around the world 4
boy working on stone-crushing
machines close to a granite
quarry. He is covered in
dust which is damaging to
his lungs. Photo: Mark
Henley / Panos
Name of community: Neenos, comprising 10-20% of Wolof society, are the people
of caste. In Mande-speaking areas, the Nyamakalaw comprise about 5% of
the population. Also, the Jonow (slaves and their descendants).
Numbers: Approximately 15% of the total population.
Traditional occupations: Neeno – blacksmiths, leatherworkers, midwives,
circumcision performers. Nyamakalaw – blacksmiths, bards and leatherworkers.
Legislation: Constitutional guarantee of freedom from discrimination.
Faso (also in Mali, Niger, Algeria and Libya)
Name of community: Bellah, the slave caste of the Tuareg community.
Traditional occupations: Slaves to higher caste ‘owners’, usually
as unpaid labourers, producing tradeable goods such as salt for their owners.
Legislation: The Constitution prohibits caste discrimination.
(also northern Cameroon and the Chad basin
of central Africa)
Name of community: Osu, Oru, Adu-Ebo, Oruma, Ume, Ohu,
Omoni. Also blacksmith and potter castes in Mandara Hills region.
Numbers: 2-4 million.
Traditional occupations: Osus are assistants to high priests
of the traditional religion. Outcastes in the Mandara Hills region are
leatherworkers, weavers, undertakers, midwives and drummers.
Legislation: Law prohibiting Osu caste system exists in
Anamba and Enugu states.
Name of community: Haratin.
Traditional occupations: The Haratin (‘black moors’) are slaves
and ex-slaves of the Bidan (‘white moors’).
Legislation: Slavery formally abolished in 1980.
Notions of purity and pollution are prevalent
in southwestern Ethiopia, though the impurity
can be temporary.
Traditional occupations: Tanners, potters, blacksmiths, weavers.
Name of community: Akhdam (literally ‘servants’).
Numbers: The largest and poorest minority,
estimated at around 200,000.
Traditional occupations: Street cleaning, porters,
foot-soldiers and shoemakers. Women and children
beg. Over half are unemployed.
(also Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo
Name of community: Twa.
Numbers: 1-2 % of the population. Little or no representation in
positions of authority or power.
Hunter-gatherers, potters, jesters.
Name of community: Watta;
also among Indian Diaspora.
Numbers: 2,000-3,000 Watta.
Name of communities: Touaregs, Hausa, Djerma-Songhaï, Peuls, Kanouri,
Gourmantchema, Boudouma, Issawaghans.
Numbers: The Hausa make up 54% of the population, the Djerma-
the Touaregs 12%. Each has its own caste system.
Traditional occupation: Barbers, butchers,
blacksmiths, potters, griots, shoemakers, weavers, well-diggers
Legislation: Since 1999.
Name of community: Sab (‘low caste’) including Midgan (Mahdibhan),
Numbers: Approx 1% of the population.
Traditional occupations: Usually ‘çlients’ (slaves) to larger
Somali ‘noble’ clans. Tumal – blacksmiths; Yibir, Midigan – hunters
Name of community: Dalit.
2 million. Sunni Muslims of the
Swat region in northern Pakistan
have a system of social stratification. In
Sindh province there are around 1.8 million
people living in bondage as
the brick kilns, the majority of whom are Dalits from India.
There are also
Traditional occupations: Sweepers, washerpeople, barbers,
those who work with the innards of animals.
Name of community: Rodi or
Rodiya (Sinhalese); Pallars, Nalavas and Paraiyars
Numbers: Unknown. Both caste systems have their origin
in India, but the Sinhalese caste system is not linked
divisions of society.
Traditional occupations: The Tamil caste system is occupation-based
as well as hereditary. Pallars and Nalavas (descendants
of former slaves) work on
dominant castes’ lands; Paraiyars are engaged in
so-called unclean occupations.
Legislation: The Constitution prohibits discrimination
on the basis of caste.
Name of community: Dalit (about 25 sub-castes).
Numbers: Approx. 4.5 million, 21% of total
Traditional occupations: Removers of dead carcasses,
scavengers, artisans and singers.
Legislation: Caste discrimination constitutionally
a punishable offence.
Name of community: Methor.
Traditional occupations: Sweepers, cleaners
of toilets, drains and other dirty places.
Name of community: Buraku (traditionally eta
Numbers: Approximately 3 million, 2.5 % of total
Traditional occupations: The eta – disposers of dead cattle, producers
of leather, security guards and sweepers. The hinin – security guards,
executioners and performers.
Name of community: Dalit or Scheduled
sub-castes, such as the Chamars, Arunthathiyurs,
Pallars, Bhangis, Malas, Madigas, etc), formerly
known as Untouchables.
Numbers: 179 million (2001 Census), 20% of total
Traditional occupations: Leather workers, cobblers,
scavengers, sweepers, cremation workers, drummers,
removers of animal
Legislation: Yes, since 1948.
South Asian Diaspora
Caste discrimination has been exported from South Asia by those who have settled
have been no statistical
surveys of the numbers of
Dalits living in other countries,
but anecdotal evidence indicates
that people from the same
a foreign land tend to stick together and to keep their practices and their
Campaign for Dalit Human Rights www.dalits.org
2 Human Rights and Law Unit
of Indian Social Institute, New Delhi
4 National Campaign for
Dalit Human Rights www.dalits.org/globalcastesystems.htm