Education as Means of Dalit Women’s Liberation: Myth or Reality?

Conference: The Barcelona Conference on Education (BCE2022)
Title: Education as Means of Dalit Women’s Liberation: Myth or Reality?
Stream: Higher Education
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Saraswati Suna, The University of Sydney, Australia


In India, education is perceived as a mechanism for the social and economic advancement of the deprived sections of society through social mobility and guarantees equality to everyone. Education is considered a means of 'liberation' from caste, gender, and class shackles. However, it has become 'an instrument for reproducing social stratification and maintaining the dominant sections' hegemony. The Dalits, for decades, have been 'discriminated, marginalised, and are educationally pushed back by the upper castes. This paper foregrounds the voices of Dalit women attending university in the state of Odisha, India. It reports upon an ethnographical study as a part of an MPhil thesis analysing 15 in-depth interviews and three focus groups with 15 Dalit women students in total. As an insider, the researcher's positioning will underscore the nuances of Dalit women students' experiences in the regional university of Odisha, India. It highlights their experiences of oppression and discrimination, as well as how they negotiate to find quality education. This research applies Dalit feminist theory to determine how long-standing sociocultural hierarchies permeate academic environments. The outcomes show that Dalit women still experience caste and gender (multiple discrimination) in higher education, notwithstanding affirmative action. The university perpetuates caste and gender-based inequity.

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