Research

1. Dalit Women’s Access to Land Resources in the Context of Globalization: A Literature Review

Current indicators place Dalit women at the furthermost fringes of social exclusion and economic marginalization. Oppressed on three accounts; their caste, gender and economic status further enhances their vulnerability. In light of the negative impact of Economic liberalism and Globalization on this group, it is imperative to gauge the extent of their social and economic marginalization in relation to new emerging economic policies.

Access to vital resources such as land, will be used as an indicator of the degree of marginalization, given the distinct inter-relation between land ownership, economic power and social mobility. The proposed research study will therefore theoretically and substantively highlight the ongoing process of marginalization (economic and social) of Dalit women and their denial of rights thus highlighting their vulnerability. The research study will also explore their access to resources and the current challenges or barriers they experience.

Furthermore, the study will explore social work education and practice responses in the context of emerging social realities of these women. The research will contribute towards internationalization of curriculum and enrich the critical anti-oppression practice perspectives of international work, thus identifying areas of convergence between perspectives, building global solidarity.

The research objectives are as follows:

  • To gauge the extent of marginalization (economic and social) of Dalit women in terms of denial of their basic rights
  • To explore their access to resources as well as the challenges and barriers they currently experience
  • To explore social work education and practice responses in the context of emerging social realities of these women
  • To gain insights into perceptions on land ownership among Dalit women in Maharashtra
  • To understand and document the challenges faced by Dalit women when trying to access land and related resources

Click here for the full report

2. Profiles and Perceptions of Traditional Midwives in Informal Settlements in Mumbai City

Since time immemorial, designated women within a community have held responsibility for assisting women through child birth and providing comprehensive maternal health care. Contemporary medical establishments refer to them as midwives or traditional birth attendants (TBAs).

Research studies indicate a need to understand TBA profiles and plan training programmes accordingly. If India continues to focus on ineffective strategies for training TBAs and community volunteers, or short training of ANM without providing of rural midwifery services, maternal and neonatal mortality rates will not decline (Mavalankar, Raman, Vora; 2010). Till date is no answer to what activities a TBA should undertake, the best means of teaching her, the type of support care she needs. This will vary from one TBA to another, from one country to another. There is need for valid assessment of her work as a basis for decision making in the future (Elizabeth Leedam, 1985). In order to increase this understanding of midwives, it is imperative to document and thus highlight their traditional health practices. This study aims to document oral histories of Mid-wives pre-post independent India residing in informal urban settlements of Mumbai so as to highlight maternal health related belief systems, indigenous to each community covered under the project. Additionally, it will aim to document cultural practices and indigenous knowledge related to the process of birthing that are traditionally passed from one generation of mid-wives to the next orally so as to collate this rich knowledge base that is being severely eroded by forces of migration, globalization and State health policies. To retrieve material related to important rituals, fertility rites, goddesses, taboos, herbal
medicines etc. used by midwives from communities covered under the project, in an attempt to preserve these otherwise oral traditions. The research study will also analyze the impact of State health care policies, globalization and migration on the traditional practices of midwives.

Expected Outcome
This research study aims to document existing yet informal knowledge that women have about their own health, specifically maternal and reproductive health practices – that is largely devalued by current formal health systems. It aims to do so by highlighting the rich tradition of midwifery through documenting maternal health related belief systems, traditional cultural practices and indigenous knowledge related to the process of birthing that are orally passed from one generation of mid-wives to the next – of dais covered through the project.

Aim of the Study
A. To document life stories of Mid-wives residing in informal urban settlements of Mumbai
B. To document cultural practices and indigenous knowledge related to the process of birthing that are
traditionally passed from one generation of mid-wives to the next
C. To highlight maternal health related belief systems, indigenous to each community covered under
the study
D. To document the contribution that dais make to the maternal health of their communities
E. Analyzing the impact of State health care policies on the traditional practices of midwives
 Click here for the mid-term report
 
3. A Study on Sexual Harassment in Colleges in Mumbai: An Executive Summary
There is an unfortunate silence surrounding this issue. And because it is not in the public arena of debate, not being discussed or analysed, it is a misunderstood issue. Sexual harassment was earlier called ‘eve teasing’ or a frivolous pastime for boys and a petty misdemeanour. It took time for high profile cases and protests to be called sexual harassment and to be seen as an offence. As women, as a women’s group and as part of the women’s movement working with and concerned about women, we know how they have learned to live defensively. We refrain from going out at night or move around in groups after dark and avoid strangers. Whether you are young or middle aged, a homemaker or employed, an activist or student, if you are female then you have internalised defensive strategies when out in public space. It could be in the way you carry yourself, how alert you are in crowds, how aware you are of another’s behaviour or how you instinctively carry your bag in front of your chest when in a crowded bus.
There are some women who may not have been harassed. But none have escaped the fear of harassment, of being misunderstood or of having been blamed for being provocative. All of us have our own ‘harassment’ stories. It is this loss of freedom of movement, which we resent and would like to overcome. Until the late 1980s, there was no recourse for women as the issue had no name. Feelings of anger, humiliation, fear, loss of confidence and in extreme cases self imposed house arrest and even suicide were the fall outs of sexual harassment. Women sought out individual and private solutions.The Bhawridevi case in Rajasthan, a spate of protests and public debates lead to the Supreme Court’s landmark Vishaka Judgement in 1997. It’s guidelines defined sexual harassment and sought to protect women from sexual harassment by placing the onus of providing a safe work environment on the management or administration. It, thus, became mandatory for all work related organisations to have a sexual harassment redressal mechanism. However, regardless of the introduction of legal directives and public debate, the situation seems to remain the same. The silence remains, the problem persists.In India, every day a woman is harassed every 51 minutes and sexually molested every 26 minutes. We have no idea of the unreported cases which make up the remaining part of the iceberg’s tip.

Most people will argue that sexual harassment either happens in isolated and dark roads or large organisations. What they mean is that not all women face it. Let us look at college campuses, which are protected, learning institutions. The Gender Study Group of the University of Delhi, 1996 shows that 92 percent of women in hostels and 88 percent of women day scholars have faced sexual harassment on campus. A 1997 survey of colleges in Mumbai found that 39 percent of women students have experienced harassment.

There have been other studies done in different parts of the country, which have revealed important data and findings. So how will another one, which will probably come up with the same findings, matter?  We saw our study, not only as a form of collecting data but as a form of involvement in the issue. Our study was a participatory one which involved both, interviewers and interviewees, men and women, students and faculty, victims and perpetrators.

Objectives and Methodology

  • To assess the level of awareness and perceptions of students and faculty members regarding sexual harassment
  • To assess the impact of sexual harassment on female students
  • To evaluate redressal mechanisms; how well they function, problems faced in running them and if they are accessed by students.

Click here for the full report

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