Harvard South Asia Institute and Tata Trusts showcase project findings on ‘Women’s Economic and Social Rights in India’

Posted by: at 12/22/2016 07:28:00 am

The project focusses on three specific areas:
Improving access to secondary education for disadvantaged and marginalized girls
Addressing gender-based violence and promoting gender equitable norms
Urban Livelihoods and empowering Home-based workers in India

New Delhi, December 22, 2016:  The Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) in collaboration with Tata Trusts hosted an event titled ‘Women’s Economic and Social Rights in India: ‘Exploring New Collaborations and Engagements’ today in New Delhi. The event showcased the outcome of an eighteen-month project on ‘Livelihood Creation in India’

(http://southasiainstitute.harvard.edu/livelihood-creation-project/ ). Padma Bhushan  Dr. Ela Bhatt, Founder, SEWA was the Chief Guest for the evening who also delivered the keynote address. Professor Martha Chen from Harvard Kennedy School and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, FXB Director of Research and Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health - the Faculty Chairs, shared the project findings and outcomes. The event featured the work of organisations that have been supported through grants and mentoring over the last one year.

The project aims to provide functional training, evolving strategies, showcasing best practices and assisting with scaling, deepening and maximizing impact. The Project team is led by Dr. Shashank Shah, Visiting Scholar, Harvard Business School, Project Director and Fellow, Harvard SAI; and Anisha Gopi, Project Manager, Harvard SAI. The team is also assisted by knowledge partners Shalini Sinha, home-based worker sector specialist of the global network WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing); Firoza Mehrotra, senior policy advisor to HomeNet South Asia (a regional alliance of organizations of home-based workers); Sanjay Kumar, director of SEWA Bharat (the national federation of state-level affiliates of the Self-Employed Women’s Association); and Deval Sanghavi, Co-founder, Dasra.

Speaking at the event, Professor Jacqueline Bhabha said, “The generous funding from Tata Trusts has enabled us to work with a lively and creative group of organizations who address issues of educational and gender empowerment within their communities. While the reality of exclusion and discrimination looms large, it has been exciting to learn about insightful strategies for communities to advance their claims and enforce rights they have. This forum in Delhi gives us a welcome opportunity to draw together the lessons learnt from our 18-month collaboration and explore productive avenues for future work.”

Professor Martha Chen, added, “As part of Harvard SAI Project on Livelihoods in India, with generous support from the Tata Trust, we focused on the livelihood needs and constraints faced by women home-based workers, who represent nearly one-third of women workers in India.  We partnered with organizations affiliated with both the national and regional networks of home-based workers, HomeNet India and HomeNet South Asia.  In two workshops, the organizations shared experiences working with home-based workers to help them access markets as well as secure housing tenure and basic infrastructure services to make their homes into more productive workplaces. During the year, they promoted and documented promising new initiatives. They also met with representatives of the official delegation from the Government of India to UN Habitat III to make the case that urban informal livelihoods should be on the New Urban Agenda. We are delighted to share their experiences and the lessons learned at this forum in New Delhi.”

As a culmination of the project, the Harvard team released three publications which include reflections by subject experts and showcase some of these high impact interventions by participating organisations.

Emphasizing on the relevance of these publications, Dr. Shashank Shah said, “Contributions to these volumes are primarily based on the work done by a dozen organizations that Harvard SAI has proactively engaged with over the last one year. They outline a range of approaches, research studies and policy innovations in the areas of educational, social and economic empowerment of women in India. Together they paint a rich picture of the toolkit available for future scaling by the central and state governments in India. We believe this to be an important contribution of this collaboration between Harvard SAI and Tata Trusts.”

Anisha Gopi, recollected, “An overarching issue that was repeatedly brought up by many organizations was the need for tools to evaluate and document impact. To cater to this requirement for training inputs on research tools, impact evaluation and documentation and a range of other legal, organizational, and social policy issues, the project organized a series of webinars and workshops.”
Presenters at the webinars and workshops included subject experts including Harvard faculty members. The project is also hosting a web portal that will include information and resources generated during this project. It will focus on the above mentioned thematic areas to promote the socio-economic advancement of women. The portal also showcases best practices and innovative interventions, features organizations outlining the work they do, includes developments in technology, training programs and resource material created by organizations, and collates precedents on data collection, research capabilities and data evaluation.


INTERROGATING THE NORM: INNOVATIVE INTERVENTIONS TO PROMOTE GENDER JUSTICE AND SAFETY IN INDIA

Despite a progressive constitution and proliferation of laws supporting gender equality and prohibiting customary practices that perpetuate discrimination such as dowry, child marriage, sex selection, domestic violence, etc. pervasive gender discrimination and gender based violence in India have attracted anxious scrutiny. It is in this context, over an eighteen-month period, the Harvard South Asia Institute explored issues, challenges and solutions connected with gender based violence and social empowerment of women in India. Geographic spread, diverse theories of change and working methods, working with multi-stakeholders, focusing on legal entitlements, building new gender norms through mentorship – these are examples of very creative work being undertaken in some of India’s most challenging and deprived communities. Hence, this compilation has documented a rich body of work, through insightful essays and action-oriented case studies, some going back decades, that address the complex issue of the social empowerment of women in India through a range of strategies.

The reflection pieces by Suparna Gupta and Bhanumathi Kalluri explore innovative and creative strategies for enhancing respect for human rights in the context of potentially oppressive or rights-violating gender norms.  They target harm prevention and a holistic set of theoretical and practical approaches. The goal is to increase the capacity of community members to collaborate, in building safe and mutually respectful societies. In one case, a key technique described involves bringing community activists into close and trusting contact with state and law enforcement agencies, with a view to building trust and ensuring cooperation. In the second case, the community organization relies on a mentorship model to build skills and change gender-related norms. Both essays set the context for the case studies that follow.

During the eighteen-month period of this project, the Harvard SAI Team undertook field research, capacity strengthening, and knowledge dissemination. Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, the Faculty Chair of this track engaged with and mentored six of the 30 organizations that were identified for a grant to document their work, projects and impact. Three of these six organizations that focus on social empowerment of women, have been included in this book as case studies. These include Dhaatri: Resource centre for women and children's rights, Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), and Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG). Each of them describe a diverse set of contexts and activities geared, in their different ways, towards improving access to empowerment, rights and protection for several vulnerable communities.

The case on Dhaatri specifically focuses on rural populations and access to forest land ownership by women. The case on MAVA examines their initiative on sensitizing and engaging young boys and men using out-of-the-box methods to deconstruct and redefine masculinity and prevent gender-based violence. The final case on AWAG explores a range of strategies to strengthen the access to protection for marginalized women, subject to violence, exclusion and stigma. In different ways they outline the challenges that exist, despite welcome legal reform, in protecting and ensuring women’s rights to land ownership.

The findings of this publication are very insightful and relevant to the contemporary efforts of the central and state government in India for women’s empowerment. To have made this outcome possible, we wish to acknowledge the efforts of our team. Clare, our copy editor has done a brilliant job in spite of tight deadlines. Her eye for detail in indeed commendable. The creative team led by Usha Gawde and Aashika Cunha have spared no effort in the design, layout and in presenting the content with fine aesthetics. Nora, Meghan and Diana from the Harvard SAI Team at Cambridge helped us throughout the project. The guidance from Professor Tarun Khanna, Director, and Meena Hewett, Executive Director, Harvard SAI was most valuable. We are most grateful to Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, Faculty Chair of this project, for her continued efforts in studying and devising innovative approaches to deal with gender based violence in India. She provided very valuable inputs and insights for this publication. She was ably assisted by Anisha Gopi who coordinated the field efforts with all grantees, knowledge partners and subject experts. Her efforts and initiative in compiling this publication are noteworthy and commendable. We are also thankful to R. Venkataramanan, Executive Trustee, Tata Trusts, and his team for the grant and support.
We hope that researchers, practitioners, civil society leaders, gender activists and policy makers will draw valuable insights from this compilation.

Dr. Shashank Shah
Project Director, Livelihood Creation in India
Harvard University South Asia Institute


TRIGGERING SUCCESS: INNOVATIVE INTERVENTIONS TO PROMOTE EDUCATIONAL ACCESS IN INDIA

Education is central to the future development of India’s citizenry as active and empowered contributors in building a vibrant and democratic country with social justice and non-discrimination at its core.

Over the past decades, dramatic strides have been witnessed in terms of exponential increase in access to primary education of very large sections of previously excluded populations. However, enduring challenges remain. One relates to ensuring access for the most marginalized and stigmatized groups, including low caste girls, tribal children, children with disabilities and children living in conflict-affected areas. Another challenge relates to improving the quality of learning and the outcomes of the educational system, to ensure access to skill development necessary for productive and well-remunerated employment. Finally, the imperative of reversing pervasive gender-based discrimination continues to generate challenging goals for educational interventions across India.

It is in this context, over an eighteen-month period, that the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) explored issues, challenges and solutions connected with the educational empowerment of women in India. The project consisted of field research, capacity strengthening, knowledge dissemination and engagement by Harvard faculty with select organizations across different states. The project reached out to over 45 organizations and worked closely with six of them. Contributions to this volume are primarily based on the work done by four of these organizations. They outline a range of approaches, research studies and policy innovations. Together they paint a rich picture of the toolkit available for future scaling by the central and state governments in India.

The reflections by Alison Bukhari and Safeena Husain from Educate Girls, and Dr. Shantha Sinha, Orla Kelly and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha discussing the Champions Project focus on strategies for incentivizing and scaling success. They explore a range of questions, from the impact of volunteer assistance on increasing the adult to child ratio in schools to multi-factoral drivers of female educational success in challenging contexts. The reflections generate the context for detailed case studies that follow.

The case studies by M V Foundation, White Lotus Trust, Ibtada and Centre for Unlocking Learning Potentials (CULP) focus on innovative strategies introduced to maximize educational potential, while at the same time exploring the individual narratives that illustrate the broad array of challenges and obstacles that students continue to face. The case studies capture a diverse set of initiatives, from the introduction of targeted means of transport to ensure safety, reliability and affordability in access to education, to the development of alternative forms of educational opportunity that drive significant norm and behavior change in vulnerable communities.

Throughout the different narratives, several themes recur. They include the deep commitment of most parents, particularly mothers, to their children’s educational success despite the difficulties they encounter in supporting this practically or financially. They also include the powerful impact of consistent community-based engagement by non-governmental actors as an essential element in building the trust and confidence needed to change traditional gender and child rearing norms. Together these essays and case studies generate useful material for future educational interventions, not only at the primary school level but also at the secondary and tertiary levels, areas that are increasingly vital if entrenched social and economic inequalities are to be challenged.

We wish to acknowledge the efforts of our team that made this publication possible. The guidance from Professor Tarun Khanna, Director, and Meena Hewett, Executive Director, Harvard SAI was valuable. We are very grateful to Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, Faculty Chair of the women’s track of the project, for compiling this publication and providing very valuable inputs and insights throughout the course of the project. She was ably assisted by Anisha Gopi who coordinated the field efforts with all grantees, knowledge partners and subject experts.  The creative team led by Usha Gawde and Aashika Cunha spared no effort in presenting the content with fine aesthetics. Clare, our copy editor, has done a brilliant job despite tight deadlines. Kundan, Nora, Meghan and Diana from the Harvard SAI Team helped us at every stage of this project. We are obliged to R. Venkataramanan, Executive Trustee, Tata Trusts, and his team for the grant and their consistent cooperation.

We hope that researchers, practitioners, civil society leaders, gender activists, educationists and policy makers will draw some valuable insights from this compilation.


- Dr. Shashank Shah
Project Director, Livelihood Creation in India
Harvard University South Asia Institute


EMPOWERING HOME-BASED WORKERS IN INDIA: 
SOLUTIONS AND STRATEGIES
Home-based workers produce goods or services for the market from within or around their own homes. In developed, developing and under-developed economies, they produce a wide range of low- and high-end goods and services for domestic and global markets. Estimates suggest that there are more than 37 million (3.7 crore) home-based workers in India working outside the agriculture sector. Most of these are women. Given the size and situation of this segment of the Indian population, and to contribute to this category of workers, this project was undertaken as part of the collaboration between Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) and the Tata Trusts on ‘Livelihood Creation in India’.

The urban livelihoods theme with a special focus on empowering urban home-based workers was designed and led by Faculty Co-Chair Martha Chen, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. The project had a pan-India scope. Its purview included partnering with local non-profit and for-profit social enterprises, experts from academia, government, and other institutions.

The first major outcome of this project was a set of capacity building and mutual sharing workshops for selected non-profit organizations, social entrepreneurs, academics, and other stakeholders. This was held in Mumbai in January 2016. The objective for these workshops was to enable home-based workers to effectively negotiate for basic infrastructure services in their homes, which double as their workplaces; for product development and marketing support; and for legal and social protection. The workshops were designed with inputs from knowledge partners and advisory board members to provide functional training, evolve strategies, showcase best practices, discuss scaling, deepen and maximize impact of these organizations, and formulate possible next steps they can collectively take as an alliance of organizations. The discussions of the participants during the workshop consolidated as a set of key learnings have been documented and included in this publication. An overview paper on Home-Based Workers in India has been co-authored by Professor Martha Chen and
Shalini Sinha, Home-based Workers Sector Specialist at WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), especially for this publication.

The participating organizations of this project also developed and presented a “Platform of Demands” to the Government of India delegation to Habitat III at Quito. Habitat III is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, which unveiled the New Urban Agenda (NUA). NUA has the potential to impact urban development on a global scale, and the “Platform of Demands” developed by project partners advocated for the recognition and integration of informal workers and their livelihoods into the document, as well as, in the implementation of the NUA as it unfolds in India.

As part of the project, a grant was also given to RUAAB SEWA. Ruaab SEWA represents a unique model of garment production and sourcing that is owned and managed by women producers, which ensures ethical and transparent supply chain. The objective of this pilot was to use the learnings of the Harvard SAI workshops to develop a pilot. Under this initiative, Ruaab developed new products and a new marketing strategy aimed at the Indian market for the Diwali festival. RUAAB also show cased their experience with other participating organizations on the process, hurdles, successes, outcomes and learnings at the second workshop of this project held in Delhi in October 2016.

As we present this book based on our eighteen-month long efforts in this area, we wish to acknowledge our team that made this publication possible. We are very grateful to Professor Martha Chen, Faculty Chair of this project, for compiling this publication and providing very valuable inputs and insights throughout the course of the project. She was ably assisted by Shalini Sinha who coordinated the field efforts with all grantees, knowledge partners and subject experts. Other area specialists from WIEGO, HomeNet South Asia and SEWA Bharat also made noteworthy contributions to the success of this project. The creative team led by Usha Gawde and Aashika Cunha spared no effort in presenting the content with fine aesthetics. Clare, our copy editor, has done a great job with proofing. Anisha Gopi and Kundan Madireddy, Project Managers at Harvard SAI helped at every stage of this project. The guidance from Professor Tarun Khanna, Director, and Meena Hewett, Executive Director, Harvard SAI was valuable. We are obliged to R. Venkataramanan, Executive Trustee, Tata Trusts, and his team for the grant and their consistent cooperation.

We hope that researchers, practitioners, civil society leaders, gender activists, educationists and policy makers will draw some valuable insights from this compilation.


- Dr. Shashank Shah
Project Director, Livelihood Creation in India
Harvard University South Asia Institute

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