The Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights at Colby College is pleased to announce its selection of Fatima Burnad of India as our 2011 Oak fellow.  Ms. Burnad is the founder and president of the Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED), and has been working among the Dalit (untouchable) community in that country for the past 35 years.  In India, she has become a national leader in the social movement seeking greater economic opportunity and political influence for these largely landless and poor people and has been especially active in organizing Dalit women.  SRED, under her leadership, documents human rights abuses: from police brutality to the assassination of Dalit women leaders; from social and economic exclusion to abject poverty.  In addition, the organization trains Dalit women on their legal rights and how to document these abuses and campaign on their own behalf.  This work puts Ms. Burnad at great personal risk as she is frequently working in direct opposition to police and other authorities. Indeed, she has been detained, arrested and threatened on several occasions.  Outside India, Ms. Burnad has become an international leader in the effort to end institutionalized discrimination against the world’s most socially marginalized citizens.

Ms. Burnad, who has studied in India, at the University of Chicago and at the University of Sussex, received an honorary Doctorate from the Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and the Rastriya Gaurav Award (National Honorary Award) from the International Friendship Fellowship in New Delhi. She also was honored as an “International Woman of the Year” (1997-8) by the International Biographical Center in the UK.  Among her many affiliations, she is serving on the board of directors of the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), a Tokyo-based NGO that consults with the UN.

We are delighted that Ms. Burnad will join the Colby community for the fall of 2011 as the Oak fellow. During her fellowship, she will teach a one-credit, non-graded course, Human Rights and Poverty (IN111). The course will examine the economic impoverishment and socio-political marginalization of entire groups of people, with a specific focus on the Dalit in India.

Learn More:

Learn more about IMADR (International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism) and Fatima’s work with them by clicking on the link.

Listen to Fatima talk about her work with SRED by clicking on the link.

Read the Inside Colby article on Fatima and her work.