Ruth Walker – Speaking up about trafficking of Dalit women

As we approach International Women’s Day, I am reminded how hard we have fought in the UK for women’s rights and I feel privileged to have benefited personally from the rights and value gained as a result of past campaigners. As I reflect on this, I know I am hugely privileged with the life chances that I have gained as a result of the courage of other women and I feel challenged by those who are willing to campaign against injustice.

It is estimated that today there are more people in slavery than there were 200 years ago when Wilberforce was campaigning against slavery. In India alone for example there are thought to be as many as 100million people being trafficked (source DFN UK) and most of these are Dalits (Untouchables).

In 2009 and 2010 I had the opportunity to travel to India to see for myself some of the issues that face Dalits and in particular to understand the life chances of Dalit women. I was shocked to see and hear their experience first hand. Because Dalits are considered less than human, with an innate value considered below that of animals, their lives are viewed as not worthy to be lived. As a result human trafficking is not simply a problem Dalits face – it is seen as their destiny. I think we need to speak up about this injustice.

The way Dalit women can be helped is gaining some of the basic rights we take for granted – better access to education, healthcare and equality-based opportunities for advancement? The Dalit Freedom Network Movement is working from the bottom up in India to make a powerful difference at the grass roots level. They have adopted a four-fold focus to end trafficking – education programmes, economic development, healthcare initiatives and social justice programmes.

More about DFN can be seen on their website, Their work is to be commended

This month I will have the privilege of working with Dr Beryl de Souza, Medical Director and Anti-Human Trafficking Director in India, Dalit Freedom Network and Jeeva Khumar, Director for Women’s Empowerment. We aim to raise awareness of some of these issues amongst women in Scotland.

It is often hard to know we as individuals can do but we can speak up to others and speak to our politicians. As we move towards the elections for the Scottish Parliament, I would like to see the next Scottish Government take a strong stand against human trafficking and develop a partnership with other Governments across the world to bring about significant change. If the Scottish Government gave help and encouragement to achieve better anti-trafficking legislation, more effective enforcement, higher standards of care and protection for the victims of trafficking, it could help change attitudes so that trafficking and slavery become totally unacceptable worldwide. I believe this would make a significant difference to the lives of the Dalit women in India.

You can read the personal experiences of a young woman working to help women in India here.


Ruth runs her own consultancy, Turquoise Insight, specialising in business and personal development. Ruth is passionate about helping individuals and organisations reach their full potential.

She  is involved in raising awareness of the plight of Dalit women (untouchables) in India.

Ruth spent over 30 years working in the private and public sector, most recently with Scottish Enterprise, the governments economic development agency.  There she had a range of roles involving  Strategy Development,
Customer Relationship Management and Innovation, Marketing and Public Affairs.

Ruth volunteers with a number of charities where she focuses on leadership development, mentoring, strategy, and fundraising. Currently she is a director of the Hutchesons Education Trust where she is convener of the
Development and Marketing committee, director and chair of Mission Scotland and trustee of the Scottish Bible Society and Pacific Partnership Trust.

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