like Mukta Salve, the first female Dalit writer, highlighting their resilience, struggles, and contributions.

International Women’s week & the Bahujan women

The week preceding International Women’s Week on 8th of March is celebrated around the world as women’s week, which is dedicated to awareness on gender issues and equality.

On the occasion, people reflect on the successes and hardships faced by the second gender all over the world. It is also a time to call for action to promote gender equality. However, in India, the issue of Women empowerment is largely driven by the Savarna narrative. It is quite evident that women belonging to the upper class have dominated the typical narrative of women empowerment, and the struggles and successes of women from marginalized sections are ignored.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, Priyanka Sonkar, Assistant Professor, Hindi Department, Banaras Hindu University, who is also the author of a book Dalit Stree Vimarsh: Srijan evam Sangharsh said, “The contribution of Bahujan women is disregarded.

An example of this can be that the name of Laxmi Bai, a rebel warrior of the 1857 revolt, who belonged to the upper caste, is popular everywhere and she is recognized for her valor, but no one knows the name of Jhalkari Bai, another warrior who belonged to the Kori community of Scheduled caste.

The Savarna women don’t recognize the contribution of Savitri Bai Phule in her contribution to Indian Renaissance. Sonkar pointed out that some of the issues are primarily unique to Dalit women like the issue of manual scavenging or the issue of witch-hunting.

To address this discrepancy, the Global Ambedkar Scholars Association is celebrating Bahujan Women’s Week.

Speaking to The Mooknayak Sushant Inderjeet Singh, the founder of Global Ambedkar Scholars Association, who is Co-President, Student’s Union at the School of Asian and African Studies, London said, “The idea is to celebrate the contributions and struggles of Bahujan Women in Indian Society, so on one hand, we have Mayawati and on the other, we also have Payal Tadvi. We have also featured some lesser-known women.”

While Mayawati is a renowned politician, who has been the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh four times, Payal Tadvi committed suicide in 2019 because of the harassment meted out to her in the Medical College she was enrolled in. The week began on March 1st, and on the 2nd day, i.e., March 2, The Week celebrated Mukta Salve, a lesser-known Bahujan Women.

Who Was Mukta Salve?

The Bahujan Women’s Week recognizes Mukta as the “First Female Dalit Writer”. The post recognizing her credits her for writing an essay titled “Maang Maharachya Dukhavisatha,” a seminal work in Dalit literature, highlighting the plight of the Mahar and Mang communities.

The essay was published on 1 March 1855 in a periodical named “Dnyanodaya”. It is believed to be the first written evidence in history, which takes us through the problem of Indian caste and patriarchy. She has, over a period of time, acquired the status of the first voice of Dalit feminism in history. Salve received her education from the school established by Jyoti ba Phule and Savitri Bai Phule in Pune in 1852.

There are many such forgotten Bahujan women who have slipped into oblivion over a period of time and whose recognition is of paramount importance. Hopefully, such efforts aimed at pulling marginalized women to the mainstream of feminism will succeed in their objective.