Friday, November 23, 2007

BU Today Article featuring UNITWIN Initiative

"BU at Forefront of UN Push for Women’s Studies Program will foster education, activism in India" By Vicky Waltz

Shahla Haeri, director of the BU Women’s Studies Program (left), and Brenda Gael McSweeney, a visiting scholar in the Women’s Studies Program, founded the Network on Gender, Culture, and People-Centered Development. Photo by Vicky Waltz

Three years ago, at a Paris meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Brenda Gael McSweeney described a case study that her students were doing in West Bengal. McSweeney, a visiting scholar in the BU Women’s Studies Program and a former UN executive, told her colleagues that while the project originally involved helping both male and female villagers earn their livelihood through customary means, such as practicing traditional medicine, it was the women who had become most interested.

“My colleagues said this study was exactly what they were looking for: universities that would be more than theoretical ivory towers,” McSweeney recalls. “Universities that would instead provide a two-way interface between nongovernmental and civil society activists and those in academia.” Thus was conceived the Network on Gender, Culture, and People-Centered Development, comprising the BU Women’s Studies Program and participating Indian partners.

Now that network has led to BU’s becoming the first university in Massachusetts and the third in the United States to join a larger UN-funded effort to promote research in women's and gender studies. The effort, UNITWIN (university twinning and networking scheme), pairs universities with nongovernmental organizations and community activists worldwide to promote an integrated system of research, training, information, and documentation of activities in UNESCO’s spheres of competence. It also provides advice and expertise to assist partner countries in gender, culture, and development studies.

The University is partnered with three universities and two NGOs in India: Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), in New Delhi; Punjabi University at Patiala, Punjab; Visva-Bharati University, in West Bengal; the Bhab Initiative, in West Bengal; and the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI)/The Lime Centre, in New Delhi. Coordinated at Boston University by McSweeney and Shahla Haeri, a College of Arts and Sciences associate professor of anthropology and director of the CAS Women’s Studies Program, the project has been endorsed by both Koïchiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO, and by BU President Robert A. Brown.

“We think that this program is what gender and women’s studies are all about,” Haeri says. “There is so much opportunity for exchanging ideas and learning from our partners in India. We believe in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural work, and this program ties in directly with Dr. Brown’s global initiative.”

Officially launched in September, the partnership hopes, among other things, to help Indian universities and nongovernmental organizations develop their own women’s studies programs. “More and more universities from different countries that would never have considered a women’s studies program 10 or 20 years ago are realizing that there’s a real need and demand for it,” Haeri says. “Now they’re not only establishing centers, but they’re actively trying to connect with other universities to have models to look at and incorporate those into their own needs and objectives.”

One of the program’s largest undertakings is an international symposium planned by Visva-Bharati University for December 2008 in West Bengal. The event will include conferences and lectures about women’s livelihoods, rights and political voice, and education. Haeri hopes to involve professors and students from both BU and India in scholar exchanges and internships.

“It’s interesting to see how very grassroots movements resonate with what’s happening now in the highest political levels,” says McSweeney, citing India’s 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, which passed in 1992 and provide a 33 percent reservation for women in local government bodies, among other provisions.

“Community involvement is crucial,” Haeri says. “And we must involve men as well as women. After all, gender involves two sexes, and men have to be involved to appreciate that gender equality is good for the welfare of the family and the community.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at

Article courtesy of BU Today

Please see the following links for more information on the UNITWIN partners:
Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI)
The Punjabi University at Patiala
The Bhab Initiative
Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Yaaminey Mubayi speaks at the India Gate Lawn

On November 7th, 2007, Yaaminey Mubayi took part in an outreach event on Federalism, ‘Sanjha Safar: Public Discourse,’ at the India Gate Lawn, New Delhi. The event was organized by The Asian Heritage Foundation. Dr. Yaaminey Mubayi was a feature speaker presenting “Jaya Jagannath! The Links between People and Spaces in the Ritual Community of Puri.” Yaaminey, a co-coordinator for CRCI (Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative)/ UNITWIN , shared her work linking community development issues with built heritage conservation in Nabha and Amritsar in the state of Punjab. She illustrated the strong impetus provided by popular feeling for heritage and the importance of people's concerns in development programs. Her work on the pilgrimage sites of Puri and Amritsar demonstrates the power inherent in culture as a medium to drive development initiatives.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

International Visitor interacts on UNITWIN

On United Nations (UN) Day, October 24, 2007, Gita Sen called on BU's Women Studies Program colleagues. Discussions focused on Gita's commitment to systematically infusing gender processes into programs and policies at different levels, with Unifem (the UN Development Fund for Women) as a catalyst. She believes in building the evidence base "from below" then moving to the policy level.

Gita is currently a Professor at the Centre for Public Policy within the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Here she is pictured perusing UNITWIN's forthcoming volume of essays.

Photo by: Carla Pack-Bailey

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Our UNITWIN Network on the UNESCO portal!

Boston University joins UNESCO’s university
twinning network

Paris 18-09-2007 - Following a cooperation agreement signed between UNESCO and Boston University (BU), United States, the UNITWIN (University Twinning) Network on Gender, Culture and People-Centred Development at BU is now part of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme.

The UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture and People-Centred Development is co-ordinated by BU’s Women's Studies Program. It aims to promote research, training and documentation in women and gender studies and assist partner countries in gender, culture and development studies. This UNITWIN Network will further promote North-South Cooperation through five partner higher education institutions in Asia and enhance interaction with UNESCO and between UNESCO Chairs in the field of women's issues.

The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme comprises over 750 institutions in 125 countries. Launched in 1992, it aims to advance research, training and programme development in higher education through inter-university cooperation.

Related links

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What I encourage everyone to do: Disrupt!

By Shiwali Patel, Boston University 2005 graduate, former Community Educator for Adults and Adolescents at the DC Rape Crisis Center, current law student at Washington College of Law at American University.

It’s an unfortunate reality that sexual violence is widespread to the extent that one in three women worldwide will be a sexual assault survivor. I’ve learned about sexual violence in depth at Boston University (BU) as a women’s studies student and at the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) where I was a community educator in Washington, D.C. for almost two years. As a student I researched global sexual violence and learned about the horrors faced by many women and children in war torn regions where rape is often used as a tactic of war. Also, to connect more with the issue, I researched campus rapes in the United States and shockingly discovered how so few survivors of rape are supported by their schools.

Another reality I came to understand more clearly as a student and an advocate was societal belief in damaging myths about sexual violence. Adults, adolescents, college students and children have expressed to me, in different ways, many false assumptions about rape. These include: sometimes women are at fault for being raped because “of wearing a short skirt,” “of being too sexual,” “of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” “men can’t control their sexual urges,” or that “she really wanted it then, but changed her mind and cried rape afterwards.” After listening to this, I would scream in my head thinking, but what if she wanted to wear that skirt? Does this mean that I can’t go anywhere in clothes that I like to wear without being blamed if I’m attacked? How about the many stories I’ve heard about women not reporting? What about children? How are they asking for it? The people who spread these myths disregard the implications of what they are saying- that it’s not the rapists fault for rape, that the victim is to blame, that men and boys aren’t raped, and that rape is just about sexual gratification. All of these are false and in reality, rape is a violent act that is used to overpower and humiliate its victims.

Privilege, power, control, oppression, -ism, hate, have all been a big part of my vocabulary when understanding sexual violence as a community educator for DCRCC. For almost two years, I’ve heard numerous personal stories about victimization, and never did anyone “ask for it.” The pain was real, and so was the healing. In working with the elderly, sex workers, college students, homeless women and men, adolescents, women formerly incarcerated, immigrants and city-wide professionals, I found that survivors often have many reasons for not reporting their victimization and seeking support services. These reasons included fear of deportation, language barriers, lack of trust in law enforcement, shame, dependency on the perpetrator(s), fear of retaliation from the attacker(s), disabilities, and lack of knowledge on the law and resources for help. I’ve also learned that perpetrators were often aware of the barriers and the power they had in silencing their victims.

Thus, to conclude, these learning experiences have only encouraged me to do what I encourage everyone to do: disrupt. Disrupt people’s false assumptions about rape. Disrupt the pattern of most rapists, who rape more than once and get away with it. Disrupt the community that silences its victims. Disrupt the system which does not support survivors. Until we disrupt, we’ll have a heck of a longer time seeing any real and positive change.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Breaking News!

UNESCO's Chief of International Cooperation in Higher Education and Manager - UNESCO Chairs, Dr. Sonia Bahri (at left) visits the Women Studies Program at Boston University. She shares the news that the UNITWIN (University Twinning) Network on Gender, Culture and People-centered Development becomes official in September--- the sole UNITWIN now based in Massachusetts! With her (left to right) are Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, initator of this UNITWIN Network; Dr. Barbara Gottfried, Women Studies Program faculty; and Maryam Shahsahebi, WSP program manager.

A word from Dublin from Carrie Preston

Carrie Preston, Assistant Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Boston University, studies gender, performance, and nationhood in the context of world modernisms. She participated in a 2007 summer seminar at Trinity College, Dublin, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her research in Dublin concerns Irish literature and theatre throughout the first half of the twentieth century and the Irish transition from British colony to an independent state. Using the archives of the Abbey Theatre, she examines women’s participation in the national theatre movement as playwrights, performers, and directors, with a focus on Lady Augusta Gregory and Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh. She also considers how women’s participation in the struggle for national independence intersected with the international women’s movement and the battle for full participation in national cultures. She has discovered that Irish theatre, Irish nationalism, and Irish feminism are productively understood in an international context. The national theatre borrows performance techniques and styles from German folk theatre, Russian dance, and Japanese Noh performance, among others. Irish nationalism and feminism also benefit from the discourses, ideas, and strategies developed in similar movements around the world. All may be seen as international performances that contribute to world modernisms.

For additional photos please see her photo story at

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Coming Attraction!

Painting: Anuradha Dey

Volume of Essays on Gender, Culture, and People-Centered Development - India

Editor: Brenda Gael McSweeney

General Editing: Mieke Windecker

Governance and political voice

Public Space and Women’s Rights: Fine Tuning Democracy

Kumkum Bhattacharya

Engendering Local Democracy: The Impact of Quotas for

Women in India’s Panchayats

Niraja Gopal Jayal

She’s in Charge Now: An Examination of Women’s

Leadership in the Panchayati Raj Institutions in Karnataka

Shiwali Patel

Livelihoods and education

Srihaswani: a gender case study

Krishno Dey, Chandana Dey and Brenda Gael McSweeney

with Rajashree Ghosh

Hold the pen-plough and till the paper-land: Success

story of a movement for education and some related issues

Kumar Rana, Liby T. Johnson and Subhrangsu Santra

Poverty of Choice: Gender and Livelihoods in Punjab

Yaaminey Mubayi

Women’s Rights

A Uniform Civil Code towards Gender Justice

Leila Seth

Missing Daughters: Socio-Economic and Cultural Dynamics

Of Adverse Sex-Ratio in Punjab

Malkit Kaur

Contested Terrains: Gender Justice and Citizenship in

South Asia

Shahla Haeri

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Me and an Owl"

Boston University's Women Studies Program presented “Me and an Owl", a new documentary about the United States military and camp-town women in the Republic of Korea, on 22 March 2007. In this provocative documentary, camp-town women have agreed to allow their faces to be exposed. Since the end of World War II, the US has maintained a sprawling network of military bases in Asia. In conjunction with Japan and the Philippines, South Korea has occupied an axial position in the US military’s global strategy- initially against communist forces and now against terrorist forces and other unidentified threats. Two thirds of the US military overseas bases are still concentrated in Germany, Japan and South Korea. This development has grave and far-reaching implications for the lives of tens of millions of people in various host countries in terms of employment, family, gender relations and sexuality, human rights and environmental security. (Source: WSP Flyer)

The documentary is based on camp-town women’s interviews. They openly discuss the challenges they have encountered as impoverished women. As an attempt for survival the women have become workers in the sex industry which caters to the international forces that have bases in South Korea. Many of the women interviewed feel as if they are invisible or not treated as human beings because of their position. However, in most cases the sex industry is the women’s only available profession. Gabriel Maeck, a junior at Boston University says, “To make money as a prostitute is a choice a woman can make; however, many times it is not a choice and these women are abused by their own society and their johns.”

He then notes that My Sister’s Place is a non-governmental organization in South Korea featured in “Me and the Owl.” This organization is offering the women in the film and the many like them a voice, skills and solidarity. Organizations like this will enable women to take control of their own self. If women are educated about their choices and are given an alternative way of life – they will be able to extinguish the link of impoverishment and the sex industry.

Jodi Slezak, a junior at Boston University and a student in the Gender and International Development class, found the movie very insightful. She says, "One of the most valuable points of the movie was the way the characters were developed realistically. The film developed the lives and thoughts of these women, in order to allow the audience to sympathize and understand them as real people. In a remarkable way the film makers found a way to allow anyone, even middle class Americans, to relate to the experiences of these women.”

Women are the Solution to Africa's Problems

A presentation was made by Rebecca Tinsley on 8 March 2007 entitled “Why Women are the Solutions to Africa’s problems”; it was cosponsored by the Women Studies Program and the African Studies Center at Boston University. Rebecca Tinsley is a British journalist and the Director of Waging Peace, a non-governmental organization focusing on ending the crisis in Darfur. Tinsley believes that African women are the key to the continent’s success. She says, “Women are the agents of social change.” Tinsley focuses on a bottom up development model. She wants to help empower women by implementing micro loans, education and training programs. If women can have access to micro loans and education or training they will be able to advance development in their own communities.

Tinsley’s insightful lecture led her to discuss The Rwanda Girls School, a boarding school which will provide Rwandan women the opportunity for education. In order to prevent the reoccurrence of atrocities like the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the establishment of safe educational institutions is necessary. The Rwanda Girls School which is being developed by Tinsley has a two-fold strategy. It will address the gender divide by providing technology to all students in an attempt to eliminate the digital divide. The second aspect of the strategy will focus on eliminating the social hierarchies that enable discrimination against women in Rwanda. Meredith Gray, a Boston University sophomore says, “In broadening girls’ skills, the Rwanda Girls School ensures that women will help determine policy, culture and social views within Rwanda. With the attitude that any committed, well-educated person can make a difference, The Rwanda Girls School will prepare Rwandans for social change.”

This entry was compiled from two students work: Margaret Hartley and Meredith Gray. For more information on the Rwanda Girls School please visit:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Glimpse of Action-Research near Shantiniketan

A brief description was shared by Brenda Gael McSweeney of gender research initiated with colleagues in West Bengal, India, focussed on their programs for self-reliant development. She first became involved in 1998 as the United Nations Development Programme representative providing support to Srihaswani, or “Creative manual skills for self-reliant development,” based in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. This is the brainchild of development thinkers and activists Krishno and Chandana Dey and Shantum Seth.

This year the research of Brenda and Chandana with the latter’s Project Team focused on non-formal education. Brenda described some of the changes she had observed since she first visited the area.

A spate of progressive legislation has been enacted in India, ranging from 100 days of guaranteed work at the minimum wage in rural areas to mid-day school meal schemes, plus pace-setting provisions against domestic violence against women and child labor. It was fascinating for Chandana and Brenda to hear directly from women in the villages where different groups constitute the majority of the population – Hindu, Muslim and Santhal (tribal) – as to the actual impact of such measures at the grassroots level. Receiving “top marks” from the women was the employment guarantee scheme.

According to Chandana Dey, one of the most challenging issues that the villagers have been addressing with the Project Team is finding ways of getting children to attend school and other government-run programs such as the “Anganwadi” where mothers and children under six are given nutrition supplements. The women both forfeit work and face the dangers of travel with youngsters during the monsoon season. Hence the Team initiated pre-school activities right in the least advantaged neighborhoods. This approach tallies with UNESCO’s emphasis on the importance of early childhood education in its 2007 report monitoring global progress towards ‘Education for All.’

And once ‘hidden’ women were both visible and vocal, reflected in the snap above in a village outside of Shantiniketan, articulating their views on a range of development issues while attending an interactive gathering. Some of the women grew up in the same village where they later married. In their view, today, many things have improved including more access to education and work opportunities.

Photo: Brenda Gael McSweeney
Source: - Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University

For more visuals, visit:

Photo Set: Srihaswani in Action!


Kumkum Bhattacharya is a Professor in the Department of Social Work at Visva-Bharati University, West Bengal, India. She has a PhD from Visva-Bharti, and a Post-graduate diploma in Educational and Vocational Guidance from the National Centre for Educational Research and Training, New Delhi. She has conducted research and published widely in the disciplines of anthropology and rural development, that included first hand study of communities in West Bengal. She has focused on women’s organizations and networks as well as leadership skills. She is currently interacting on the political empowerment of women, and was awarded an Exchange fellowship to the University of Connecticut, USA in the Asian American Studies Institute for the month of October 2005 to present this work.
Photo Sourc
e: University of Connecticut Website

Chandana Dey is the project manager for Srihaswani, or Creative Manual Skills for Self Reliant Development, set in West Bengal. Based in Shantiniketan, she is also leading an effort to revitalize Shantiniketan. She has worked for UNRISD (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development) in Geneva, Switzerland. She served as Project Coordinator with the Ahimsa Trust in West Bengal for the past decade. Chandana has a background in History and International Affairs. Committed to facilitating grassroots development change, she is the co-founder of The Bhab Initiative.
Photo: Brenda Gael McSweeney

Krishno Dey was born in Kolkata, India, and developed his first interest in rural development traveling around villages with his father, then West Bengal's first Development Commissioner. After studying Economics in the United Kingdom at Oxford and Manchester Universities, he spent 26 years on a career with different United Nations organisations, starting in Morocco with the World Food Programme and Allende's Chile with the UN Development Programme, and ending with the United Nations Volunteers in Geneva. His work was concerned mostly with formulating and managing new programmes, with evaluations and policy analysis, always with a focus on low-income households. He returned to India in 1995 to pursue his interest in development in a voluntary capacity. There he co-founded the Bhab Initiative in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. He also continues to undertake assignments occasionally through the international system.
Photo Source:

Shahla Haeri is Director of Boston University's Women's Studies Program and Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology. She has conducted research in Iran, Pakistan and India, and has written extensively on religion, law and gender dynamics in the Muslim world. She has been awarded several postdoctoral fellowships, including one at the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School (2005-2006); at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University (1996); and at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, Brown University (1986-87). She has published widely and produced a video documentary entitled "Mrs. President: Women and Political Leadership in Iran."
Photo: Frank Curran

Malkit Kaur is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Punjabi University at Patiala specializing in Women’s Studies and Rural Sociology. She has researched and written on women and development, the girl child and Socio-economic and Cultural Dynamics of the adverse sex ratio in Punjab. She served as Head of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology from 1998 to 2001.

Yaaminey Mubayi received her Bachelors degree in South Asian Studies at Mount Holyoke College, Ma. USA. She completed her Doctorate on the Jagannath Temple, Puri at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2000. It was published in 2005 as part of the Heidelberg University series on Orissa. Yaaminey’s work with the Culture Sector in UNESCO, introduced her to the issues besetting development agencies and the importance of people's concerns in development initiatives. In 2003, she completed an M.Sc in Social Policy from the London School of Economics. She has subsequently worked with various NGOs in the field of Culture and Development. She strongly feels that Culture is a fundamental issue that underpins development initiatives. Yaaminey works on pilgrimage sites in Puri and Amritsar to illustrate the power inherent in Culture as a medium to drive development initiatives. Yaaminey also teaches Heritage and Community issues at the Department of Conservation, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. She is on the Expert Committee of Government of Punjab for Development of Cultural Tourism. Lastly, she is also founder member of Satark Nagrik Sangathan, an organization working on using the Right to Information for community empowerment in Delhi.

Brenda Gael McSweeney spent 30 years working for the United Nations; she joined the Women’s Studies Program at Boston University as the first-ever Visit
ing Scholar in September 2003. She brings with her vast global experience spanning from the grassroots to the policy-making level. She began her UN career in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, living in a West African courtyard and managing the project portfolio of the UN Development Programme. After performing various executive ro
les for the UN, including leading the global UN Volunteers, Brenda completed her UN career with a 5-year posting in India, heading UNDP’s largest operations worldwide. The UN Family in India, along with the Indian Government, chose “Promoting Gender Equality” as one of just two priority cross-cutting themes for the UN System’s work in India. Dr. McSweeney teaches 'Gender and International Development' at BU each Spring semester, and 'Gender and Development' in the Fall at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, where she is also a Resident Scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center.

Photo: The Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia

Gurmeet S. Rai is the founder and director of the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI). In 1996, Gurmeet established the CRCI to carry out projects related to preservation and enhancement of India’s cultural heritage. Through this initiative she has been able to complete many path breaking architectural conservation projects. A conservation architect, Gurmeet has worked to promote cultural heritage in Punjab, and has extensively documented historic buildings in the state. She is also an initiator of The Lime Centre that promotes appropriate conservation technology in the country. Recently, she has added her expertise to the Red Fort’s Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan in New Delhi. Gurmeet has numerous professional memberships and publications, and has produced cultural heritage exhibitions and films.
Photo: Brenda Gael McSweeney

Savyasaachi teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Sociology at the Jamia Millia Islamia (a Central University) in Delhi. He started his explorations of different ways of life with long years of fieldwork with the Koitor forest dwellers in Chattisgarh in Central India and with forest people (Hill Kharias and Kutia Khonds) in Orissa (East India). He has worked with conservation architects as well. Experience in these fields prompted him to engage with issues of method, decolonization, conservation, social life and culture. In the course of teaching at Jamia Millia Islamia he has been able to work on issues related to learning as opposed to teaching. He has been (2007-08) traveling faculty for the Re-thinking Globalization program coordinated by the International Honors Program at Boston University. He has several publications; the most recent one from Penguin India is titled 'Between the Earth and the Sky'.

Our UNITWIN Network Partners

Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) {literally, Jamia in Urdu means university and Millia means national} emerged from being a small institution in pre-independence India to a central university located in New Delhi offering integrated education from nursery to research in specialized areas. Rabindranath Tagore called it “one of the most progressive educational institutions of India”. The basic emphasis of Jamia was on evolving innovative education methods. The faculties of Humanities and Languages, Natural Sciences, Social Science, and the State Resource Centre were founded in the early years of its existence. The establishment of these faculties was followed by that of the very popular Mass Communication Research Centre and the Centre for Coaching and Career Planning. Many new courses and programs have since been added. The Department of Sociology houses a project on women’s issues and the related areas of expertise of the faculty span a large spectrum. Drawn in part from

The Punjabi University at Patiala, Punjab, India, is a multi-faceted, multi-faculty educational institution with over fifty-five teaching and research departments covering disciplines in Humanities and in Sciences as diverse as Fine Arts and Space Physics. It has received the support of many Government and semi-government institutions. The University has faculty and students who receive exposure to seminars and workshops which work to further academic freedom. It also encourages partnerships with non-academic and industry related sectors. The University has established its own publication bureau, which is actively engaged in publishing research work of the academic community. The Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology is unique insofar as it brings together two disciplines, or two intellectual orientations, in its teaching and research. The curriculum covers social theory, women studies, folk religion, gerontology, sociology of violence, rural social structures, Sikhism and Gandhism. The University is in the process of establishing a Women’s Studies Center. Already women and development courses are offered and these have been prepared on topics such as rural women in Punjab and female-headed households. The Vice Chancellor wishes to explore exchanges and joint degrees with Boston University.

Drawn in part from:

Visva-Bharati (literally, world university) located in West Bengal, India, was founded by the poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. He envisioned the forming of a center for Indian culture, a seminary for Eastern Studies and a meeting-place of the East and West. The University strongly believes in strengthening conditions of world peace through enhanced communication between people. In this regard Visva-Bharati follows a path of consistent research and study and encourages mutual cooperation of scholarly efforts between thinkers around the world. With its diverse areas of interest such as Music, Art, History, Journalism, Agro-economics, Biotechnology and Indo-Tibetan studies, it has received much acclaim and appreciation. In introducing the subject, rural reconstruction, it has successfully initiated a dialogue between academic study and hands-on field experience. Presently, the Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati has established a committee for the UNITWIN , is planning to host an international seminar, is working to set up a center for women’s studies, and wishes to moot the idea of hosting a UNESCO Chair. Drawn in part from:
Photo from:

The Women’s Studies Program at Boston University (Boston, Massachusetts, USA) explores the variety and richness of women’s historical, cultural, and social contributions and provides insight into the ways in which gender dynamics influence the experiences of women cross culturally. A multidisciplinary approach exposes students to gender-related issues from a variety of disciplines within the social sciences and humanities. In addition, it allows students to explore aspects of women’s experiences that are beyond their own immediate boundaries – communities, class and ethnicities. Through taking courses that are grounded in similar assumptions and that raise similar questions regarding gender, yet that examine these assumptions and questions within different disciplines, students achieve an understanding of the complexity of the world around them and are more equipped to change it toward equality and ecological sustainability.

The Bhab Initiative
- In an informal dialogue setting, the Bhab (meaning thought) Initiative was started by Krishno and Chandana Dey in 1995. The participants comprised members of the community from Shantiniketan and from a few surrounding villages, in the district of Birbhum, West Bengal, India. Out of this dialogue emerged a program called “Srihaswani” (a term compounded from the Bengali initials for Creative Manual Skills for Development). It is intended to bridge rural-urban gaps in the perception and understanding of women and men concerning many daily issues in living, brought to a head in recent times by the manifold pressures of ‘globalization’. With support from Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and later Irish assistance, the initiative sought to focus on low-income households where manual skills have not yet been lost and could be revived. The project was initiated in nine villages in the area. The emphasis in the project area is on direct personal involvement and satisfaction through contributions that require a conscious joining together of mind and body capacities. Through its activities the Initiative has successfully worked to improve the quality of life in the communities through creative, as opposed to mindless, routine use of manual skills. Main source and for more information, visit: Photo: Brenda Gael McSweeney

In the year 1996, the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI) was founded by a team of conservation architects to document, preserve and promote India's cultural heritage, and revitalize community through cultural heritage initiatives. The Lime Center is a registered society, established in 1998. It is a technical wing to assist conservation activities of CRCI and other individuals and organizations that may seek its advice. The Lime Center has worked towards developing inventories of traditional materials with the use of lime as mortar and renders, techniques, management procedures and cost effective appropriate technologies. CRCI’s forte is to work with communities and develop appropriate strategies for conservation in rural and urban areas. CRCI was founded with the idea of ‘conservation of built heritage’. It strongly believes that conservation is an integral part of development and should not be perceived as a peripheral activity. CRCI’s work is interdisciplinary as it recognizes the sensitivity and the complexity involved in understanding, conserving and interpreting cultural heritage. CRCI has the honor of working in partnership with local, national and global institutions like Panchayats, District Administration, Municipal corporations, the Archaeological Survey of India, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and so on. Main source and for more information, visit:
Photo Credit:

About the UNITWIN (University Twinning) Network on Gender, Culture and People-Centered Development

Welcome to the Gender, Culture and People-Centered Development community, seated at Boston University's Women Studies Program (WSP)! We are anticipating that this blog will allow readers to reflect and communicate on important gender issues that are shaping development. BU's Women Studies Program (WSP) directed by Dr. Shahla Haeri explores and analyzes the social, political and economic factors that influence women worldwide. (Source: WSP Website) Beginning this year, we will be participating with partners in India in UNESCO's university education twinning and networking scheme, UNITWIN.

The UNITWIN Program began in 1992 and aims to share information in all major fields within UNESCO. The goal is to promote North-South and South-South cooperation and communities of practice which will enhance institutions, primarily in developing countries. UNITWIN provides a platform for universities and research institutions to work with UNESCO to support national development efforts.

In September 2007,
Boston University with five prestigious partners in India will launch a UNITWIN Cooperation Program with UNESCO in the arena of Gender, Culture and People-Centered Development. The participating partners based in India are: Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab; Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan, West Bengal; The Bhab Initiative, Shantiniketan, West Bengal; and the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI)/The Lime Centre, New Delhi; in addition to Boston University's Women's Studies Program in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. This UNITWIN has been initiated and is coordinated by Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, now of Boston and Brandeis Universities, formerly a high-level United Nations official.

The two main objectives of this UNITWIN Network are to: promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation of activities in the field of women and gender studies; and, provide advice and expertise to assist partner countries in gender, culture and development studies. We will use this interactive space to share our work and exchange insights on gender and international development priorities!