The Blue Club, a media organisation that strives to amplify marginalised voices, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and to commemorate the milestone, it has launched a first-of-its-kind fellowship programme exclusively for Dalit women and Dalit queer writers. The fellowship comes with a total stipend of Rs 30,000.
Independent journalist and filmmaker Priyadharsini, Founder-Director of the grassroots organisation, spoke to TNM about what made them come up with the fellowship programme.
âThe voices of Dalit women and Dalit queer persons are rarely heard in mainstream media,â Priyadharsini begins, highlighting why the fellowship can be called the countryâs first. âWe started without any expectations and we have been working on the anti-caste movement for a long time now. During our journey, with me as an independent journalist covering caste atrocities across the country, we noticed how the Dalit womanâs voice is never heard. Dalit women go through living hell because of their caste and gender. But it is not spoken about in the media as much as the experiences of a Dalit man,â she says.
âWhen we began, there were several issues hidden under layers,â she goes on to say. âNow as we grow, it is not just about the work that we do but also about the network that we have formed. We are 20 members strong. Across India, Dalit women who were earlier isolated, are engaging like never before. It has become a safe space for us. The Blue Club is able to represent the voice of the Dalit woman from a compassionate sisterhood environment.â
The Blue Club, through its past programmes, has empowered marginalised women, giving them agency to tell their stories. âWe have done workshops in urban slums, and in caste-atrocities prone areas in villages. During the Thideer Nagar eviction, we mentored women to speak about how eviction affects them. We have done workshops with young women, helping them take up the camera and work on short-films,â Priyadharsini says.
The team itself is made up of a close-knit network of strong women and a queer person â co-founder Nivedha Lakshmi as Strategic Advisor, Vinitha PM Swamy as Communications Director, Anannya G Madonna, the first Dalit woman President of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), as Advocacy Lead, Abhigna Arigala, Azim Premji University student, as the Programme Lead and Gireesh, who works with Queer Chennai Chronicles, as The Blue Clubâs design strategist.
âWriters Christina Thomas Dhanraj and Sowjanya will also be mentoring in the fellowship programme,â Priyadharsini adds.
Priyadharsini sees the fellowship programme as bridging an important divide that exists in the country. âThere are various big, funded fellowships for writers but I feel they are more patriarchal. They are ready to promote Dalit men because of the market. But here too, Dalit women and Dalit queer people are relegated to the sidelines,â she opines.
âWe wanted to break that pattern. Both in the category and in the way in which the fellows are mentored. The programme is meant for first time writers with minimal or no publishing experience. We plan to select about 10 fellows and assign one-one-one mentors for them,â she adds.
The three-month fellowship programme will have lecture series, writing workshops and one-on-one mentoring. Speaking about the stipend offered, Priyadharsini says, "People coming from marginalised communities do not have the mind space to just sit and write since their livelihood is at stake. Therefore, the stipend is important."
Applications are open until October 15 and the results are expected to be announced by the first week of November. The fellowship is set to begin by mid-November and run into January next year. Those wishing to apply can do so here.