ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Review of Women's StudiesSubscribe to Review of Women's Studies

Small Loans, Big Dreams: Women and Microcredit in a Globalising Economy

The belief in the credit-based collective model has failed to explore the impact of microcredit beyond its immediate project environment and how resources are politically invested by the groups in a given sociocultural context. There is an inadequate understanding as to how the discourse on empowerment through microcredit is framed by different actors and what the trade-offs are between different dimensions of empowerment. Limited attention is paid to the role of various institutions - local and national - on microcredit and women's empowerment.

Informed by Gender? Public Policy in Kerala

While conventional indicators in Kerala that measure the status of women such as literacy, life expectancy, sex ratio, average age of marriage, infant mortality, and maternal mortality are mostly favourable, women have not fared well in the state in terms of non-conventional indicators such as gender-based violence, mental health, and the incidence of suicides. This paper attempts to take a critical look at the much-acclaimed status indicators for women in Kerala and reflects on the work of the Mahila Samakhya Programme as an illustration of public policy focused on women.

Reproductive Rights and Exclusionary Wrongs: Maternity Benefits

Women contribute to the economy with their unpaid labour as well as social reproduction work but maternity protection in India is sector-specific and employer-employee centric. It thus leaves out the large majority of women in the unorganised sector. A new scheme such as the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana which is being piloted in 52 districts implicitly recognises the need to compensate for wage loss due to maternity and provide support for the mother and child's nutrition. However, a series of exclusionary clauses mar the objectives of the scheme. This paper attempts to demonstrate the misguided "targeting" of this scheme. The Planning Commission is preparing to scale it up at the national level in the Twelfth Plan, perhaps with the same set of incentives and disincentives as are currently spelt out in the pilot phase document. The data clearly shows that if these exclusionary clauses remain they will "victimise the victim".

Subverting Policy, Surviving Poverty: Women and the SGSY in Rural Tamil Nadu

The Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana was launched as an integrated programme for self-employment of the rural poor. Being a targeted anti-poverty intervention, the sgsy prescribes quotas for women (40%) among the eligible poor and also mandates that 50% of self-help groups formed in an administrative block under the scheme be women's shgs. This essay, through the prism of the sgsy scheme, attempts to understand how policy seeks to "mainstream" rural women from low-income households into market-oriented economic activities that seemingly facilitate a linear movement out of poverty. It examines how women themselves perceive the sgsy policy and the entrepreneurial identities it proposes they assume, and how selected women swarozgaris strive to engineer a fit between the imperatives of policy and their divergent life circumstances.

Women and Pro-Poor Policies in Rural Tamil Nadu: An Examination of Practices and Responses

Using a village in Tamil Nadu as a case study, this article examines the initial response to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme on the ground, the reasons behind the low participation, and its subsequent reworking to make it not just viable but also "successful". As conceived, the transformatory potential of nrega is limited. When operationalised in letter and spirit, such programmes may alleviate poverty, and to that extent empower women, but cannot transform our rural economies that are characterised by low growth, poor investments in infrastructure and limited generation of growth-led decent employment.

Addressing Paid Domestic Work: A Public Policy Concern

While domestic workers are covered by the legislative framework in many countries, in India they stand excluded from national legislations that deal with minimum wages, dispute settlement, conditions of work, social security and workplace injuries. This study draws upon the findings of a research project of the National Domestic Workers Movement that was conducted between February 2010 and February 2011. It sets out the definition of domestic work as a conceptual issue that is necessary for understanding domestic work and explores the constitutional and employment law framework and the challenges in legislating for this sector. It concludes with exploring ways of reducing the gap between law and practice.

Reinventing Reproduction, Re-conceiving Challenges: An Examination of Assis Reproductive Technologies in India

This paper reflects on the engagement of a resource group for women and health with policy advocacy to regulate the assisted reproductive technology industry in India, including conducting a feminist health analysis of the provisions of a proposed legislation to regulate the sector. The paper discusses the challenges faced by the group, Delhi-based Sama, in the process of policy engagement, and elaborates on the political debates contained in the issue itself.

Caste, Gender and the Rhetoric of Reform in India's Drinking Water Sector

Recent analyses indicate a historic loss of equity in the shift in India's drinking water policy from a welfarebased, free supply mode to a market-oriented demandled approach. However, a complex entwining of caste and gender has consistently defined water allocation and access among users and entrenched fractures in the structure and culture of the policy-implementing and regulatory institutions. Contrary to popular assumptions, both official welfare-based supply and recent neo-liberal policies and interventions hinge on a tokenistic, segregated and apolitical mention of gender and/or caste concerns which, when translated into action, have often reinforced existing inequities. Based on the above observations, this paper argues that subsequent changes in domestic water policies have only served to exacerbate an enduring unequal social order around water in India.

Women and Decentralised Water Governance: Issues, Challenges and the Way Forward

Based on a study of water rights and women's rights in decentralised water governance in Maharashtra and Gujarat, this paper argues that decentralisation will fail to meet its desired objectives unless the value systems, culture and the nature of institutions, including the family, change. While the policy initiative of introducing quotas for women in public bodies is welcome and necessary, it is certainly not sufficient for the success of decentralisation in a society ridden with discrimination based on class, caste and patriarchy, and where the culture of political patronage is dominant. The presence of vibrant social and political movements that propose alternative cultural, social and political paradigms would be a necessary foundation for major social changes. The success of decentralised water governance is constrained by the conceptualisation of the larger reform in water at one level and the notions of the normative woman, community, public and the private domains, and institutions at another. Unless all of these are altered, decentralised processes will not be truly democratic.

Questioning Masculinities in Water

Beginning with colonial times and continuing to the present, irrigation has been an important site for the construction of gendered power and hegemonic masculinities. The strong connection between masculinities and irrigation cultures may provide an important explanation of why hydraulic bureaucracies are so resistant to change. The continued masculinity of irrigation requires critical investigation of masculinities, technology and organisations. Such studies will serve both as a first step to creating more space for women engineers in government water agencies, and contribute to unravelling important aspects of the cultural politics of water.

'They Are Not of This House': The Gendered Costs of Drinking Water's Commodification

While women's participation is considered a key element of the sustainability plan of the drinking water supply system, some villagers in Rajasthan do not count women in the households while paying common water charges. This paper explores the social, political and environmental implications of not counting girls as household members and drinkers of water. It tries to find answers to the following questions: What are the implications of girls' non-payment for the cost of drinking water in a shared system? What might girls' non-payment mean in terms of the gendered sustainability goals of the project? What are the implications for women's and girls' political subjectivity, especially where natural resources are concerned? The paper also addresses a gap in the political ecology literature with respect to the gender dimensions of neo-liberal processes in the water sector by suggesting a variety of impacts when girls are excluded from water payment.

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