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International Seminars National Seminars In-house Seminars

One of the important functions of the Centre since its inception was to engage itself in continuous dialogue with academicians, policy makers, activists and others through the forum of Seminars/ Conferences/ Workshops etc.  The role of the Centre was either to organize such Seminars etc. itself or in collaboration with others, or encourage Faculty participation in seminars/workshops/conferences organised by others. 

National Seminars


User Charges, Public Health Facilities and Universal Access at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 7th and 8th December, 2012
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National Consultation on Equity in Higher Education Towards an Intersectional Approach,  at ICSSR Conference Room, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi. March 3, 2012
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Book launch of the first three Volumes in the Series Women, Equality and the Republic: Landmarks in the Indian Story
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Healthcare Reforms and Rationing of Healthcare Services in India

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Report on the National Seminar ‘Indian Nursing in the New Era of Healthcare’
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Questions and approaches in Feminist Science Studies
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Critical Knowledges and Higher Education: Mapping the Ground
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Disability and Gender
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Adoption and Minority Laws
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Consultation on Curriculum Development
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Women and Migration
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Re-presenting Indian Women: 1875 to 1947, A Visual Documentary
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International Seminars

A World in Transition: New Challenges for Gender Justice
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In-house Seminars


The many questions around the UID project, a Standing Committee and some answers’ by Dr. Usha Ramanathan, January 30, 2012


 ‘Run-away Marriages: A silent revolution?’ by Dr. Meena Dhanda (Reader, Philosophy and Cultural Politics, University of Wolverhampton, U.K), January 6, 2012


 ‘Whatever Happened to Socialist Feminism in the "West"?’ by Prof. Linda Gordon, (University Professor of the Humanities, Florence Kelley Professor of History, New York University), October 28, 2011


 ‘Gender Studies in Post-Socialist Countries in Europe – Some Ideas and Concepts’ by Dr. Veronika Wöhrer, (Scientific Researcher, University of Freiburg, Germany), October 12, 2011


 ‘Gender Differential Effects of Climate Change; Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies in Village India,’ by Govind Kelkar (Senior Analyst, Programme & Research Economic Empowerment Cluster, UN Women), July 5, 2011


Screening of a Documentary Film titled, “We are Foot Soldiers,” by Debolina Dutta and Oishik Sircar, May 5, 2011

Discussion on ‘Whither Higher Education? The NCHER Bill and Higher Education Bills in the Current Context’ led by Dr. Vinod Raina and Dr. Apoorvanand, 20 August 2010

Talk ‘Conditional Cash Transfers to Counter Sex-Selective Abortion: A Study of the Ladli Schemes of Delhi and Haryana’ by Bijayalaxmi Nanda (Faculty, Department of Political Science, Miranda House, University of Delhi), 10 September, 2010

Talk ‘Legal Perspectives of Failed NRI Marriages: Implications for Women’, by Professor Lakshmi Jambholkar (Former Professor, Department of Law, Delhi University), 18 October, 2010

Talk ’Beyond the Impasse: ‘Muslim Feminism(s) and the Indian Women’s Movement’ by Dr. Nida Kirmani (Research Fellow, University of Birmingham, U.K.), 9 November, 2010

Visit by Chinese and Taiwanese scholars (led by Chen Yun and Kuan-Hsing Chen) to CWDS, for an interactive discussion sessions on issues of gender and culture, March 17th 2011


Dr. Marie Percot (Associated with Urban Anthropology Laboratory, National Council for Scientific Research, Paris) delivered a talk on ‘Malayali Nurses Abroad: Between Migration Tradition, Family Strategies and Individual Aspirations’ on 4 February, 2009


Dr. Anupama Rao (Assistant Professor, Barnard College, Columbia University) delivered a talk on “The Biopolitics of Caste" on 14 January, 2009


Prof. Uma Chakravarti (Historian and Former J.P Naik Fellow) delivered a talk on ‘Gendering Transitions: Sexuality and the Reification of Women in Early India’ on  3 December, 2008


Prof. Erica Burman (Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK) delivered a talk on ‘Between Justice and Pathologisation: Juxtapositions of Epistemic and Material Violence in Transnational Migration and Domestic Violence Research’ on 14th November  2008


Prof. Tani E. Barlow (Department of History, Rice University) delivered a talk on ‘Addressing an Enigma - The Modern Girl Project: Problems and Solutions' on 4th August 2008


Dr. Kanchana Natarajan (Faculty, Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi) delivered a talk on ‘Avudai Akka , A Study of Advaita Vedanta from the point of view of a Female Seer’ on 25th April 2008


Ms. Snigdha Singh, (Senior Lecturer, Miranda House, University of Delhi)  delivered a lecture on ‘Evidence of Patronage and Matronage at an Early Stupa’ on 4th April 2008

Dr. J. Devika, (Faculty, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum) delivered a lecture on “A Tactful Union”: Domestic Workers’ Unionism, Politics, and Citizenship in Kerala? on February 29, 2008

Dr. Geetanjali Gangoli (School for Policy Studies, Bristol) delivered a lecture on ‘Forced Marriage in the U.K. – Religious, Cultural or State Violence on 5th December 2007


Prof. Patricia Jeffery (Professor of Sociology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland) delivered a lecture on ‘Gender and Pharmaceuticals: The Case of Intrapartum Oxytocin’ on 26th September 2007


Dr. Zhang Hong (Visiting Scholar, Centre for Women’s Development Studies and Associate Professor of History in Dalian University, China) delivered a lecture on ‘Women and Nationalism: A Historiographical Study of Indian Women’s History since 1970s’ on 10th September 2007


Dr. D. Raghunandan (General Secretary, Delhi Science Forum) delivered a lecture on ‘Climate Change: Politics and Sciences’ on 30th August 2007


Dr. K.P. Kannan (Member, National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector) delivered a lecture on ‘Social Security for the Unprotected Workers: Issues and Impediments’ on 11th April 2007


Dr. K.P. Kannan (Member, National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector) delivered a lecture on ‘Social Security for the Unprotected Workers: Issues and Impediments’ on 11th April 2007


‘The Failure of Patriarchy: Men, Women and Servitude in Kolkata’ by Raka Ray, Sarah Kailath Chair in India Studies & Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, March 21, 2007


The West Bengal Predicament in Singur and Nandigram’ by Prof. Sumit Sarkar, Formerly Professor, Delhi University  and Prof. Tanika Sarkar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University  on January 17, 2007


The Pleasures of Domesticity: Renovations and Recycling by Rosemary Marangoly George,  Professor, Literature Department, University of California, San Diego, 7 December 2006


Screening of and discussion on the Documentary Film titled, “Delhi –Mumbai-Delhi” by Saba Dewan, Film Maker, A -19 Gulmohur Park, New Delhi - 49 on October 2006


Gender Issues in the Software Outsourcing Industry: Control, Individualisation, and ‘Empowerment’ by Carol Upadhya, Fellow, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, 7 September 2006


Provincialising Gender? Women qua Women in Late Colonial India by Mrinalini Sinha, Professor, Department of History, Penn State University, 17 August 2006

User Charges, Public Health Facilities and Universal Access
Coordinated by Bijoya Roy in collaboration with Rama V Baru, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 7th and 8th December, 2012

In India since nineties user charges have silently transformed public sector health care institutions threatening universal coverage and comprehensiveness of services. In public health facilities user charges have fragmented and created differential services (free, partially free, and fully paid). Lately the HLEG report has recognised the negative consequences of user fees in public health facilities and has recommended that it be withdrawn. At the national level Fourth Common Review Mission Report (2010) recommends keeping certain groups outside the ambit of user charges like pregnant women, sick newborn and life-saving emergency cases and trauma care is essential to prevent exclusion in access. It also advocates phasing out of user charges in a manner that untied funds are simultaneously made available to the healthcare institutions. The High Level Expert Group Report for the 12th five year plan has revived the Universal Health Coverage concept, envisaging minimal financial risks and barriers to formal health care. In recognition of the financial, administrative and political costs HLEG Report recommends stopping of all kinds of user charges in public health facilities (PHF). This shift in user fee policy can be traced to the international support for free services at the point of service delivery and abolish user fee.

Predominantly user fee has been viewed through the lens of cost sharing policy as a means to raise revenue at the local level, bring about efficiency, financial sustainability and equity. This narrow focus precludes understanding of the complex contractual relationship it establishes with its patients and the emerging disparities. This National level Workshop drew upon regional experiences of user fee in public health facilities and will focus on issues and concerns related to different dimensions of user fee in public health care institutions where age, gender, caste, and class are central. The objective of this endeavour is to explore.


Different state level experiences of user fees in public sector (secondary and tertiary level hospitals) in terms of their structure, implementation process and their complexities

Role of exemption and waiver rules in mitigating exclusion


Explore the impacts of user charges in terms of utilisation of services, continuation of care and consequences for vulnerable groups like women, children, especially challenged across caste and class.


How user fee has led to the restructuring of public health care institutions and their goal to address the needs of economically vulnerable population?

Themes and Speakers:
User Charges and Healthcare: Dr. Bijoya Roy, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi, Dr. Mahesh C Purohit, Foundation for Public Economics and Policy Research, Dr. Indranil Mukhopadhyay, Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi  

State Level Experience of User Charges: Part I - Mr. Oommen Kurien, Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, Mumbai; Dr. Kannan Srinivasan, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum; Ms. Jhimly  Baruah, National Health Systems Resource Centre, New Delhi

State Level  Experience of User Charges: Part II - Mr. Veerabhadraiah Narumanchi, Chief Information Officer & Deputy Director, C/o Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare, Hyderabad; Dr. Anuradha Jain,  National Health Systems Resource Centre , New Delhi; Ms. Jyotsna Singh, Journalist, Deccan Herald, New Delhi

Challenges to Inclusion: CEHAT Team, Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, Mumbai; Dr. Krishna Soman, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata; Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, Society for People’s Action for Development, Bangalore

Panel Discussion: Reflection on  User Charges in Public health Facilities
Prof. Sucha Singh Gill, Director, Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, Chandigarh

Ms. Girija Vaidyanathan, Former Principal Secretary, Dept. of Health and Family Welfare, Tamil Nadu
Dr. (Prof.) Anup K Roy, Principal, North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, Jalpaiguri, West Bengal
Dr. Vijay Rai, Medical Superintendent, Rao Tula Ram Manohar Hospital, New Delhi

The National Level Workshop was supported by Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi.

National Consultation on Equity in Higher Education Towards an Intersectional Approach,  at ICSSR Conference Room, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi. March 3, 2012
Coordinator, Mary E. John

The recognition and redressal of inequalities in access to higher education has become a matter of considerable urgency in contemporary India.  Recent global data comparing inequalities in educational attainment place India at the very top of the list, easily overtaking countries such as China and Brazil.  On the eve of the preparation of the Twelfth Plan (2012-17), CWDS organised a one day Consultation on issues pertaining to Equity in Higher Education.  The passage of the Right to Education Act, making elementary education a universal right, offers a significant backdrop to major transformations in Indian higher education over the last decade, which has seen a cascading effect with more students aspiring to higher levels of education. According to some estimates, the number of institutions actually doubled in the decade 2001-2010.  Equally significant changes characterise the composition of the student body.  At the time of independence an urban upper caste and male elite dominated higher education. Today the share of those who are at the margins – in terms of region, class, gender, caste, religion, disability and so on has increased significantly.  However, for all the expansion underway, India is unable to do enough to reverse or constrain current inequalities.

The purpose of the Consultation was to evaluate the role higher education can play in exacerbating or mitigating inequalities of opportunity and processes of exclusion to also enable social mobility and an overcoming of disparity by also offsetting the accumulated effects of prior inherited advantages and disadvantages along multiple axes, including those of schooling.  In the context of the Twelfth Plan there is an urgent need to push issues of equity in a holistic manner by recognising both the specificities and the intersectional nature of inequality.  Prof. Sudhanshu Bhushan from NUEPA laid out the information available about overall patterns among different groups and regions and across different institutions of higher education, based on different data sources in the context of on-going debate about the relative advantages of different sources of data (such as from the MHRD’s Select Educational Statistics or the National Sample Survey).  He used the special case of Muslims in higher education to point out the challenges of overcoming marginalization in society.

Most discussions concerning equity look at different groups, and to some extent this is absolutely necessary.  Thus there was discussion of, for instance, urban-rural disparities, or on differences by gender, caste, poverty, religion and the like. While a number of presentations on dalit women by Annie Namala, adivasis by  Sona Jharia Minz, disability by Tanmoy Bhattacharya and Anita Ghai, on the status of Muslims and minority issues by Prof. Zoya Hasan and one on issues of social mobility by Divya Vaid - brought out some of the specificities, there was a need felt to also recognize that these are not mutually exclusive categories.  This is particularly true of the category of gender, which cuts across all the other categories.  Indeed, there are greater disparities in terms of access for different women (such as urban and rural women) than there are between corresponding categories of men.

Therefore a central concern of the consultation was to find the right balance between responding to specific forms of exclusion for particular groups and recognising the need for an intersectional perspective which tackles the combined effects of different forms of inequality and takes these into account, especially at the time of formulation of policies and schemes.  This issue was discussed at some length by Prof. Yogendra Yadav in the context of the Equity sections of the Working Group Report and related Steering Committee Draft Report on Higher Education for the Twelfth Plan.  Presentations by Prof. Amitabh Kundu on the diversity index, Prof. Tejaswini Niranjana on new initiatives in social justice in higher education, and Prof. Satish Deshpande on Disparity and intersectionality brought out different aspects and concerns.  The session was chaired by Vibha Puri Das, Secretary of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, with inputs from Pavan Agarwal, Advisor to the Planning Commission on Higher Education.

The Consultation was supported by UN Women.


Book launch of the first three Volumes in the Series Women, Equality and the Republic: Landmarks in the Indian Story

On March 5th 2012, the Centre organized a special function to celebrate the publication of the first three Volumes in the Series “Women, Equality and the Republic: Landmarks in the Indian Story” at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.  These volumes were Towards Equality: Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (with an Introduction by Kumud Sharma and C.P. Sujaya); Education, Equality and Development: Persistent Paradoxes in Indian Women’s History, (edited by Vina Mazumdar), and Changing the Terms of the Discourse: Gender, Equality and the Indian State (edited and introduced by Kumud Sharma), published by Pearson Education.  On the occasion, after a presentation by Vina Mazumdar, who recalled the history of the making of these volumes, the Secretary to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Neela Gangadaran addressed the gathering, and placed on record the significance of this project for the Ministry.  This was followed by a panel discussion reflecting on various aspects of the volumes, especially in the light of the changing role of the State in the contemporary era.  Prof. Krishna Kumar, Central Institute of Education at Delhi University, Madhubala Nath from UN Women and Harsh Sethi, Editor, Seminar, spoke about the continued relevance of the historic report Towards Equality- which has been out of print for a long time- as well as the extremely valuable compilations of documents presented in the other two volumes, one focusing on Women’s Education and the third covering the 1975 – 2000, after the publication of Towards Equality.



Healthcare Reforms and Rationing of Healthcare Services in India: Ethical Issues and Challenges at National Bioethics Conference 3, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, November 18, 2010
Panel organised by Bijoya Roy

In healthcare provisioning, rationing means the denial or exclusion from accessing care. With changing institutional provisioning arrangements, rationing access to services is becoming a prime issue. Rationing thus involves ethical and practical problems related to question of its design, decision making process, functioning, impact on access and cost, and, therefore, of its overall justness.

Rationing in health care operates in two ways i.e. through subsidy to BPL patients and secondly, by exclusion of services, or withholding treatment. In the emerging scenario of new organisational set-ups (like user fee, contract services etc.) and processes of health care delivery, this workshop offers to draw the contours of the evolving rationing system within public sector health care institutions and its relationship to ethical medical practice. Drawing from these changes, the workshop intends to explore how different service delivery processes generate implicit or explicit rationing strategies. It also tries to look into the impact it bears on users, particularly women, children and other marginalised groups as they are differently positioned in the health care system. 

Speakers:  Prof. Rama V Baru, Chairperson, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Mr. S. Srinivasan, Managing Trustee, LOCOST, Baroda and Joint Convener, All-India Drug Action Network, and Executive Committee Member, Medico Friend Circle;  Prof. Dr. Anup Roy, Principal, Medinipore Medical College and Hospital, West Bengal; Mr. Gautam Chakraborty, Advisor – Health Care Financing, National Health Systems Resource Centre, Government of India.

Report on the National Seminar ‘Indian Nursing in the New Era of Healthcare’ Coordinated by Sreelekha Nair

A national seminar ‘Indian Nursing in the New Era of Healthcare’ was organised by the CWDS at ICSSR in New Delhi on 2-3 December 2010 around the themes: Historical Background and Changing Context of Indian Nursing, Globalisation and Healthcare Workforce, Structures of Healthcare and Questions of Collective Bargaining, Gender and Nursing Profession, Migration of Healthcare Workforce and Nursing Education.  It was supported by the Indian Council of Social Science Research. Conclusion of a project on nurses focusing specifically on Malayali nurses in CWDS was coincided by the declaration of the year 2010 as the ‘International Year of the Nurse’ by the United Nations. This also was the centennial year of the death of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) whose vision and opinions changed the institutional patient care all over the world. Social science scholars, nurse leaders and activists discussed various issues in nursing in the context of the changes that are happening- technological advancement at one level and reworking of policy framework towards privatisation of healthcare on the other.  

The seminar tried to locate nursing in the hospital context in India with its professional and social hierarchies. Status anxiety was identified as one major factor that nursing has been grappling with ever since its introduction as a modern profession in India and elsewhere. As the speakers pointed out interplay of social and  economic factors, access to network and resources, role structures, role relations and conflicts within society and its institutions define the status of nursing as a professional category. Interestingly, other factors like the physical infrastructure, use of technology and   so on play an important role in the discourse on the definition of status of nursing. Poor nurse patient ratio, low salaries and unpaid overtime were perceived as the visible face of the exploitation of nurses. Collective bargaining by nurses- nurses representing nurses- was thought to be inevitable to attain dignity within the institutions of healthcare and outside.  

Migration and nursing education were the important aspects that were discussed on the second day of the seminar. Lack of a clear policy and implementation of the existing regulations in these fields was clearly voiced as the gaps in the present system by the various participants. And these are related to the other issues discussed in the first day including that of status and collective bargaining.  Number of educational institutions has been on the rise in the private sector with questionable quality of the nursing education provided by many of them  very much raised the question whether these institutions are able to produce nurses as articulate and effective healthcare providers.  

The seminar clearly indicated the need to have regulatory and enforcement mechanisms in place. Indian Nursing Council at the central and state level is thought to be lacking the teeth to take any action against the institutions that provide low quality education.  Regrettably public sector nursing colleges too have been unable to maintain their high standards in the provision of education.  Roundtable discussion by the eminent speakers in the seminar reiterated the need to revitalising nursing education based on the requirements of the country. 

Concerns were raised about the negative image of nursing portrayed by the print and electronic media and films. Involvement of women’s organisations in the protests for various demands by the nurses was appreciated. It was suggested that the concerns and findings raised in this forum should be shared with them.  Increasing divide between the faculty of nursing and those in the clinical practice was seen as problematic for the profession. So was the extremely small amount of remuneration given to interns and student nurses in exchange of the nursing jobs they do in the hospitals. Recommendations made in the seminar to bring professional autonomy to nursing include the setting up of a Directorate of Nursing at the state level and Indian Council of Nursing Research. A federation of organisations is thought as capable of representing the numerous strata of nursing personnel.  

Prominent speakers included Prof. Rama Baru, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Prof. Mohan Rao, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health; Dr. Usha Ukande, Princial, Choityam College of Nursing Indore and President of the Nursing Research Society of India; Ms. Reena Bose, First Indian President of Commonwealth Nurses’ Federation; Santosh Yadav Lady Reading Health School, New Delhi; Ms. G.K. Khurana, General Secretary of the Delhi Nurses’ Union; Ms. Ashalata from AIDWA and Esther Sherley Daniel, Secretary, Society of Community Health Nurses of India; Shani John, Associate Professor, Oxford College of Nursing, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bangalore; Zainaba, Member, Kerala Women’s Commission; and  O.S. Molly, President, Government Nurses’ Association, Kerala; Prof. Binod Khadria, Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies; Prof. Jeyaseelan and Dr.Marie Percot;. Prof. Sujana Chakravarty, Dean, Jamia Hamdard College of Nursing, New Delhi; Bimla Kapoor, Professor, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi; and Ms. Sheila Seda, Secretary General of the Trained Nurses Association of India. Nursing students, social scientists and activists from public sector hospitals participated as well.



Questions and approaches in Feminist Science Studies
Coordinated by Mary John in collaboration with Rajeswari Raina, NISTADS, at the India International Centre, December 24th 2010.


On the occasion of the visit of the well-known philosopher of science Helen Longino, (Clarence Irving Lewis Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Stanford University) CWDS in collaboration with the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi, organised a half day seminar on feminist science studies.  This was the first such collaboration between CWDS and NISTADS, and was welcomed by faculty and directors of both institutions.


Prof. Rajeswari Raina introduced the seminar followed by an introduction of the speaker by Prof. Dhruv Raina.  Prof. Helen Longina described how feminist science studies in the West emerged initially from three concerns:  the paucity of women in scientific fields, the persistent use of putative biological considerations to justify gender inequality, and the lack of attention to women’s issues in health and social sciences research.  It soon became clear to some feminist scholars that a deeper analysis of the structure of scientific knowledge and of scientific institutions was required to make progress in developing scientific research that was inclusive of, rather than inimical to, women’s interests.  The talk gave an overview of the emergence of feminist science studies in the West in the last 25 years, with attention to the different models of knowledge these studies draw on, the different impacts of feminist analysis in the various fields of science, and the different kinds of challenges to feminist intervention posed by the different scientific disciplines.


The talk was followed by responses from Prof. Teesta Bagchi, Visiting Fellow at NISTADS on science and pedagogy, Anjali Shenoi from  SAMA on problems related to the new reproductive technologies, Dr. Neelam Kumar (NISTADS) and Mary John, who discussed the relationships between women’s studies, feminism and science in the Indian context. 






Critical Knowledges and Higher Education: Mapping the Ground March 15-16th 2011, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Coordinated by Mary John with Janaki Nair and Samita Sen


CWDS, in collaboration with the Centre for Historical Studies, JNU and the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, organised a two day national seminar on higher education. The purpose of this seminar was to engage with the critical and quite complex set of challenges facing higher education today.  Arguably, this past decade has been a historic one from the perspective of higher education, as a number of National Commissions, and a series of new Bills have, for the first time in several decades, focussed on this sector.  The state could be described as being feverishly active, in current efforts to expand higher education under various global and local compulsions.  While research on institutions of higher education remains relatively rare, the widespread if dispersed experiences of disquiet and concern expressed by many provided sufficient reason for women’s studies institutions to initiate this broad based review of higher education today. 


A characteristic symptom that came up frequently in the course of the presentations and discussions was the frequency with which review exercises and initiatives (including the recommendations of recent Reports and the spate of Bills currently being proposed) have called for the closing down or dismantling of existing structures and the setting up of something new, but without offering a sufficient diagnosis of what ails the existing system itself.   After the first Commissions – the Radhakrishna and Kothari Commissions following independence -- no major rethinking on higher education policy has taken place.  This is broadly true despite rare exceptions like the emergence of women’s studies in the 1970s and the fundamental questions it asked about higher education and the role of the UGC.   The debate generated by these questions did influence the National Policy of Education of 1986 and its Plan for Action 1992, but unfortunately failed to produce any lasting impact.  


The purpose of this seminar was therefore to begin a discussion on a range of critical themes that can help map the current scenario, build agendas for urgent research, and perhaps generate alternative proposals towards a more meaningful and just approach to higher education. 


The following speakers made presentations under the following themes:


Structure and purpose of higher education: Prof. Anita Rampal, Dean, Central Institute of Education, Delhi University; Prof. Satish Deshpande, Dept of Sociology, Delhi University; Prof. Sudhanshu Bhushan, National University of Educational Planning and Administration.


Commission Reports and questions of Governance:  Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU; Mary John, CWDS; Prof. Furqan Qamar, Vice Chancellor, H.P. Central University, Dharamshala; and Prof. Nivedita Menon, Centre for Political Thought, JNU.


Educational Policy and critiques of current Bills: Prof. Supriya Chaudhuri, Jadavpur University, Kolkata; Prof. Saumen Chattopadhyay, Zakir Hussain Centre for Educational Studies JNU; Dr. Shivali Tukdeo, National Institute of Advanced Studies Bangalore.


Critical knowledges, language and research: Dr. Aditya Nigam, CSDS, Delhi; Dr. J. Devika, CDS Trivandrum; and Dr. Prathama Banerjee, CSDS.


Inequality, mobility and social justice: Dr. Anita Ghai, Teen Murti Fellow and Dr. Sreelekha Nair, CWDS.

Teachers’ and Students’ Movements: Vijender Sharma and Abha Dev Habib, Delhi Teachers Forum, Delhi University; Ritty Lukose, New York University; and Kavita Krishnan, ex-President, All India Students Association.


Alternate Proposals for Higher Education: Prof. Dinesh Abrol, NISTADS, and Prof. Apoorvanand, Delhi University.





  Disability and Gender

Persons with disabilities are amongst the most disempowered groups. They are constantly faced with discrimination and are subjected to neglect, prejudice, revulsion, rejection and pity. They face economic, educational, architectural, legal and health barriers, which prevent them from leading a fulfilling life and achieving their full potential. Women with disabilities face violations of their rights at every level. They are considered a financial burden and social liability by their families, denied opportunities to movement outside the home and access to education, viewed as asexual, helpless and dependant, live with high levels of vulnerability, their aspirations for marriage and parenthood often denied.

The rise of the disability movement in different parts of the world and the proactive role of the United Nations since the 1970s has moved the issue of disability from the realm of charity and welfare to that of rights and entitlements. In that spirit India passed the landmark ‘Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act in 1995 mandating a range of policy initiatives for persons with disabilities in the fields of health, accessibility education, employment and social security. In this scenario, India’s signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 1st October 2007 is a significant event, the meaning and implications of which will unravel in the coming years.


In the light of the above, the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi decided to jointly organise a two-day conference on gender, disability and society with the Women’s Studies and Development Centre (WSDC) of Delhi University. The conference was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University Professor Deepak Pental who appreciated the collaborative effort between the WSDC and CWDS. The inaugural function was also addressed by the Director of CWDS, the Director of WSDC Professor Vibha Chaturvedi and the Conference Co-ordinator Dr. Renu Addlakha. 18 original papers were presented, spread over eight sessions. Over 250 participants from different university departments and NGOs attended the conference. Student participation from both undergraduate and postgraduate levels was substantial.


In order to make the conference accessible to persons with different kinds of disabilities, documentary material was made available in Braille for visually challenged participants and sign interpretation was provided throughout the conference for the benefit of persons with hearing impairment.


The conference sought to engage with the concept of disability from a variety of disciplinary positions, socio-cultural contexts and subjective experiences. Each of the papers addressed disability in relation to Indian realities, bringing a strong gender perspective. While in some papers gender was the principal focus (Bhargavi Davar, Amita Dhanda, Asha Hans and colleagues, Anita Ghai and Rachna Johri, Nandini Ghosh. Nilika Mehrotra and Shubhangi Vaidya), others engendered their analysis in novel ways. For instance, Upali Chakravarti examined family caregiving and Michele Friedner mapped transnational discursive flows through a gendered lens. Shilpaa Anand deconstructed notions of disability in colonial discourses and how they can be analysed from a gender perspective. In a more contemporary vein, Gajendranath Karna and Jagdish Chander engendered their analysis of the disability movement and the discipline of disability studies in India respectively. Jeeja Ghosh and Vandana Chaudhry looked at grassroot empowerment modalities with a particular focus on women with disabilities.


Disability is no longer confined to a limited number of physical, sensory, psychosocial and communicative limitations with negative social consequences. The disability paradigm has emerged as an analytical tool that can be used to analyse a range of biological and social conditions. Surabhi Tandon Mehrotra constructed the life histories of women affected by leprosy showing the interface between personal experience, family dynamics, institutionalisation and ‘cure’ through a revolutionary multi-drug treatment regime that has made it possible to eliminate leprosy. From another perspective, Sabiha Hussain looked at the ongoing social suffering of a woman having to bear the stigma of infertility. Focussing on the interface between psychosocial and physical disabilities, Renu Addlakha examined the emerging paradigm of disability, interrogating notions of deviance, difference and diversity.


  Adoption and Minority Laws

A Workshop on Adoption and Minority Laws was held 9-10th February 2009 in collaboration with the Centre for Minority and Dalit Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia. 

The issue of the adoption of children and, more specifically, the adoption laws for religious minorities (particularly Muslims) have occupied a marginal position in our rights discourse as well as in women studies and the women’s movement in India. The existing laws on adoption deny adoption rights to members of religious minorities. The Guardianship and Ward Act, 1890 that governs adoption related issues for minorities in India only allows for guardianship. The personal law of Muslims in India does not allow for adoption, though Section 3 of the Shariat Act recognizes adoption amongst certain Muslim communities.  However, the complexity of the situation regarding the existence of religious based personal laws (under which questions of adoption and guardianship come) in the Indian context are heightened in a situation where even Christians and other minority religious groups are unable to adopt in India.

This National Seminar was organized to discuss issues related to adoption laws and practices in general, and to the laws and practices applicable to minorities in particular.  The Keynote Address was delivered by Justice Rajinder Sachar who noted the lack of attention given to questions of adoption and the need for a secular response to an unjust situation.  The following session offered different perspectives on adoption law – within Muslim law (Asghar Ali Engineer), Christian law (Chiramal Jos), the Bahai perspective (A.K. Merchant) and Jain widows’ right to adopt (Manisha Sethi).

The afternoon session opened up different issues, contradictions and possibilities in the existing laws and Acts focussing on possible alternatives to adoption laws (Kirti Singh), Minority views on adoption laws (Atiyab Siddiqui), Adoption in the Shariat Act (Kahkashan Danyal), the Guardianship and Ward Act, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act; and finally the Juvenile Justice Act and its implications for minorities (Jagdeep Kishore).  The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act was amended in 2006 to allow non-Hindus to adopt, but it remains unclear if Muslim personal law, which does not permit adoption, would lend it support.

The final session of the first day concluded with discussions of possible amendments by Yogesh Mehta and Jyotsna Chatterjee.

The first session of the second day focussed on the Convention on Child Rights and its relationship to questions of Adoption (Razia Ismail), given that India is a signatory to the UN CRC, according to which a child deprived of parental care is entitled to protection and assistance from the state. Other social perspectives on adoption were provided by Shabnam Hashmi and Amod Kanth.

Another emerging context for considering adoption is that of infertility and the growing spread of Artificial Reproductive Technologies.  The possible role of adoption in this context was addressed by Imrana Qadeer and the SAMA Team.

The final session on agencies and institutions was addressed by Vineeta Bhargava, including critiques of adoption Guidelines by Suneeta Swach, CARA and Tarini Bahadur, PALNA.  The workshop as a whole concluded with a general discussion on the way forward and the need to build a stronger forum around adoption rights.

The workshop was coordinated by Sabiha Hussain, currently on leave from the Centre



  Consultation on Curriculum Development

Mary John organized a Curriculum Development Consultation, 11-12 January 2008, at the YWCA, New Delhi.

The curriculum development consultation brought together about 30 teachers located in different institutional contexts, all involved in the teaching of women’s studies.  The institutions represented included the School of Women’s Studies at Jadavpur University Kolkata, the M.G.A. Hindi University at Wardha, the Department of Women’s Studies at Calicut University, the Women’s Studies and Development Centre, Delhi University, Women’s studies Centre at Jamia Millia Islamia, the Women’s Studies Programme at JNU, faculty from IGNOU, the Centre for Development Studies Trivandrum, Madras Institute of Development Studies Chennai, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies Hyderabad, Centre for the Study of Culture and Society Bangalore, and NALSAR Hyderabad.

The consultation took the form of short presentations and a sharing of experiences and curricula.  As the members present discovered, in the space of about a decade, many centres have begun teaching full-fledged courses in women’s studies. While many of these take the form of a paper or component of a larger course, what is distinctive today, compared to the past, is the presence of full-fledged degree courses in women’s studies, both at the M.Phil. and M.A. levels. There was considerable discussion on the history of such courses, differences of approach, and problems faced, including different perspectives on the pros and cons of offering full-fledged courses.  There was also discussion on the different levels where such courses can be offered, beginning at the under graduate level and the difference this makes.  An interesting and knotty area turned on the issue of inter-disciplinarity and multi-disciplinarity.  Many women’s studies courses have in fact emerged in institutional contexts where a particular discipline played a formative role – such as literature, sociology or economics.

Discussion also focussed on the student – what kind of student is interested in taking a women’s studies course as a degree? Is it seen as a soft option?  Are differences emerging between metropolitan contexts where women’s studies has become more familiar compared to locations where it is still relatively unknown?

The discussions as well as the curricula gathered in the course of the consultation will feed into the Centre’s plans of developing their own teaching programme.  The consultation was supported by a grant from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust.


  Women and Migration

A National Seminar on Women and Migration was organised on 19th-20th September, 2007. It was supported by the National Commission for Women. Overview presentations highlighted the fact that Census and NSSO data on migration have been unable to capture the magnitudes or trends in women’s migration. Systematic studies of women’s labour migration are needed. Field observations indicated increasing levels of migration and brought out new features of contemporary migration: increasing incidence of women travelling – on their own or in groups – to find work, greater willingness of many to travel long distances for short-term work or even without the promise of any work, mass migrations from certain areas, and even daily commuting across large distances. These showed that while some migration is demand-driven, a substantial part is distress-led, driven by the agrarian crisis and poor rural employment generation. A strong tendency to exclusionary urban growth has developed with negative approaches to migration, and also an elitist attempt at sanitization of the issue. Further, our public service delivery is residence based, requiring proof of residence at every point. This affects access of short-term migrants to food from the Public Distribution System, and other public facilities. Migrant workers need to be factored into the ongoing proposals and discussions regarding legislation for social security and regulation of conditions of work in the unorganized sector.

Discussions covering the rural context, the urban landscape and sectors of migrant labour concentration highlighted the fact that the way female labour migration fits into circuits of migration has to do with nature of labour demand, cost and discipline. Little is known about how industry interacts with regionally variant social structures in the formation of labour markets and shaping migration patterns. Despite references in migration literature to ‘women left behind’ little is known about their experiences. There is a need to address issues of social dislocation caused by such migration, for families left behind, for families of migrant women with young children, for care of the young, the old and the sick, for daily survival of households left behind with uncertain remittance income as well as for return migrants.

Regional issues were covered in a variety of presentations. These focused on statistical trends, on particular sectors such as brick kiln migrants at source and destination, seasonal agricultural migration, intra-state migration and its different streams and, inner conflicts and tensions, slum dwellers, domestic workers and nurses. There was a focus on tribal women’s experiences and issues, both in a special session on tribal women’s migration as well as in other presentations.

Social linkages were drawn out in a special session. Long distance migration for marriage in Haryana, particularly the bringing of brides from far eastern states highlighted the fact that in the process of globalization, there has been a restructuring of not just economic institutions, but also in social institutions. However to address these women as ‘purchased’ or ‘bought’ wives is degrading, and there is a real need to be more aware and vigilant about the kind of language that media or even activists use. Isolation and lack of social status and rights in such marriage relations need to be carefully studied and addressed. The invisibility of gender in displacement and resettlement and rehabilitation emerged as a serious concern. Women are subsumed within the family and are ignored for rehabilitation purposes even though displacement-induced migration often leads to women losing livelihoods.

The seminar concluded with a panel discussion where speakers pointed out that loss of political voice and voting rights occur because of exclusion from voters’ lists, or being away when the voting is actually taking place for elections at all levels: national, state assembly, panchayat elections, also inhibiting active participation in gram sabhas. Of special concern was the issue of migrant and other unorganized workers in the bill tabled by Government on social security for unorganized sector workers. Discussions highlighted the need for a critical review of the different constituent elements of citizenship viz., civil, political, social and cultural, and the corresponding structures of the state and policies of the state. Laws, political practices and social policies—especially since the 1990s-- have been marking out, externalizing and criminalizing the outsider, tending to make migration a process of progressive deprivation, dispossession and disenfranchisement.

Co-ordinators: Indu Agnihotri, Indrani Mazumdar, Anupama Roy, Sabiha Hussain and Sreelekha



  Re-presenting Indian Women: 1875 to 1947, A Visual Documentary

  Exhibition at Lucknow, Shillong, Guwahati and Bhubaneshwar

In February 2008, the exhibition travelled to Lucknow for the IAWS session followed by displays at Shillong under the auspices of the North east Regional Institute of NCERT, Guwahati at Kalakshetra in collaboration with North-east Network (NEN) and Bhubaneshwar, again under the auspices of NCERT. At a conservative estimate, at least 1000 persons saw the exhibition, a number of them being from our target audience, school and college students.  On balance, participating in the planning, organizing and display has been an empowering experience for all those who are now involved with Re-presenting Indian Women. In all four places, the exhibition received considerable publicity in both the print and visual media, adding to our substantial portfolio of press clippings ever since we started out in 2001. Re-presenting Indian Women has now had twenty showings, with invitations for more trips during 2008-09.

  Exhibition at Mussoorie, Dehradun, Bhopal, Panipat, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Mysore,
    Madurai, Pondicherry and Chennai

The travelling display Re-presenting Indian Women: 1875 to 1947, A Visual Documentary visited 10 venues. The traveling exhibition and seminar were made possible by a special grant from the ICSSR commemorating 150 years of the first War of Independence of 1857. The exhibition celebrated Independence day at Hanifl Center, Woodstock School, Mussoorie, inaugurated by actor Tom Alter. The next day saw several high school students and staff members visiting the Center set among stately deodars.  A senior history teacher decided to hold his class at the display, firing pertinent questions at his students! Coming down the mountain to Mahadevi Kanya Pathshala, Dehra Dun was an experience of a different kind. In her inaugural speech on August 18, Nayantara Sahgal said that she was indeed happy to be at the display as it aptly commemorated her mother Vijayalakshmi Pandit’s birthday on that day. The event attracted school and college students as well as senior citizens. A number of students – including a few from Welham Girls school - commented that they would like to do similar projects.

In Bhopal (November 14 -15) the display was held at Kala Parishad under the aegis of the Regional Institute of Education, NCERT. It was inaugurated by the governor, Shri Balram Jakhar and the chief guest on that occasion was the Minister of Women and Child Welfare, Susri Kusum Mahadele. The display proved to be hugely popular with all students – boys and girls - of Bhopal-based Central Schools. It was at this venue that, for the first time, the Hindi panels were displayed. These are the translations of all introductory panels, and needless to add, they proved to be of immense help and aid to majority of the students and other viewers.

The exhibition was held at Panipat’s Bal Vikas Progressive School on 8th and 9th December and was inaugurated by Mr H. K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief of the Chandigarh-based The Tribune. Other than the students of this school, the display was viewed by media students from Panipat colleges as well as students from Kurukshetra University.

In Mumbai (January 19-20) the exhibition was held in the Bombay University’s Kalina campus. It was organised by the Department of Sociology and Indian Association of Women’s Studies. The eminent actor, Rohini Hattangady was present to inaugurate the display. It was part of the IAWS workshop on ‘Archiving Women’s Lives: Perspectives and Techniques’ at which Dr Karlekar presented  ‘Curating a Visual Documentary on Women through Archival Photographs’. This audio-visual was followed by a discussion on problems and challenges faced in the process of collecting photos and also on issues of techniques regarding preservation and dissemination.

The display then moved to University of Hyderabad’s Sarojini Naidu’s School of Performing Arts, Fine Arts and Communication’ (27-30 January). The chief guest was Prof Meenakshi Mukherjee and Prof Rama Melkote of ‘Anveshi’ was the guest of honour and the next day the Vice Chancellor of the University came to see the exhibition. Students and faculty– as well as visiting Swedish students - from all disciplines were interested visitors.

The exhibition travelled to Mysore (6-7 February) next under the aegis of the Regional Institute of Education, NCERT. Chief guest Smt Rameshwari Varma spoke about the role of women’s studies in India, and T. S. Satyan, the legendary photo journalist, inaugurated the display. The hall was full of school students, so much so that the hours had to be extended. 

The display then moved on to Tamil Nadu, first to the historic Lady Doak College, Madurai (12-13 February). It was organized by the college’s Centre for Women’s Studies and was inaugurated by the Principal of the college, Dr Nirmala Jeyaraj. Fifteen student docents were initiated in methods to help other students appreciate the display. Their assistance was of immense value as the majority of the viewers were more at home in Tamil. In all 1400 students from Madurai came to see the exhibition. An interactive session with a select group of students also helped to bring some issues out in the open. 

As Prof. Sachindanda Mohany of the University of Hyderabad had introduced the exhibition to Mr. Lalit Verma, owner and curator of Aurodhan Art Gallery, Pondicherry, it was possible to squeeze in a two-day showing on 15-16 February, 2007 at the Gallery. It was inaugurated by the French Consul-General, Mme Joelle Rayet. Here the cognoscenti of the town and of Auroville visited the exhibition and were particularly pleased to see the photograph of the lady in whose home Sri Aurobindo was born!

DakshinaChitra on the outskirts of Chennai – where the display was mounted in the three rooms of the Art Gallery – was the longest stop on this tour February 17-25. This was at the specific request of the organizers who felt that it would tie in well with their other programmes. It was inaugurated by the actor-director Revathy, and as the day (February 17) was also the Board Meeting of DakshinaChitra, some members were also present. On February 19, the workshop on `Archiving the Visual’ was held in the seminar room; apart from CWDS’ invitees, DakshinaChitra too had invited interested people and the ICSSR was represented by Shri. R.P. Prasad.  



  A World in Transition: New Challenges for Gender Justice

An international conference was organized in collaboration with GADNET (Gender and Development Network, Sweden) during 13-15 December 2006, with financial support from SIDA/ SAREC.  While international in perspective, this conference drew especially from participants in India, South and South-East Asia. As the title suggests, the Conference aimed to explore the complex underpinnings of gender justice from different perspectives and locations.  

The Conference had six sub-themes, initiated by a total of nine keynote speakers, with each of the sub-themes organized by facilitators and moderators. The sub-themes were:


Political Restructuring and Gender Justice: Citizenship and Agency


Gender Justice, Violence and Conflict


Body Politics, Sexuality and Rights


Globalisation, Gender and Livelihoods


Culture, Media and Identity Politics


Global Feminist Knowledge Production

It would not be possible to summarize all the papers that were presented. The keynote presentations – from India, Sweden, Mexico, South Korea and Sri Lanka – brought genuinely global perspectives to the issues at stake, and provided the parameters for subsequent discussions. The papers in the sub-theme on political restructuring dealt with shifts in the relationships between the state and civil society, and their consequences for political interventions.  The second theme on violence and conflict had presentations drawing from issues of atrocity, domestic violence, sex work and international law.  A running theme of the papers in the third on sexuality session, whether from India, Taiwan, Mexico or Peru was engagement with the stranglehold of the patriarchal family, whether the focus was on heteronormativity, virginity testing, disabled femininity, concubinage, reproductive health or HIV/AIDS.  Paper presenters in the fourth theme on globalization and livelihoods approached their subject matter from a range of perspectives and different levels of analysis, both at the micro and macro levels. The fifth theme had three papers dealing with different aspects of Muslim identity (in India, Nigeria and Malaysia), and two papers on shifts in the news media and popular cinema.  The last sub-theme on feminist knowledge production brought a comparative and cross-cultural perspective in many of the presentations, while others dwelt more specifically on critiques of specific disciplines and institutions, pointing to the heterogeneity in the organizations and locations from which research on women’s issues is being generated today.