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Intersectionality of Caste, Class and Gender Inequalities: Influences of Dalit women’s activism on policy processes and on women beneficiaries in Maharashtra, India

English title Intersectionality of Caste, Class and Gender Inequalities Influences of Dalit women’s activism on policy processes and on women beneficiaries in Maharashtra, India
Applicant Kamble Swati
Number 178204
Funding scheme Doc.Mobility
Research institution Department of Linguistics Faculty of Arts KU Leuven
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Sociology
Start/End 01.12.2017 - 31.03.2019
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Keywords (6)

Intersectionality ; Dalit women; Activism and Advocacy ; Policy in India ; Women's movement ; Social movement impact on policy

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
L'impact des mouvements sociaux sur les processus politiques a été étudié dans divers domaines. Différentes études ont établi que les mouvements sociaux produisent un certain degré de changement social. Basé sur ces résultats, j'ai entrepris l’étude du mouvement des femmes Dalits (caste inférieure) et son impact sur les processus politiques dans l'état indien du Maharashtra. Aussi, je étudie l'impact du mouvement des femmes Dalits sur la mobilisation des femmes dans les bidonvilles de Mumbai pour bénéficier à la base spécifiquement du programme de microcrédit. Étudier l’influence du mouvement sur les processus politiques permettrait d'obtenir des informations pertinentes sur la manière dont les décideurs peuvent mieux répondre aux besoins des groupes marginalisés tels que les femmes Dalits. Aussi, l'étude de la façon dont les femmes Dalits tentent d'accéder aux avantages de la politique, donne un aperçu de la façon dont le mouvement des femmes Dalits les a habilitées.
Lay summary

Les femmes Dalit (caste inférieure) sont l'un des groupes les plus marginalisés en Inde. Les expériences des femmes Dalit sont intrinsèquement distinctes en raison de leurs multiples identités. Bien que l'intouchabilité ait été abolie par la Constitution dans l'Inde contemporaine, les Dalits continuent pour la plupart d'occuper des emplois subalternes dans le secteur non organisé et restent donc économiquement désavantageux. En plus de la stigmatisation des castes et des classes, les femmes Dalits sont confrontées à une subordination patriarcale qui les rend vulnérables doublement.

Ce lien entre caste, classe et genre n'a pas été compris par le mouvement féministe traditionnel ni par le mouvement Dalit. Tout au long de l'histoire des mouvements en Inde, les femmes Dalits ont continués d’exprimer leur identité spécifique, en particulier lors de la montée du mouvement féministe et Dalit dans les années 1970. Alors que le mouvement des femmes Dalits créait un discours unique dans la société indienne, elles négociaient et défendaient leur représentation politique spécifique.

Aujourd’hui je souhaite étudier deux questions de recherche : (1) comment cette négociation et ce plaidoyer ont influencé le processus politique en Inde et (2) comment cela a eu un impact aux femmes de la base qui bénéficient des programmes politiques. Pour étudier ces questions, j'ai recueilli des données empiriques qualitatives. J'ai mené des entrevues approfondies avec des militantes Dalits, des politiciens et des bureaucrates ainsi qu'avec des universitaires chevronnés. De plus, j'ai mené sept groupes de discussion avec les groupes d'entraide des Dalits dans les bidonvilles de Mumbai. En tant qu'outil de mon analyse, j'applique le cadre IBPA «d'analyse de politique basée sur l'intersectionalité».

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 13.12.2017

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Impact of social movements on policy processes has been studied in the variety of fields. It is been established in various studies that social movements bring forth some degree of social change. Premised on these preliminary claims, I set forth to study the Dalit (lower caste) women's movement and its impact on the policy processes in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Further, I aim to study the impact of the Dalit women's movement on the grassroots women's mobilization in the slums of Mumbai to benefit from the micro-credit scheme. Studying Dalit women's movement and its influence on policy processes would bring out pertinent insight into how decision makers can attend more effectively to the needs of marginalized groups such as Dalit women. Furthermore, studying how Dalit women try to access policy benefits, by mobilizing themselves at the grassroots level and by using formal and informal ways of negotiations, gives insight into how Dalit women’s movement has empowered them.
Lay summary

Dalit (lower caste) women are one of the most marginalized groups in India. Dalit women’s experiences are inherently distinct due to their multifold identities. Traditionally stigmatized as untouchables, Dalits performed menial jobs as their duty, sanctified by the Hindu religion. Even though untouchability has been constitutionally abolished in contemporary India, Dalits mostly continue to assume menial jobs in the unorganized sector and thus remain economically disadvantageous. In addition to caste and class stigma, Dalit women face patriarchal subordination that makes them vulnerable to multiple inequalities. This caste-class-gender nexus has not been understood by the mainstream feminist movement nor has the Dalit movement made efforts to include specific issues of Dalit women’s marginalization in their protests. Throughout the history of movements in India, Dalit women’s voicing out for their specific identity especially during the rise of the feminist and Dalit movement in the 1970s is a unique trajectory to study the emergence and sustenance of Dalit women’s movement. Further, as the Dalit women’s movement created a unique discourse in the Indian society, they also negotiated and advocated for the specific political representation. I wish to study how this negotiation and advocacy has impacted the policy process in India and how does this impact empowers the grassroots women benefitting from the policy. My research questions are (1) what influences the interventions and activism from the ‘periphery’ can bring in policy processes? And (2) How it further empowers women to access benefits from the policies? To study these questions, I have collected qualitative empirical data. I have conducted in-depth interviews with Dalit women activists, politicians, and bureaucrats as well as expert academicians.  Further, I have conducted seven focus groups discussions with Dalit women’s self-help groups in the slums of Mumbai. As a tool of my analysis, I am applying the ‘intersectionality based policy analysis’ IBPA framework.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 13.12.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Intersectionality and Digital activism with Prof. Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Global Educators Alliance for Social Transformation Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
RHEA Research Center Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality Research Seminar Individual talk CASTE AND GENDER INEQUALITIES: POLICY AND DALIT WOMEN IN MAHARASHTRA, INDIA 10.01.2019 Vrije University of Brussels , Belgium Kamble Swati;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Key note speech at the 8th Kranti Jyoth Savitrtibai Phule Lecture Series Talk 03.01.2019 Mumbai College of Social Work Nirmala Niketan, India Kamble Swati;
Colours of Rebellion: Dalit History Month VuB Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 23.04.2018 Brussels , Belgium Kamble Swati;
Colours of Rebellion: Dalit History Month KULeuven Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 16.04.2018 Leuven, Belgium Kamble Swati;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions Colour of Rebellion KULeuven International 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions Colours of Rebellion VuB International 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions the 8th Key note speech at Kranti Jyoth Savitrtibai Phule Lecture Series Nirmala Niketan Mumbai International 2018

Abstract

My Ph.D. project traces the historical trajectory of Dalit women’s distinct mobilization and analyses the influences of their intersectional activism on the policy processes in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Further, it analyses the effects of this movement on Dalit women from the slums of Mumbai when accessing the benefits of the Maharashtra government’s micro-credit scheme for women’s economic development. Studying the historical trajectory of Dalit women’s mobilization and how these activists understand and ‘do’ intersectionality while negotiating for their rights at the policy level, is a pertinent insight into how decision makers can attend more effectively to the needs of marginalized groups such as Dalit women. Furthermore, studying how Dalit women try to access policy benefits, by mobilizing themselves at the grassroots level and by using formal and informal ways of negotiations, gives insight into how Dalit women’s movement has empowered them. Dalit women are one of the most marginalized groups in India. Dalit women’s experiences are inherently distinct due to their multifold identities. Traditionally stigmatized as untouchables, Dalits performed menial jobs as their duty, sanctified by the Hindu religion. Even though untouchability has been constitutionally abolished in contemporary India, Dalits mostly continue to assume menial jobs in the unorganized sector and thus remain economically disadvantageous. In addition to caste and class stigma, Dalit women face patriarchal subordination that makes them vulnerable to multiple inequalities. One has grounds to argue that the caste-class-gender nexus and intersectionality should be a policy matter, to enable social, economic and political equity for Dalit women. Scholars suggest that the intersectionality informed analysis of policies can bring in a conceptual shift in how the policy actors understand social categories and their relationship (Hankivsky, Grace, Hunting and Ferlatte 2012). This conceptual shift is especially crucial for the Indian policy context, as public policy and governance in India are mostly headed by dominant caste, male politicians, and bureaucrats. The policy-making process remains highly technocratic, elite and alienated from the grassroots social realities, especially those of the marginalized communities. There are a few instances of women mobilization and civil society interventions that have probed policy changes in the past, for instance, major legal reforms in the sexual harassment law after the gang rape of a young student in Delhi in 2012 (Subramaniam, Krishnan and Bunka 2014, Chakrabarti, Sanyal 2017). However, civil society in India is divided on caste, class and gender lines. When it comes to representing Dalit women’s issues, Dalit women activists struggle to influence policy decisions despite strong protests and mobilization. Similarly, Dalit women struggle to exercise their rights to gain benefits from these policies that do not adequately represent their needs. Despite prevalent challenges, Dalit women have used strategies to influence policies to make them more gender and caste inclusive. They have been able to generate debates and discussions around the specificity of Dalit women. I wish to study: (1) What influences the interventions and activism from the ‘periphery’ can bring in policy processes? and (2) How it further empowers women to access benefits from the policies?With these two questions in view, I did four months of fieldwork in India to collect qualitative empirical data on Dalit women activists’ mechanisms to influence policy and Dalit women’s experiences at the grassroots level accessing policy benefits. I have conducted twenty-three in-depth interviews with Dalit women activists, politicians, and bureaucrats as well as expert academicians. Further, I have done seven focus groups discussions with Dalit women’s self-help groups in the slums of Mumbai. Recognizing the importance of utilizing Intersectionality while studying policy process, I selected the Intersectionality Based Policy Analysis (IBPA) framework (Hankivasky, 2012) as a tool for my analysis.
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