Dr Rama Devi, Visiting Assistant Professor at SIAS, Krea University gave an online talk titled Between Impositions and Autonomy: Dalit Women, Education, Skill and Employment at the South Asia Forum Education Transformations and Youth, University of Melbourne, on January 23, 2024.
Education is often conflated with women’s empowerment. Access to formal education is considered to possess the potential to usher in the elimination of the imposed dependence of women on men by enhancing their employability and easing their entry into the labour market. Establishing such simplistic interconnections evades hidden constraints of socio-cultural conditions entwined with patriarchal ideologies that influence and even partially prohibit women’s access to education vis a vis work/marginalization in the labour market. Examining the nature of educational access and occupational aspirations of urban Dalit women residing in a Delhi settlement, the presentation underlines that patriarchal ideology impresses and controls the nature and outcome of the education they obtain. In the settlement, while most young girls pursue higher education, not everyone is expected to channel their educational degrees to secure paid employment. Unlike men, women are not encouraged to engage in every form of work as the nature of female occupation is intimately tied to notions of honour and disgrace of the family. Locally prevailing patriarchal norms dictate and define what constitutes respectable work for women.