Although caste-based discrimination is banned under the Indian Constitution, Dalit (formerly known as ‘untouchables’) and other disadvantaged communities in India remain confined to low-skill, low-wage sectors. Women from Dalit and other low caste communities face even greater challenges in finding employment and achieving economic self-sufficiency. Families are often reluctant to allow daughters to engage in income-generating activities outside of the household (in factories etc.), due to fears about their safety, thus perpetuating the economic dependence of young women.
While liberalization of the Indian economy has opened up new sectors of employment, especially in the state of Gujarat, where foreign investment is high; Dalit and other low caste communities often lack the requisite skills to compete and take advantage of new growth opportunities.
DSK was created to confront caste-based discrimination and break down the traditional segregation of occupations along caste lines, as well as provide practical skills to Dalit (formerly known as ‘untouchable’) youth. Navsarjan Trust was founded in 1989, and established the Dalit Shakti Kendra/DSK (Dalit Empowerment Centre) in 2001.
With a 1:13-15 teacher-student ratio, DSK offers more than 20 different courses, including tailoring, furniture making, beauty care, basic computer operations, electric wiring, auto mechanics, mobile phone repairing, photography and videography. Each vocational course is practically oriented and complemented by life skills workshops and other group activities designed to encourage self-confidence, rights awareness, and citizenship to a population that has historically faced oppression and continues to face discrimination despite the elimination of the caste system in India. Program graduates are encouraged to return to DSK to provide guidance and mentor-ship to current trainees and thereby build a community of Dalit youth who are breaking into new professions. In 13 years of its existence, DSK has trained 7262 people including 3660 women.
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