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A 42-year-old Dalit woman from Rajasthan shared her life experiences as a manual scavenger during her childhood with scholars and policy-makers from across the world at a conference in London.

Usha Chaumar addressed the Annual Conference of the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) at the University of Portsmouth on the subject of 'Sanitation and Women's Rights in India' on Wednesday, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

"Now we are no longer untouchable. (But) Things will have to change as far as our community's (Dalit) upliftment is concerned.

"We are getting due respect from all sections of society (in the world)," said Chaumar who addressed the gathering in Hindi.

Chaumar, whose life was turned around with the help of sanitation charity Sulabh International, shared her life experiences with scholars from universities across the world.

During her UK visit, Chaumar was invited to the BBC for an interview and also found some time for sightseeing which included a visit to the recently-unveiled statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Parliament Square.

"On behalf of thousands of Dalit and downtrodden sisters and mothers, I wanted to visit Bapu's statue with the hope that his soul will be happy today," she said.

"I am also very excited to visit BBC's headquarters and London bridge, as I was hearing only these two names since childhood."

Chaumar, from Hazurigate Harijan colony in Alwar town, was married off at the age of 10 and forced into manual scavenging, the only livelihood her family has known for generations.

The BASAS conference at University of Portsmouth aims to address ways in which concepts of security and insecurity are playing themselves out in different South Asian contexts.


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