Event Date and Time
ASY 1101

Claiming Resources, Asserting Rights: Women’s Collective Politics at the Grassroots

Weaving together field stories from research over two decades with women’s microcredit or Self Help Groups (SHGs) and trade unions that mobilize women domestic workers, salt pan workers, fish workers, street vendors and home-based workers, Kalpana shows how women of working poor households and communities creatively use opportunities to assert their rights and entitlements, negotiate with multiple (state and non-state) actors, claim development resources and strive to have a greater say in public matters and community affairs. As field stories from Tamil Nadu show, women have emerged as the visible face and voice of resistance to policies that rob them of their land and livelihoods; they are invariably at the forefront of  (state and NGO-led) welfare initiatives that seek to improve infrastructure and services for income-poor families and communities. Is this a sign of empowerment that we must cheer? Is this an over-burdening of women that we must be more cautious about celebrating? How do we read what appears to be a feminization of efforts and struggles to hold the state accountable for the survival of the poor?

Kalpana Karunakaran is Associate Professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, IIT Madras (https://hss.iitm.ac.in/team-members/kalpana-k/). Her research lies in the domain of gender and development and, more broadly, Women’s Studies. Her published papers are in the intersecting fields of gender, labour, microcredit (Self Help Groups), women’s work in the informal sector, women’s trade unions and collective action in solidarity-based movements. Her book ‘Women, Microfinance and the State in Neo-liberal India’ was published by Routledge in 2017. She was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) (https://iaws.co.in/) from 2014 to 2017 and will serve again from 2024 to 2027



smiling kalpana