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Asha Kowtal Exposes Discrimination
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Women in the World Summit panelist Asha Kowtal talks about fighting caste-based discrimination and violence tells us about her inspiration and hopes for the future

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Asha Kowtal, General Secretary, All India Dalit Women Rights Forum

Who are you looking forward to seeing and meeting at the Summit?

I thought a lot about why I’m travelling thousands of miles to be a part of this summit. It took a while for it to dawn upon me that the mandate that I had is incredibly huge and terribly tough. To expose the reality of one of the most brutal forms of discrimination and violence which has been systematically hidden from the world is not easy. Caste based violence is not a domestic internal matter – but rather a global human rights concern, simply because it affects millions of people.

What panel or program are you most intrigued by?

I am excited about many of the segments planned at the Summit. But really looking forward to to discussion on the Tahrir Square. It is a powerful model of people’s resistance to overthrow unjust systems and structures. I feel elated when I see huge masses of people committed to a cause and are willing to fight. It is similar to the resistance movement against caste based violence and exclusion. The Dalit Womens Self Respect Yatra is one effort towards organising Dalit women to lead the struggle to end impunity.

What do you hope comes out of the Summit for you?

I’m excited to meet people from various walks of life who will be present at the Summit. Well, they represent various sectors and perhaps are professionals in their own worlds but by choosing to be a part of this #WITW14 they have shown their commitment to learn and ally with the fight against injustice across the world. That to me is the core of the reason why I am here … to derive energy from the collective and to add my ounce of energy to the collective. I believe it will go a long way!

What else do you plan to do while in New York City?

I will travel to several cities on a tour to speak at various events about the organizing of Dalit women. I am focused on building a public discourse on the issues of caste based discrimination and violence, faced particularly women. Through this tour I hope to raise sufficient resources to sustain the campaign for justice. The movement will expand and grow, nurturing young women from the community and herald a new hope for Dalit women.

Kowtal will appear on the Invisible India panel on the morning of April 5th.

[Courtesy: The Daily Beast, April 3, 2014]

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