DSS took shape as an organization in the year 2006 with the goal of organizing dalit women in the state of Andhra Pradesh to struggle for their rights and entitlements. In a State, where the successive governments and political parties are viewing dalit women only as vote banks and attempting to woo them with various monetary schemes and doles, it was thought necessary to awaken them to fight for justice and self respect rather than for monetary benefits. The idea took root in the course of ‘campaign on violence against women’ that took place during November 2004 in the background of International campaign on violence against women.
In the State of A.P., during past two decades we have witnessed earth storming dalit movements questioning the authority of dominant castes and demanding equality and self respect. Dalit movements across the state and the country questioned all political ideologies for ignoring caste question in the guise of ‘class’ analysis and thereby brought a clear political divide among all the parties on caste question. This is considered as a historical contribution of the dalit movement. Thus, these movements raised many critical questions of caste and had shaken even the revolutionary parties to come out with their stand on caste. But alas, however, the movements remained only male dominated though dalit women were active participants in the movement, they remained invisible and their issues neglected.
Dalit women are thrice oppressed and exploited under the caste, class and gender structures and fall far behind both Dalit men and other women in development indicators. Dalit girls are exploited all-round. It is estimated that a majority of the 1 5,000 girls trafficked annually are from dalit communities. There is all-round lack of awareness and apathy towards women rights and laws. While the ordinary women are ignorant of their rights and laws concerning them due to illiteracy and poverty, it is a stark truth that most of the men are equally ignorant due to lack of concern and gender perspective.
The Feminist movements of the past decades were successful in exposing the gender stereotypes, gender division of labor, discrimination, domestic violence, women’s reproductive rights and the problems of the single women in the society. The feminist movement however did not address the problems of the dalit women because it did not concern itself with the caste question, as most of the feminists themselves came from the dominant caste and class and have inherited their class and caste characters.
The patriarchic attitude of the dalit movement, despite its progressive contribution and the neglect of dalit women by the feminist movement provided the context for the emergence of DSS. In these circumstances in course of the “campaign on violence against women” it was thought necessary to have a separate and independent platform to address the dalit women question so as to facilitate the dalit women to struggle for their rights and entitlements.
Formation of Dalit Sthree Sakthi (DSS):
Despite formidable opposition and odds DSS was launched after few rounds of discussion and debates among the likeminded with the following vision, mission and objectives. Soon, DSS took its shape with encouraging activists coming together to steer the course of the movement.