Monday, November 14, 2011

Lives without Rights by Jharna Panda

We are pleased to announce that Jharna Panda, one of our UNITWIN-affiliated researchers in India, has written an article calling attention to the livelihoods of women in the Sundarban region in West Bengal. Below is the abstract of Jharna's powerful paper.

"Lives without Rights" by Jharna Panda: Abstract

'Any sympathetic discussion with the women of the Sundarban region (the famous archipelago in the southern fringe of the Gangetic delta in eastern India known for its mangrove forest and Royal Bengal tigers) will reveal the stark realities about their abysmal health standards and the widely prevalent reproductive health problems in spite of a plethora of public health programmes. For example, a large number of women suffer from genital prolapse while they are still in the third decade of their lives.

Most of them are working women from landless or marginal peasant families and because of their very social position, they have to simultaneously bear the burden of a failing agrarian economy and the weight of an oppressively discriminatory social tradition. Hence, these women can be regarded as living testimonies of the process whereby social and livelihood practices frustrate the dream of empowerment to the extent that village women are not in a position to decide upon matters related to their individual selves, let alone to social affairs.

Though to a significant extent their appalling health standards can be traced back to the poor material - including economic - condition of their living, this is clearly also a function of their position as women in a social milieu which is a heady mix of patriarchal domination, archaic traditions and entrenched taboos. The average woman has to follow the extant rituals and practices regarding child birth, birth control, and child health. Even the health workers, when they are present, fail to make much headway with their repertoire of scientific health awareness programmes because the women whose health is at stake are not supposed to make a choice.

The story is complex, yet revealing. It reveals the interrelated nature of the issues of empowerment and economy, health and social practice, reproductive health and productive activities.'

 To see the full text of Jharna's work called "Lives without Rights" please visit

Researcher Jharna Panda shared her firsthand experience living and working in the Sundarban Region in West Bengal, at Visva-Bharati's International Conference on Women after Independence.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Just Published!

Visiting Scholar Smitha Radhakrishnan of Boston University's Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, the hub of our UNITWIN Network, has just had her book Appropriately Indian published.

‘Appropriately Indian is an ethnographic analysis of the class of information technology professionals at the symbolic helm of globalizing India. Comprising a small but prestigious segment of India’s labor force, these transnational knowledge workers dominate the country’s economic and cultural scene, as do their notions of what it means to be Indian. Drawing on the stories of Indian professionals in Mumbai, Bangalore, Silicon Valley, and South Africa, Smitha Radhakrishnan explains how these high-tech workers create a “global Indianness” by transforming the diversity of Indian cultural practices into a generic, mobile set of “Indian” norms. Female information technology professionals are particularly influential. By reconfiguring notions of respectable femininity and the “good” Indian family, they are reshaping ideas about what it means to be Indian.’

You can find Smitha's Boston Univeristy bio at

Niraja Gopal Jayal, Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and an affiliate of our UNITWIN Network, has recently had her article "The Transformation of Citizenship in India in the 1990s and Beyond" published in a peer-reviewed collection on the political economy of 21st century India.

'This paper discusses how the three central transformations of the 1990s – Hindu nationalism, backward caste mobilization and economic reform – have shaped practices of citizenship in India in recent times. Women enter this story in three ways: lower middle class women experience a new feeling of freedom by being able to enter the market; women experience social empowerment through their participation in and leadership of panchayats; but, as victims of sex-selective abortion, they are also disadvantaged in practices of biological citizenship. The article is published in the volume titled "Understanding India's New Political Economy: A Great Transformation?”, Sanjay Ruparelia, et al. eds. (Routledge, London, 2011)'. -Niraja Gopal Jayal

You can find Niraja's bio at: