[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 15:35 GMT
Toda threatened as women break out
Toda women
The Toda society has strict laws over where women can go
The Toda tribe in India - one of the country's smallest communities - is gradually breaking up as its women marry men from outside. Is this the end for the Toda?

The Toda are based in the Nilgiri Hills in southern India, and number around 1,700. While the tribe's men own property and work in agriculture, the women are renowned for their skills and embroidery. They are not allowed near the tribe's tall temples.

But growing numbers are rejecting their tribal traditions and its highly patriarchal society.

"When a girl is very young, they decide who she is to marry," Jaikumari Piljane, a Toda woman who got married outside the tribe - to a Tamil film star - told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"They exchange buffalos - that is the tradition. So when she comes of age, she is sent off to the boy's house. They then have babies at a very early age.

"But now it is not like that - the girls want to study."

Wanting to achieve

Ms Piljane has also broken with tradition in a number of other ways - reflecting the experiences of many of the tribe's women.

Her family converted to Christianity two decades ago, and she was educated at a convent school. She now runs a co-operative helping Toda women achieve financial independence.

"They want to achieve something," she said.

Toda house
Most of the women's demands are never taken seriously within Toda areas
Dr Jakra Patasathi, Tribal Research Centre
"They can't find husbands in the tribe, because most of the time the boys go into agriculture, and cannot afford it - they go at a loss.

"So they lease out their land to outsiders. Then when they need money, they take out ever-larger loans until they can't cope. When they can't cope with that, they start drinking.

"That's the problem with the boys today, whereas the girls want a different life."

Dr Jakra Patasathi is the director of the Tribal Research Centre in the Nilgiri district and has studied the history of the Todas.

She says the women struggle because the flow of money is only between men.

"Most of the women's demands are never taken seriously within Toda areas."

"A lot of turning points in Toda society are because of this revolt of Toda women, who have felt their men have become an obstacle to their advancement."

But Mutsin, a grandmother within the tribe, said that although her own niece had broken with tradition and chosen not to marry, she would like to "keep the traditions" in some way.

"Women used to sit in the sun, dance and sing," she added.

"But it is still better they come out and get educated.

"The ones who come out can then more easily guide the ones still inside."

'Rats are a real delicacy'
22 Aug 03 |  From Our Own Correspondent

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific