In rural India, men play an especially important and often overlooked role in the process of women’s empowerment—either as supporters or obstacles—an impact study from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has found. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s research team concludes that engaging with men, which has never been done on a large scale, needs to be considered as a key programming element in future projects.
Srividya Sheshadri and Christopher Coley are Amrita Ph. D. students with the Center for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality (CWEGE) at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. Along with professors Dr. Sriram Devanathan and Dr. Bhavani Rao, they published an article called “Contextualizing women’s empowerment frameworks with an emphasis on social support: a study in rural South India” in the journal Community, Work & Family.
The data clearly showed that more than economic or political resources, improving the social and cultural support for women is the most important aspect of their empowerment. Global experts are also starting to realize this. To account for it, the researchers developed a more accurate empowerment model to account for the role of social pressures within family and male support.
“The learnings and outcomes of this project are a testament to what can take place when research is driven by an underlying motivation to identify and address society’s needs from the perspective of the community,” explains Sheshadri.
“I feel extremely fortunate to be associated with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, an institution that champions compassion-driven research as a core value, ensuring that we hold ourselves accountable to the communities and social phenomena that we set out to study.”
Following the successful completion in 2014 of a women’s empowerment project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), researchers from AMMACHI Labs and CWEGE conducted an extended impact assessment. One of the outcomes of this was the need to redefine the way women’s empowerment is understood, especially for the Indian context.
“Taking part in this service project and the subsequent research has been a life-changing experience for me. One of the unique aspects of research at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is that it always must have some benefit for society, and I think this work is in line with that mission,” shares Coley.
“We now better understand the social conditions and can develop more effective programs in the future. I am proud to be a part of such efforts.”
Dr. Bhavani Rao is the UNESCO Chair in Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. Dr. Sriram Devanathan is a professor and Principal at the Amrita School of Engineering, Bengaluru Campus.