The Department engages in research on the interplay between vulnerabilities, development and human rights that feed into knowledge enhancement, direct action and policy building. Research initiatives address diverse levels of human problems, guided by need, capacity, and rights-based approaches.

Research Projects

Waste Management Systems of Five Different Town Panchayats of Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu

PI: Dr. K. R. Priya
Duration of the Project: 20 days

District Need Assessment of Child Protection, Coimbatore

  • Situation Analysis and Mapping of District.
  • Preparation of Resource Directory.
  • Preparation of Annual Action Plan at District and Block Level.

PI: Dr. Pravin P. Patkar and Dr. P. Rangasami

 District Need Assessment of Child Protection, Karur

  • Situation Analysis and Mapping of District.
  • Preparation of Resource Directory.
  • Preparation of Annual Action Plan at District and Block Level.

PI: Dr. Pravin P. Patkar and Dr. P. Rangasami

Areas of Research

The Department engages in research on the interplay between vulnerabilities, development and human rights that feed into knowledge enhancement, direct action and policy building.Research initiatives address diverse levels of human problems, guided by need, capacity, and rights-based approaches.

Some of the broader research areas that the Department concentrates on are as follows:

  • Child Protection and Child Rights
  • Children in Poverty
  • Civil Society Initiatives in Good Governance
  • Disaster Response and Recovery
  • Environmental Change and Sustainable Livelihoods
  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems
  • Mental Health Settings and Practices
  • Public Health Issues and Challenges
  • Tribal Culture and Development
  • Urbanisation and Migration
  • Vulnerability and Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Women Empowerment and Development

 

Child Protection and Child Rights

India has the highest number of children in the world. Approximately 40% of the nation’s population are children. The country has a very high rate of neo-natal deaths (around 35%) in the world. It also accounts for around 40% of child malnutrition in the developing world. The drop out rate among the poor and weaker sections averages to around 42 per cent. The number of child labourers and sexually abused children are reported to be very high.

The vulnerable categories of children include orphans, abandoned and destitute children, missing or run-away children, street children, children of sex workers, abused, tortured and exploited children, children indulging in substance abuse, children affected by HIV/AIDS, children affected by natural calamities, emergencies and man made disasters, children with disabilities, and children suffering from terminal/incurable diseases.

There are numerous issues that the professional working in the field of child protection faces. It has been noted that the country faces a humongous task in eliminating child labour. Similarly there is a rising need to protect children from being trafficked for commercial and sexual exploitation. At the same time, the scenario points out at protecting the rights of HIV/ AIDS infected and disabled children.

However existing approaches towards child protection and child rights are affected considerably due to lack of qualitative and quantitative data, especially related to children in need of care and protection, children in conflict with law and on the Institutional Care System.

The objectives of the DSWA are to conduct research that addresses gaps in our knowledge about child abuse and disseminate the findings to influence policy, practice and social change. It also aims at contributing to effective, evidence-based approaches in safeguarding children and young people.Critically, our research focuses at examining the effectiveness of current child protection work in the Indian context. It also captures the evidence-based, good practices in child protection in India.

Right to Education of Disabled Children

The objective of the study is to identify the key factors contributing to the exclusion of disabled children from the mainstream educational system in South India. It also aims at capturing the missing links between the needs and the provision of resources.

Children in Poverty

Children are one among the vulnerable sections of people living in poverty. The condition of being poor denies children their rights, weakening their protective environment. Organisations working with children, such as the UNICEF, points out that the abuse and exploitation of children are also linked to widespread and deeply entrenched poverty. Children in poverty are characterised by ill health, malnutrition, and impaired physical and mental development.

The objective of the DSWA is to develop a rich understanding and knowledge on child poverty and its implication on the well-being of children and society. Emphasising on an evidence-based approach, the DSWA aims at disseminating policy briefs, stimulating advocacy on child poverty issues. In this process, it also envisages the development of appropriate research methodologies, methods, analytical tools and concepts in studying child poverty.

Poverty and Children

The objective of the study is to identify the implications of poverty on children. Taking the case of underprivileged children, this study also attempts to analyse the career development needs of rural children.

Environmental Change and Sustainable Livelihoods

With concern for environmental issues such as climate change growing, it has become essential to define and understand the relationship between sustainable livelihoods and human adaptation to the environment. Natural calamities like landslides and floods indicate the vital linkages between environmental change and disasters.

Changing resource use patterns and practices are eroding the natural buffers that protect communities from hazards and expose them increasingly to disaster risks. Other environmental challenges such as deforestation, mining, desertification, shift from indigenous farming methods to large-scale cash economy oriented ones, reclamation of wetlands and coastal water bodies, over-exploitation of ground water, pollution etc. have serious and often irreversible impacts on the ecosystem and humanity in general. These environmental changes affect the vulnerable sections of the society and also limit their capacity to recover from disasters.

The objectives of the researchers at DSWA are to explore and examine the different facets of environmental degradation and their impact on sustainable livelihoods. Doing so, the DSWA envisages the dissemination of appropriate policy measures to reduce environmental vulnerability. Giving thrust to the dynamics and complexities involved in environmental management, the DSWA also focuses on the sustainability of managing the commons.

Adaptation of Coastal Communities to Climate Change

The objective of the study is to identify the coping and adaptation strategies of coastal communities to climate change in Kerala. The theoretical assumption is that climate change acts upon different dimensions of vulnerability such as food security, health, livelihoods, etc. In response to the progression of vulnerabilities, communities will adapt locally appropriate strategies suiting their sustenance.

Local Knowledge Systems and Climate Change Adaptation

This study aims at identifying the relationship between local knowledge systems in monsoon prediction and climate change. By documenting the variations in local knowledge in association with climate change indicators, this study attempts to develop a societal knowledge management system. The study is carried out in the Indian and Australian context.

Sustainable Management of the Commons

The focus of this series of research is to capture the institutional arrangements involved in the management of common pool resources such as fisheries, forestry, water etc. In this process, it aims at analyzing the dynamics and complexities of resource management in the region.

 

Vulnerability and Disaster Risk Reduction

Hazards become disasters when people’s life and livelihoods are affected. The DSWA strongly believes that there is a need for a paradigm shift from quantification and analysis of the hazard to the identification and assessment of vulnerabilities.

Recent studies across the globe have demonstrated the need for effective risk reduction and promoting a culture of disaster resilience. Instead of defining disasters primarily as physical occurrences, it needs to be viewed as a complex and dynamic interaction between a potentially damaging physical event and the vulnerability of the affected population.

Gathering motivation from the Hyogo Framework for Action, the DSWA believes that it is very essential to develop the skills and know how in studying the physical, social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities to disasters.

Analysing Coastal Vulnerability to Environmental Change and Sustainable Livelihoods

It requires an in-depth systematic vulnerability assessment to understand the concerns regarding potential climatic and other environmental change effects on localized, coastal systems. Such an assessment would also help to define/redefine suitable adaptation strategies and improvise coastal zone management practices.

Research to evaluate coastal vulnerability to climate change is still scaled at a global level. However, there is an urgent need to study vulnerability of population dependent on coastal resources at regional level, local specific scales.

A community-based approach yields relevant insights on local responses to climatic and environmental change. At the community level, it is expected that perceptions and experiences with climate extremes can identify inherent characteristics that enable or constrain a particular community to respond, recover or adapt.

Analysis of Population Vulnerability among the Landslide-affected Communities

Taking the case of landslide affected communities in the state of Kerala in India; this study demonstrates that vulnerability reduction has to be the main priority of any disaster risk reduction programme. It also proves that the interactions between ecological and social systems are usually complex and non-linear in nature. In contrast, interventions to tackle landslide risks have followed a linear fashion, assuming that one hazard event acts independently of another.

Social Interfaces in Community-based Early Warning Systems

Early warning systems are an integrated aspect of any disaster risk reduction program. However, emphasis has been towards formal early warning systems that are highly scientific and rigid to local contexts. The assumption is that in reality, it is a mix of both informal and formal mechanisms of early warning. This study aims at capturing these social interfaces that emerge and exist in the context of early warning systems among the coastal fisher folk.

Disaster Response and Recovery

It is very essential to enable policy makers and practitioners to understand and think critically about response and recovery operations in the field of disaster management.

Research has to examine the nature of emergencies and disasters, and assess alternative viewpoints about how practitioners should deal with them.

Disaster response is an important component in disaster management and in the recent years has emerged as an important field of study. With the increasing incidence and intensity of disaster events there is a constant demand for new knowledge and strategies guiding disaster response.

However, critical gaps in research are observed in disaster planning, contingency planning, disaster assessment and vulnerability assessment.

Social Interfaces in Tsunami Rehabilitation

The study has been initiated to examine the institutional arrangements in disaster management aftermath the tsunami in the Indian sub-continent. Contrary to the prominent approaches of seeing disasters as natural events and thereby proposing technical/engineered solutions for mitigation and recovery, this study highlights the need to revisit vulnerability, risk and disasters from a cultural and people-centered perspective.

Drawing insights from the social constructionist approaches, this study analyses the social interfaces in disaster situations, especially in terms of disaster response and long term recovery. Social interfaces could be understood as critical points of intersection between different social fields, domains or life worlds, where social discontinuities based upon differences in values, social interest and power are found. Interfaces typically occur at points where different, and often conflicting, life worlds or social fields intersect.

Children in Disaster Situations

This study attempts to re-examine the status of children affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami from a social psychological perspective. It attempts to analyse the longstanding impact of loss and pain among the children affected by the tsunami.

Civil Society Initiatives in Good Governance

Governance refers generally to the set of instruments through which people living in a state, believing in common core values, govern themselves by the means of laws, rules and regulations enforced by the state apparatus.

It denotes a system of values, polices, institution by which society manages its economic, political and social affairs through interaction among the state, civil society and the private sector.

Effective governance includes the creation of multi-disciplinary and inter-sectoral partnerships including the expansion of community networks.

However, today interventions in the name of development are often criticized to be politically and economically motivated, without paying attention to the local needs and culture.

Decentralization and people-centered decision making are key approaches to good governance. It also ensures a rights-based, transparent and accountable delivery of services, especially during times of crisis such as the spread of epidemics or towards ensuring food security. However, community capacities to manage institutions of local governance are still in their nascent stage.

The DSWA through its research projects attempts to strengthen the understanding of good governance as well as the institutional processes involved in them. To begin with, the DSWA focuses on the civil society initiatives in good governance.

Decentralization and Public Health Care in Kerala

Kerala's Health care system was once considered as a model of development. However, there has been a remarkable transition in governance following the decentralization programme in the 1990s.The objective of this study to critically analyse the effects of decentralization on the public health care system in Kerala.

Public Health Issues and Challenges

The DSWA has an important vision of advancing research in areas of importance to public health. These efforts tend to be multidisciplinary in their approach. The DSWA aims at addressing the root causes of today’s public health problems through systematic research in socio-economic, behavioural, and institutional domains of diseases.

Empirically oriented, evidence based knowledge regarding various illnesses and diseases are necessary. It also provides students the opportunity to learn how to conduct quality health research and to participate in effective community service initiatives.

Population Vulnerability to Emerging Epidemics

Vulnerability of the population to emerging infectious diseases has become a challenging concern to the globalising world.

The study examines the trajectories of vulnerability among the local population to emerging infectious diseases by analysing the outbreak of chikungunya fever in the state of Kerala, India.

The progression of vulnerability to emerging epidemics are analysed by using the Pressure and Release (PAR) model of vulnerability, which is largely derived from a political economy perspective.

The study demonstrates that various social, political, ecological and economic factors play a key role in increasing the vulnerability of people to new kinds of diseases. It advocates that any attempts towards the prevention and mitigation of public health risks should primarily aim at vulnerability reduction.

The study also suggests that the prevention of emerging diseases should incorporate an integrated intervention-framework involving local communities, public health experts and the government.

Mental Health Settings and Practices

A critical review of health/mental health policies, diagnosis and treatment services needs to be made. Placing emphasis on disadvantaged and at-risk population in the health/mental health care system, the DSWA aims at strengthening the institutional arrangements and practices involved in the diagnosis of mental health disorders, classification including practice and policy issues.

Emerging concerns in the field of working with ADHD children and families.

In India, there is an alarming rise in the detection of ADHD children. However, the sensitivity of their parents and the associated institutional settings are still at a very nascent stage.

There is an increasing need to raise the awareness and know how of managing ADHD both at the policy and community level. This study is an attempt to identify the missing links in effective management of ADHD.

School Mental Health

This study aims at studying the interventions in enhancing the mental health of students with emotional and behavioral problems in Kerala.

Mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) disorders - which include depression, conduct disorder and substance abuse - affect large numbers of young people. Studies indicate that MEB disorders are a major health threat and are as commonplace today among young people as a fractured limb - not inevitable but not at all unusual. Almost one in five young people have one or more MEB disorders at any given time.

These disorders have life-long effects that in¬clude high psychosocial and economic costs, not only for the young people, but also for their families, schools, and communities.