Tag Archive for Vibhuti Patel

Obituary: Pravinaben Natubhai Patel (1935-2015)


“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow” —Maya Angelou

By Vibhuti Patel
My mother, Pravinaben Patel passed away on January 1 in Vadodara. She was 79.

She was a highly gifted and courageous lady with tremendous sense of humour and great will power. She was dignified, hardworking, compassionate, helpful person who found something good in every human being. Her life guided me to see a spark in every ‘ordinary’ human being that I met.

She assumed the role of renegade predecessor in our extended family due to her quest for independence and enchanted the younger generation with her free spirited adventures. She cultivated our interest in music, literature, art and craft, language learning, and most important, to respect all religions, cultures and lifestyles. She played major role in shaping my daughter’s sense of ethics.

She always stood by young couples ostracized by the community for their inter-caste and inter-religious ‘love marriage’ and came forward in providing moral and material support exhibiting great personal courage. Her demand for personal growth remained unfulfilled due to early marriage and motherhood, but she built so many people who aspired to achieve their dreams. She celebrated educational achievements of women.

My father had 18 transfers in Western, Northern, Eastern and North Eastern parts of India, burden of which she singularly shouldered. My mom had to manage her life by herself – my father was a civil engineer and had erratic and demanding work-schedule.

Response to sexual harassment
She would always confront anyone who made sexual innuendoes in the street, bus, train and in public places. She would loudly respond, “What is wrong with your hands? Why are they moving in a wrong direction?” Those days common way of sexual harassment of a woman walking or travelling unescorted by man was, “Want to come with me?” Without getting embarrassed she would look straight in the eyes of harasser and say, “Yes, I want to come with you along with my 3 children!!” And she would laugh loudly.

Unique bond with her Son-in-law
In 1977, I and Amar (Jesani) had court marriage (inter-religious) in Vadodara. She was extremely sensitive to my Muslim husband, who was looked at with suspicion by many of my relatives. She neutralized them by discussing his work for the toiling poor, workers and public health. She prevented violence by talking to all those who were instigating my young brother. Some highly educated uncles and aunties recommended conversion of my husband under Arya Samaj. My mother retorted, “How would you feel if you were robbed of your identity?” It is a different matter that both of us were atheist and would not indulge in religious conversion and our social life was robust with social movement community-activists from workers, women, tribal and Dalit movement.

When Amar was arrested as a convener of Textile Workers Solidarity Committee in Bombay, she lambasted me for not finding out in which police custody he was kept. I told her, “Hundreds of activists are arrested, he is not alone.” She said, “How can we sit at home? Let us begin our hunt from the nearest police station.” We both reached Dahisar police station. My mom started howling at the police officer and told him, “My son in law is a doctor, fighting for justice and workers’ rights for which he has been arrested. You should feel ashamed of your act that you are treating such a gentleman as a criminal. Now, find out for us, in which police lock up he and his comrades are.” The police officer made several phone calls and finally found out that Amar was in Jacob Circle police custody. Now, her agenda was to cook for Amar and his comrades. We rushed home, made Thepalas, muthia, sukhadi etc. Armed with food, we left home to meet Amar. Once we reached the police station, she gave a big lecture to the police officer on her son-in-law’s good work and lambasted them for taking away his spectacles. She demanded that we be allowed to give home cooked food to Amar and his comrades.

Support to Women’s groups
During National Conference on Perspective for Women’s Movement in India, 1980 and 1985, she cooked rice-based food-Pongal, masala rice, mixed vegetable rice for delegates from Southern states and brought at the conference venue with the help of my papa in huge vessels without anybody telling her to do so. Her logic was, “Women from rural areas of South India must be feeling home-sick and craving for rice.”

During 1980s, she would send food packets for women from rural and tribal areas who were in Mumbai to press for their demands such as employment guarantee, land rights, draconian forest laws, violence against women, and state support to single women.

Any activist who came to her home, tired, famished, hungry would not only get food and rest, but also care, nurturance and emotional solace from her. She knitted sweaters for several of my comrades in social movement. When they thank her for her selfless action, she would jocularly reply by quoting Gujarati proverb, “Educated like you prepare the balance-sheet while less educated like me stand by them with a lamp.”

She unconditionally supported Neeraben Desai, Sonal Shukla, Nimisha Desai and Trupti Shah. In Vadodara, she was a sympathizer of feminist organizations, Sahiyar and Olakh.

Always a giver
Pravinaben was known as ‘giver’. When my father had to go to site, she would give food for both, himself and his driver. During monsoon, postman came to her asking for umbrella, if their footwear gave way, my mom would give him chappals or shoes. Whenever, a poor woman in the vicinity delivered a baby, she would make baby’s clothes, quilt and go to meet her even without knowing her personally. She taught ‘juvenile delinquents’ at remand home to cook, embroider, write and read. In spite of being in an extremely hierarchical eco-system of public sector, she treated everybody equally in terms of hospitality-officers, administrative staff and support staff. She stood by them in their difficult moments. She proactively broke caste barriers in her daily life that was covertly resented by her high caste friends. At the time of illness among her friends, papa’s colleagues, neighbours and domestic help, she would regularly send food she had cooked.

At the time of any calamity (flood, femine, riots), her home would be the centre for collection of food, medicine and clothes. In her daily life, vegetable vendors, milk man, raddiwala, fruit seller, postman, gardener, rickshaw drivers and needy neighbours received timely support from my mom in terms of school fees, financial aid for medical treatment, textbooks, uniform and ration. All of them had access to her kitchen. They would take water, snacks, and chocolate-ice-cream and make tea from kitchen when she would be grounded due to arthritis or asthama. This was strongly resented by her neighbours as they felt that she was spoiling them. They would complain to me, “Your mom does not lock the door, anybody enters the house, and one day your parents will be murdered!” I would say, “Even when anybody comes home to murder them, my mom would say, first you eat and relax, then you can kill us!”

In my upwardly mobile clan, she was the only one who had meaningful relationships with relatives and friends who were poorer, who were ‘country folks’, who lacked ‘sophistication’.

During last five years, each time I visited her, I noticed so many things missing from the house. Whenever I would ask for an explanation for missing clothes, utensils, equipments for exercise, wheelchairs, walker, walking sticks, etc; instead, in a Sufiana style, she would question me, “Have we become poor?” I would say, “No”. And matter would end there. She was a friend in need to her neighbours, acquaintances and like true Vaishnav believed in secret donation.

Body donation: Don’t wait for anyone
In 2007, she had made up her mind to donate her body after her death to the medical college. She also convinced her peers for body-donation. I prepared the document for my mom, my papa and my aunt, gave original to the hospital and carbon copy was give to them. In last seven years, they kept their papers in the drawing room, showed them to their neighbours and close relatives with an instruction that in case of death, they must immediately inform the hospital so that cornea donation can be done within 2 hours and body donation should also happen as fast as possible so that someone’s life can be saved with organ transplant.

In November 2014, road was getting constructed in their society. Around 15 tribal families were working in cold weather. She gave them shelter in the basement of her house, allowed them to bathe, cook and relax in the premises. She inhaled lot of carbon monoxide as a result of cooking on firewood by the workers, developed pneumonia and after a month long hospitalization, passed away on 1st January 2015. All of us were with her.

She will live in the hearts of all those who knew her as an example who did great service to the community even in her death by donating her body and eyes. As per her wish, no rituals for 13 days were observed; instead my brother instituted a Gold Medal for University First student in MA in Economics at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai.

Vibhuti Patel is active in the women’s movement in India since 1972. Currently she is teaching at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

What is in store for women in the Union Budget 2014-15?

India- budget - women

Union budget 2014-15 offers up old and new schemes but fails to address macro-economic and social causes of exploitation and subordination of women

By Vibhuti Patel

The Union Budget 2014-15 will largely benefit the middle class, and offer comfort to middle and upper class women as consumers. Poor women will be crushed by the macro-economic policies that will fuel inflation, land alienation and higher fees for education and health facilities. This time even women’s groups have not raised their voice against gender non-inclusive aspects of the Union Budget.

After the terms Gender Budgeting and Gender Mainstreaming were officially introduced in 2004 by the UPA government, many State Governments like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have adopted Gender Budgeting. Gender Budget Cells were designed to serve as focal points for coordinating gender budgeting initiatives within their Ministries and across departments.

Fifty six Ministries/Department have confirmed setting up of a cell/nominating a nodal person. This could materialize because the previous government’s Ministry of Women and Child Development, in collaboration with UN Women, had developed a Manual and Handbook for Gender Budget Cells for Central Ministries and Departments. The current Union Budget of 2014-15 has seen the Gender Budget Cells play a major role in budgetary allocations.

What is gender budgeting?
Gender Budgeting does not relate to a separate budget for women but involves comparative analysis and construction of general budgets from a gender perspective. It helps governments to decide how policies need to be made, adjusted and reprioritized. It is a tool for effective policy implementation where one can check if gender commitments are translated into financial commitments.

The Gender Budget Initiative is a policy framework, methodology and set of tools to assist governments to integrate a gender perspective into the budget as the main national plan of public expenditure. It also aims to facilitate attention to gender analysis in review of macroeconomic performance, ministerial budget preparations, parliamentary debate and mainstream media coverage. The Budget impacts women’s lives in several ways. It directly promotes women’s development through allocation of budgetary funds for women’s programmes or reduces opportunities for empowerment of women through budgetary cuts.

The Union Budget 2014-15 has retained all schemes for empowerment of women and girls of the last decade under the Women & Child Development with Rs 18691 crores allocated for Integrated Child Development Services, Rs. 715 crores for National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) and Rs. 400 crores for Integrated Child Protection Scheme. A new scheme was also launched– ‘Beti bachao Beti padhao’ with Rs 100 crore.

The schemes can be classified into 4 categories:

1: Protective Services:
These include allocations on women’s homes and care institutions, rehabilitation schemes for victims of atrocities, pensions for widows and destitute women, which are aimed at mitigating the consequences of women’s social and economic subordination, rather than addressing the root causes of this subordination.
For example Sabla, Swadhar-scheme for women in Difficult Circumstances, Ujjawala Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking and, Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Scheme of Short Stay Homes for Women and Girls, Scheme for welfare of Working Children in need of Care and Protection.

2: Social Services:
These include schemes for education and health of women, support services like crèche and hostels and also water supply, sanitation, and schemes on fuel and fodder, which contribute significantly to women’s empowerment, either directly by building their capacities and ensuring their material well-being, or indirectly through reducing domestic drudgery.

For example, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), General Grant-in-aid (GIA) Scheme for Assistance to Voluntary Organisations in the field of Women and Child Development, General Grant-in-Aid Scheme in the field of Women and Child Development, Family Counseling Centre Scheme, Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme For the Children of Working Mothers, Nutrition Education and Training though Community Food & Nutrition Extension Units(CFNEUS), Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY), Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls (NPAG)

A sum of Rs.100 crores is provided for “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana”, a focused scheme to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services for women. This is the first year of the scheme, if funds of Rs. 100 crore are utilized by the state, we can pressure the government to allocate more funds.

New small savings scheme: A special small savings instrument to cater to the requirements of education and marriage of the girl child is to be introduced. This would be in line with schemes like Kisan Vikas Patra or National Savings Certificate.

The budget promises drinking water and sanitation. Government would strive to provide toilets and drinking water in all the girls’ schools in the first phase.

The budget also promises that school curriculum will include gender mainstreaming. Gender Mainstreaming is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.

3: Economic services:
These include schemes for training and skill development, and provision for credit, infrastructure, marketing etc. which are critical to women’s economic independence and autonomy. For example, the STEP Support for Training and Empowerment of Girls, General Grant-in-Aid Scheme for innovative projects, working women’s hostels.

The Union Budget 2014-15 has promised easy loan terms where the government will offer concessional loans to women in rural India at 4% in some districts and 7% in others for women self help groups under a scheme called Ajeevika.

4: Regulatory services:
These include institutional mechanisms for women’s empowerment, such as State Commissions for Women, Women’s Cells in Police Stations, awareness generation programmes, which provide institutional spaces and opportunities for women’s empowerment.

For example International Women’s Day – Stree Shakti Puraskar, Childline Services, Grant-in-Aid for Research, Publication and Monitoring.

An outlay of Rs. 50 crores has been allocated in the current budget for pilot testing a scheme on “Safety for Women on Public Road Transport”. The Union Budget 2014-15 also allocates a sum of Rs. 150 crores on a scheme to increase the safety of women in large cities. Budgetary provision is also made from Nirbhaya Fund for “Crisis Management Centres” in all the districts of NCT of Delhi in government and private hospitals.

After the nationwide outcry following on the brutal gang rape of a young physiotherapist in Delhi in December, 2012, safety of women gained prime importance in public discourse. As a result, the previous government was forced to announce a Nirbhaya (the name by which the rape victim was referred to) Fund of Rs. 1000 crores in The Union Budget 2013-14.

However the past record of this outlay is abysmally poor. Official admission of 500% rise in reporting of rape cases has not galvanized governance structures to ensure speedy justice to the victims of sexual violence. The Nirbhaya fund is not used for preventive measures such as construction of night shelters for women, Information desks for women at railway/bus stations and help-lines connected nation-wide, one-stop crisis centers in the public hospitals and half way homes for elderly women along with pension (Rs. 1000 from central and Rs. 1000 from state government per single woman) safe public toilets for women, safe public transport, safety on roads, bus stations, railway platforms and trains.

Nor does it address public education campaigns about new laws such as Amendments in the Indian Evidence Act, Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offense Act, 2012.

Women in Science and Technology
Budgetary allocation of Rs.53 crores under ‘Disha Programme for Women in Science’ to increase the representation of women and girls in science and technology fields through conferences, training programmes, networking platforms and to enhance its activities with regard to education, training and empowerment of women.

Women entrepreneurs however had expected an offer of soft loans and subsidies with financial institutions providing more working capital assistance. They felt that the budget should look at policies that will make micro credit systems and enterprise credit systems available to women entrepreneurs at all levels and help organise training programmes to develop professional competencies in technical, managerial, leadership, marketing, financial, production process and other skills.

Tax Relief
The Union budget 2014-15 does not offer any relief to women tax payers. On the contrary, the Finance Minister’s budget announcement had nothing specific for women.

The middle class will be happy with the increase in personal income tax limit from 2 lakhs to 2.5 lakhs. Senior citizens’ Income tax exemption limit has now been raised from 2.5 lakhs to Rs 3 lakh. The Investment limit under Section 80C has also been hiked to Rs 1.5 lakh from the current Rs 1 lakh, while the FM increased housing loan interest rate deduction limit to Rs 2 Lakh and the PPF (Public Provident Fund) deposit ceiling is raised to Rs 1.5 lakh per annum from the existing Rs 1 lakh.

Right to Pee:

A great improvement in women’s lives can be made by the provision of easily accessible, safe and clean toilet facilities. Massive allocation from budget on sanitation must be earmarked for toilets in public places for women and girls in Indian cities as they travel long distance for work and education. Working women need functioning toilets at railway stations and bus stations. Women homemakers have to attend social functions, visit market places, take children to gardens and hospitals. Women from both, slums and non-slum background need public toilets. Similarly in rural areas women need toilet facilities, so they don’t have to use the fields in the cover of darkness.

In general, the union budget needs a clearer commitment to the female workers as only financial clarity and commitment will bring responsive outcomes.

India budget 2013-14: Women let down again

India budget women

A look at the Union Budget of India this fiscal year through the gender lens reflects its gross inadequacies on most fronts. The government has done nothing to change its shameful track record on gender budgeting

By Vibhuti Patel

The Union Budget 2013-2014 has allocated Rs. 97134 crores for addressing gender concerns in the budget (less than 6 % of the total budget) and Rs. 77236 crores for children. This budget needs to be understood in the historical context of the social parameters of the country. India’s record for achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been extremely poor as compared to several African, Latin American and Asian Countries. In the international arena despite the attempt to portray a ‘Shining India’, the country has been named and shamed continuously for not being able to reduce its maternal and child mortality rates, wide spread anaemia and malnutrition among women and children, starvation deaths in certain pockets, sky rocketing prices of essential goods, namely food, water and cooking fuel.

It’s in this context one must examine the Union Budget 2013-14. Last year the allocation for gender in the budget was Rs. 18,878.5 crore. Due to sustained pressure from the women’s groups and gender economists, separate budget allocations for women and children were made in 2012 budget.

Budget for women in difficult circumstances
The financial allocation of Rs. 200 crore for the ‘most vulnerable’ groups including single women and widows is an eye wash. Such a paltry amount cannot support schemes like Swadhar, working women’s hostels, one-stop crisis centres, a national helpline and the effective implementation of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and the recently passed Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act.

Multi-sectoral Programme for reducing maternal and child malnutrition
This programme announced last year is to be implemented in 100 districts during 2013-14. It has been allocated Rs. 300 crores to scale up to cover 200 districts the year after. This is a grossly inadequate fund allocation which seeks to address 40% of children and 55% women in India who are malnourished.

Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)

The ICDS gets Rs. 17,700 crore for this fiscal year. In response to galloping inflation, the amount is quite inadequate. A successful implementation of ICDS requires nearly Rs. 3 lakh crore over the 12th plan period as per an estimate made by nutrition experts while allocation has been for Rs. 1.23 lakh crore. Besides this, financial provisions for social security and additional remuneration for Anganwadi Workers and ASHAs, the principal carriers of the flagship schemes have not been made.

Anti poverty programmes and National Health Mission

The budget has enhanced the allocation for anti-poverty programmes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (Rs. 33000 crores) and the flagship centrally sponsored scheme for public health-National Health Mission (Rs. 21239) whose principal beneficiaries are women as they are the poorest of the poor. The allocation for women specific schemes for economics services, welfare services and social defense have been increased up to 8500 crores.

Public sector bank for women
The budget has also announced an allocation of Rs. 1000 for an all-women public sector bank in which both the management and clients are expected to be women. The state owned Women’s Bank will work for financial inclusion and empowerment of self help groups, women entrepreneurs, self employed women and support livelihood needs of women. At last, the state finds women bankable!

The Reserve Bank of India will have to complete all formalities of license of the women’s bank by October, 2013. Bitter experience with private micro finance institutions (MFIs) who behaved like financial sharks charging 24%to 48% interest, used Self Help Group’s as foot soldiers and drove poor women borrowers to commit suicide due to harassment, has made rural and urban community based organizations disenchanted with the private MFIs. In this context, the announcement of a public sector women’s bank has given new hope to community-based women groups.

Nirbhaya Fund for empowerment of women

The sustained agitation by Indian youth and women after the gang rape of the 23-year-old (who was named by media as Nirbhaya) physiotherapist in a moving bus on 16th Dec. 2013 shook the whole world. To appease the angry youth, the budget has announced Rs. 1000 crore as seed money for a ‘Nirbhaya Fund’. However, there is no clear mandate for this Fund – that it will be used for rehabilitation of survivors of sexual violence and acid attacks.

Inadequate funds for education
There is no increase in allocation to education as suggested by the Kothari Commission in 1966. The focus on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is not enough. Aspirations for higher education have enhanced exponentially among Indian Youth. Government aided higher education and vocationalisation of education is the need of the hour. The Union Budget 2013-14, has failed in its duty towards the masses by leaving higher education to the private sector.

No fund for housing for women

In spite of repeated demands from the women’s movement for over 30 years, specific allocations for safe houses and shelters for women who face domestic violence, incest, and for homeless women has not been made. Girls and women facing incest are forced to stay in the same house as their molester for want of a safe shelter. Homeless women remain ever-vulnerable to violence on the streets.

To win over middle and upper class women, the budget has offered an incentive of raising the duty free baggage limit for jewellery for women passengers to Rs 100,000, subject to some conditions.

From 2004 to 2013, 56 ministries have set up Gender Budget cells. But to make their fiscal policy gender responsive has been an uphill task. Galloping inflation has affected the toiling poor women of India adversely whose real wages have declined sharply. Due to the withdrawal of the state from the social sector, women’s work burden in the unpaid care economy (cooking, cleaning, nursing, collecting fuel, fodder, water, etc) has increased many-fold. The subordinate status of women manifests in declining child sex ratio i.e. ‘missing girls phenomenon’, deteriorating reproductive and child health, feminization of poverty, increased violence against women, enhanced mortality and morbidity among girls and women and deplorable condition of elderly women.


1. Efficient utilization of funds
The Ministry of Women and Child Development suffers from under-utilization of funds therefore there is need of increasing public awareness of all women specific schemes by effective communication through community radio/ FM channels, electronic and print media in all regional languages. Leaflets on each scheme with a simple format explaining the procedure should be provided to be distributed at the Gram Sabha, the District councils and the Public Relations Department of State Governments. A Central Help Desk for women must be established at Shastri Bhavan, Delhi to look into redressals’ in cases of apathy by the state government.

2. State government participation
In Centrally Sponsored Schemes, where the Centre gives 50% or 60 % or 75 % share of the funds and the state government is expected to give 25 %, the ministry should pressurize the state government to contribute its share of fund, land, building etc. so that schemes can be implemented.

3. Reduce processing days
Political decentralization must be supported by financial decentralization. Once the fund is parked in the ministry, schemes and programmes must be immediately clocked so that fund flow is made available to the local self government bodies within a month. Processing of proposals by women’s groups, SHGs and elected women representatives must be done within 15 days of submission.

Checks and balances that need to be in place make gender budgeting more effective

a. Provide for people’s participation in both budget making and its utilization to make expenditure process transparent.
b. Women’s groups and citizen’s organizations should use Right to Information to deal with bureaucratic apathy/antipathy, bungling, corruption and leakages.
c. The Ministry must clearly spell out various components of funds, functions and functionaries in a particular scheme/programme.
d. The government must build capacity of elected women representative with regards to budget making, proposal writing and proposal defending, maintenance of accounts, and RTI.
e. Evaluation Studies need to be commissioned to highlight the gap between plan outlay and outcome, local and global implications of pro-poor and pro-women budgeting, alternative macro scenarios emerging out of alternative budgets and inter-linkages between gender-sensitive budgeting and women’s empowerment.
f. Government departments must be sensitized about the visibility of women in statistics and indicators by holding conceptually and technically sound training workshops by gender economists.

Prof. Vibhuti Patel is active in the women’s movement in India since 1972 and currently teaching at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

In Memoriam: Prof. Leela Dube (1923-2012)

Leela Dube

Renowned anthropologist and feminist scholar Leela Dube passed away at her residence in Delhi on 20 th May. She was 89. Fondly called Leeladee, Prof. Dube was one of the pioneers of feminist scholarship in India

By Vibhuti Patel

With the passing away of Professor Leela Dube, we have lost a stalwart who broadened the discipline of anthropology by introducing the insights of women’s studies and enriched women’s studies as a discipline by bringing in the technical expertise of an anthropologist.

A well known figure in Indian Sociological Society in the 70s, Leeladee was responsible for introducing women’s studies concerns in mainstream sociology. She played a crucial role in the 1984 World Sociological Congress in which women activists and women’s studies scholars played a dominant role through the Research Committee Women in Society (RC 32). Leeladee chaired a panel on “Declining Sex Ratio in India”, in which Dr. Ilina Sen gave a historical overview of deficit of women in India throughout history of Census of India. Prof. Vina Mazumdar passionately spoke on the finding of towards Equality Report and I spoke on “Sex Selective Abortions-An Abuse of Scientific Techniques of Amniocentesis”.

Leeladee summed up the session with her insightful comments on the tradition of son preference in India. Her greatness lay in synthesizing complex concerns and providing an analytical framework in a lucid and convincing way. In a debate on sex selective abortions carried out in EPW during 1982-1986, her contribution was immense and her predictions about direct relationship of deficit of women and increased violence against women has proved to be true in the subsequent years.

Due to team efforts of women’s studies scholars like Prof. Leela Dube, RC 32 got institutionalized in World Sociological Congress. She invited many activists for the 12th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Zagreb, erstwhile Yugoslavia, in 1988 to present paper on “Codification of Customary Laws into Family Laws in Asia”. In the Congress, Leedadee’s speech on feminist anthropologist Eleanor Leacock provided new insights into departure of the feminist anthropologists from its colonial legacy of “Big brother watching you”. The power relations between the North and the South in construction of knowledge and the hegemonic presence of ETIC approach in academics were questioned by Leacock as well as Leeladee who propagated “dialogical approach” in anthropological and ethnographic research.

I respected her from a distance. I was too awe-struck to go close to her but always appreciated her sharp, witty comments during academic sessions and tea and lunch breaks at innumerable seminars, workshops and at Indian Association of Women’s Studies Conferences held every two years. She was appreciative of our campaign against sex selection. During 1981 and 1991, I got to listen to her speeches, deliberations and arguments as I used to be one of the rapporteurs in most of the programmes in women’s studies held in Mumbai and Delhi.

leela dube, Indian feminism, feminist scholars

Clockwise: Vina Mazumdar, Hanna Papanek, Gail Omvedt, Neera Desai and Leela Dube in Segovia, Spain, July 1990. Photo Courtesy: Vibhuti Patel

Each time I heard her, I got more motivated to read her papers and later on her books. Her work on Lakshadweep island’s matrilineal Muslim community- Matriliny and Islam: Religion and society in the Laccadives (1969)- was an eye-opener so was her deconstruction of polyandry in Himalayan tribes in the context of women’s workload of collection of fuel, fodder, water, looking after livestock and kitchen gardening in mountainous terrain, resulting into high maternal mortality and adverse sex ratio. She showed interconnections between factors responsible for social construction of women’s sexuality, fertility and labour, rooted in the political economy.

Her highly celebrated book Anthropological Explorations in Gender: Intersecting Fields (2001) is a landmark contribution in feminist anthropology in India. It examines gender, kinship and culture by sourcing a variety of distinct and unconventional materials such as folk tales, folk songs, proverbs, legends, myths to construct ethnographic profile of feminist thoughts. She provides a nuanced understanding on socialization of girl child in a patriarchal family, “seed and soil” theory propagated by Hindu scriptures and epics symbolizing domination-subordination power relationship between men and women.

Her meticulously researched piece On the Construction of Gender: Hindu Girls in Patrilineal India in the Economic and Political Weekly (1988), was used by women’s groups for study circles and training programmes. The volume Women, Work, and Family (1990) in the series on Women and Households, Structures and Strategies, co-edited by Leela Dube and Rajni Palriwala was extremely useful in teaching women’s studies in Economics, Sociology, Geography, Social Work and Governance courses. Her book, Women and Kinship: Comparative Perspectives on Gender in South and South-East Asia (1997) argued that kinship systems provide an important context in which gender relations are located in personal and public arena.

The co-edited volume Visibility and Power: Essays on Women in Society and Development by Leela Dube, Eleanor Leacock and Shirley Ardener (OUP 1986) provided international perspective on the anthropology of women in the context of socio-political setting of India, Iran, Malaysia, Brazil, and Yugoslavia.

After Prof. Iravati Karve, Prof. Leela Dube was the only scholar who made a path-breaking contribution in anthropology with gender sensitivity in India. Leeladee made a mammoth contribution in bringing academic credibility to women’s studies through her scholarly endeavours.

Vibhuti Patel is active in the women’s movement in India since 1972 and currently teaching at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai.

Featured Photo by: Mukul Dube


Union Budget 2012-2013: A gender audit

women at factory

A gender audit of the current budget, to assess whether gender commitments have been converted into budgetary commitments by the Government of India, reveals more shortcomings than successes.

By Vibhuti Patel

The Government of India introduced gender budgeting in 2004 to ensure that it’s policies and programmes actually receive the finances to make these commitments effective.

In the Union Budget 2012-13, Ministry of Women and Child Development has been allotted Rs.18500 crore (2012-13 Budget Estimate), an increase of 15 percent at current prices as compared to previous year’s Revised Estimate of  Rs.16100crore (2011-12).

However, the total magnitude of the Gender Budget (outlays earmarked for women) had declined from 6.1 percent (2010-11 Budget Estimate) to 5.8 percent (2011-12 Revised Estimate). Though, there is a marginal increase of 0.1 percent in 2012-13 over the previous year.

The number of Union Government ministries/departments reporting in the Gender Budgeting Statement (a statement about budgetary allocations that has a bearing on women) has remained stagnant at 33 for the sixth consecutive year. Except for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, there is no new addition.

Inadequate finance

The Steering Committee on Women’s Agency and Empowerment for the 12th Plan had suggested several important interventions to address the gender based disadvantages experienced by girls and young and elderly women. For most of the existing schemes, the outlays are extremely low as compared to those proposed by this Committee. Despite 2012-13 being the first year of 12th Five Year Plan, allocations for schemes such as STEP, Hostels for Working Women and Priyadarshini, have registered only a marginal increase over the previous year.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development had launched the helpline for women, developed distance learning programme on women’s rights, and implemented Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, provided relief to and rehabilitation of rape victims. However the amount allocated for these schemes is grossly inadequate. There is also no financial allocation for Swayamsidha Phase II, for self-employed women and women entrepreneurs, which was considered by the 11th Plan as the main agency for women’s empowerment.

Most of the government flagship schemes continue to rely on underpaid labour of women. In the Budget 2012-13, while the role of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHAs) – the backbone of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has been enlarged, there is no mention by the Finance Minister to regularise their services. ASHAs will continue to get performance based remuneration on the targets they are able to fulfill.

The only saving grace in this budget is the effort by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), traditionally perceived as a male bastion. DST has launched several missions targeting women in order to promote women’s participation in scientific and technical fields,and to enhance women’s capabilities and choices. The new scheme of DST, ‘Disha’ in the Union budget 2012-13 is envisaged to facilitate the mobility of women scientists. There is an urgent need to replicate such efforts by other ministries based on practical and strategic gender needs of girls and women.

What Needs to be Done

For the past five years women’s groups have been demanding that the government review the format of the Gender Budgeting Statement but no progress has been made in this direction. Moreover the current budget has not addressed the long standing demands of women’s groups and gender economists with respect to budgetary allocation for;

Implementation of Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act. To halt the declining child sex ratio by judicious implementation of PCPNDT Act, 2002 so as to ensure stringent punishment to doctors and laboratory owners for abuse of sex determination and sex selection technologies

Implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Photos by Ramlath Kavil

Complete utilization of the 30% girls’ component within Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and special budgetary allocation for public education and increased publicity drive in print and audio visual media.

Special financial allocation must be made for the salary of crèche teacher and helper in schools. In all schools, one room should be converted into crèche so that poor girls, who have younger siblings to look after, can leave them in the crèche and attend the classes. This would enhance retention rate of girls in the school.

Enhanced budgetary allocation for the Public Distribution System (PDS) in order to strengthen the provision of good quality of food grains, oil and soap to ensure better nutritional standards. Funds for community based mental health intervention must be promoted.

Enhanced funds for protection and rehabilitation of child workers and children in difficult circumstances such as street children, trafficked children. NGOs and community groups should be encouraged to provide ward wise update on status and data base on child labour in Mumbai.

Social security and social protection for women in the informal sector, Small Scale Industries, FTZs, EPZs, SEZs Construction workers, rag pickers, scavengers, food-processing industries, sweat shops and garment industry. Budgetary allocation for implementation of Unorganized Sector Social Security and Social Protection Act, 2008 is imperative.

Vocational Training Institutions must be provided to impart women skills in non-conventional areas so that they can get employment as taxi/bus drivers, plumbers, fitters, turners, electricians, carpenters, cobblers, so on and so forth.

Ensure access to information, finance, training and marketing for women entrepreneurs, SHGs, vendors and self employed women.  Women entrepreneurs and traders must be given priority while allotting shops by public sector corporations and local government.

Budget for Crèche facilities, working women’s hostels and short stay homes must be enhanced many folds.

For making India  disabled friendly a detailed data base must be prepared on types of disability and number of people who are physically challenged.

Construct night shelters with toilets and baths for homeless women and girls with the help of centrally sponsored schemes as well as state financial allocation.

Community based half way homes, working women’s hostels and multi-purpose activity center to meet variety of needs of women and girls.  Half way homes and counselling centers must be created to address problems faced by elderly women and women who are physically challenged.

Support in the area of education, health; housing and skill development must be provided  to women headed households (FHHs)

Generate Gender Disaggregated Data to address strategic gender needs and practical gender needs of women in Mumbai.

Affirmative action to protect interests of women in difficult circumstances such as child prostitutes, homeless women, street girls, abducted girls, child brides, women suffering from HIV/AIDS, single women and elderly women.

Safe transport in terms of women special buses and local trains

Well maintained Public toilets for women.

Informal Sector

Considering women’s central role to the care economy, and the large numbers of women in unpaid work, policies need to focus on social services to support women’s care roles (old age, child care) and adequate resource allocations need to be made to support them.

Rural Sector

In the light of the present agrarian crisis and food insecurity the vulnerability of women farmers in particular needs attention. Women’s access to land needs to be strengthened immediately considering the huge gender disparities in land ownership patterns. This could be done by;

Women’s access to land needs to be strengthened

(a) Improving women’s claims to family land (b) Improving access to public land by ensuring that all land transfers for poverty alleviation, resettlement schemes, etc., recognize women’s claims (c) Improving women’s access to land via market through provision of subsidized credit to poor and by encouraging group formation for land purchase or lease by poor women.


Women’s rights organizations in India have demanded that the Government should ensure adequate gender budgeting in all ministries and departments, enact a comprehensive Food Security Bill, ensure universal PDS as a core component, allocate 6% of GDP for Health, allocate 6% of GDP for Education, make budgetary allocation to cover special schemes for women workers, increase allocation for women farmers, enhance resource allocation for tribal, dalit, and minority women and increase budgetary support for schemes to assist women-headed households and differently abled women.

In the absence of sex disaggregated data, evaluation of schemes through a gender lens or any effort at strengthening gender dimensions of existing schemes poses a big question. So, provision of such data should be prioritized.

The target of 30% gender allocations under all ministries has not yet been achieved. This must be implemented immediately. There is a crying need for a gender audit and gender outcome appraisal of all ministries and departments at the central and state levels. Very often, resource allocations made under gender budgeting do not reach in time and they remain unspent. There should be proper monitoring and supervision of the allocated funds with greater transparency and accountability at all levels.

Vibhuti Patel is active in the women’s movement in India since 1972 and currently teaching at SNDT women’s University, Mumbai.

NGOisation of the Women’s Movement: Survival vs autonomy

Indian women

NGO-isation has engulfed all of civil society organsing in India, including the women’s movement. While it has strengthened many groups’ institutional position and enabled a wider outreach, feminist solidarity and feminist ideology seem to have taken a back seat

By Vibhuti Patel

NGO-isation clearly represents the growing dominance of a certain organisational form that is different from the early consciousness-raising organisations and also different from the mass organising that women have been very good at. NGO-isation is not particular to women though. The impact of NGO-isation varies depending on the resources, level of operation and the organisational motives behind adopting the NGO model.

Historical Backdrop

When social movements of 1970s and 1980s started fragmenting and losing their mass base due to issue based narrow struggles, formation of special interest groups and cooption of articulate, urbane, English knowing, professionally qualified activists and leaders of peoples’ movement: peasant movement, workers’ movement, Dalit movement, youth movement, women’s movement and tribal movement into power structures, NGO-isation process began. Initially, they were called non-party political formations or voluntary organisations. In course of time they developed into legalised entities as registered societies, public trusts, non-profit or pro-profit trusts supported by local, corporate, state or foreign funding institutions.

There was an understanding that in the non- government organisations level of motivation was high, they were non-corrupt and were free from nepotism and red-tapism.  During 1980s and 1990s, the NGOs were applauded by UN bodies as rooted in ‘the local reality’, ‘full of idealism’ and ‘bottom up’ and ‘participatory’ in their approach. Many liberal and socialist thinkers also declared them as third force for social transformation, first two being Government bodies and political parties.

Beyond Guilt-Tripping

New awareness among the funding institutions about mis-utilisation of funding by government agencies was as a result of intense debate on corruption, leakage and misappropriation of funding in the Asian, Latin American and African countries during 1950-1980. In the early 1990s, there was a fear that the global funding might get diverted to East European countries that was culturally closer to the western world and had faced massive economic and political crisis due to collapse of Soviet Union.

This debate in the development studies circle brought massive changes in the functioning of the social movements in the post colonial countries which were subsidised by the outside funding. Initially, activists and experts from the minority communities and women were forced to accept foreign funding as they were marginalised in their own countries. Rest of the social movements derived benefits of these funding without publicly acknowledging the source.

Structural Adjustment Programme and stabilisation policies resulted into massive reduction in the state funding. Even the mainstream institutions and organisations started turning to foreign funding. New dialogue with the funders based on mutual respect has helped to get rid of the anxiety that the developing world would be left out by the aid agencies.  Induction of highly qualified professionals from developing countries as consultants to screen the proposals for funding is supposed to have reduced wastage and vested interest.

NGO-isation impacts on smaller women’s organisations operating at the local level in terms of an expansion of structure, loss of autonomy, erosion of agenda setting power and a prioritisation of accountability towards donors. However, some national-level women’s organisations have been able to manage the process through strategically mobilising resources and prioritising own agendas, thus retaining their feminist character.

Indian women's movement

Destroy dowry not daughters. A protest in 1986, Photo courtesy: Vibhuti Patel

At a wider level, the NGO-isation process has led to a blurring of the boundaries between the gender and development agenda and feminist discourses. This blurring of boundaries created opportunities for raising women’s rights issues at different levels, but led perhaps to a generational shift in how younger women engage with gender equity issues.

NGO-isation has impacted structure, agenda, autonomy, agency and accountability of different types of women’s/feminist organisations. Adoption of service-delivery models promoted by the NGOs and concerns over losing the feminist political agenda has taken away steam from the women’s liberation movement. Influence of management institutions have changed vocabulary of women’s NGOs who talk in terms of SWOT, OD, skill Development, value for money, value addition, USP, beneficiary and benefactor.

Feminist solidarity and feminist ideology have taken a back seat as in a neoliberal backdrop each one is competing for patronage, travel grant and institutional funding and perpetually insecure about poaching of talented staff and diversion of funding. ‘Contact is capital’, ‘Network for Power’ and ‘Concentration and Centralisation of Resources’ have been the mantra of NGO-isation. In this culture; spontaneity, trust, solidarity, collective efforts have been replaced by calculated moves, secrecy, individualism and atomized existence among women’s groups.

The only positive fall out of NGO-isation process is that, the feminist organisations have been able to strengthen their institutional positions (recognition by the mainstream bodies, consultancy, training centres, building, staff, and financial security) and create a wider reach through the links they have developed through collaboration on NGO projects. Moreover, women’s organizations were forced to rethink their mobilisation strategies and discourses, as a larger number of educationally qualified younger women and men engage with the gender and development projects implemented by NGOs.

Vibhuti Patel is active in the women’s movement in India since 1972 and currently teaching at SNDT women’s University, Mumbai.