Recently I’ve been thinking about voices, both inner and outer, and how powerful both kinds can be. In future posts I’ll talk about inner voices, but for now I’d like to share some examples of the power of outer voices.
In 2007 I was privileged to spend time at a meeting of Dalit (untouchable) women in northern India. These Hindu women had become organized as the “Forum for Women’s Awakening” by a Catholic nun, Sister Mary; our Buddhist group has contributed to their support over the years. A wonderful example of interfaith dialogue!
The Forum has many projects: contributing to the education of their children, educating women about domestic abuse and providing resources, making micro-business loans, and providing a safe place for them to talk about the realities of their often difficult lives so that they could get and give support. The energy was palpable as we sat in this small courtyard with women and girls of all ages. It takes tremendous courage and determination for these women to come together to fight for their rights in a country which has not only devalued them as women, but devalued their entire caste.
One of the most moving moments of our visit came when we watched a girl baby being blessed in a traditional ceremony that until then was reserved for boys. We all shared in the celebratory sweets. With Sister Mary’s recent death, the future of this young group is uncertain, but we can be sure that the power of the group blessing of this and other girls will reverberate throughout the community for years to come.
Photo: Sister Mary, grandmother, mother, and daughter