Impact India 2021: Executive Summary
Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen famously wrote in 1990 that millions of women were missing from the world’s population-23 million of them in India alone-due to a host of issues related to the devaluing of females and girl children. Twenty years later, there are nearly twice that many women missing in India. In fact, the 2011 Indian National Census revealed an alarming sex ratio imbalance between girls and boys-approximately 914 girls to every 1,000 boys in the general population, and in metropolitan locations this ratio is even lower-840 girls to every 1000 boys. This severe sex ratio imbalance is impeding economic growth and has already led to horrific social tensions and has manifested itself in recent atrocious instances of violence against women.
Impact India 2021: Elevating the Value of Women and Girls in Society is an innovative and ambitious research project that analyzes familial attitudes that cause the sex ratio imbalance, and result in lower education, literacy and vocational training rates for India's women. Our research project, spearheaded by the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University, draws upon a network of researchers from 8 major Indian universities and has confirmed partnerships with 14 community organizations from groups across the nation, including two bodies from the New Delhi branch of United Nations: UN Women and UNFPA.
Impact India 2021 will build upon its successful 2012 Pilot Study, and scale-up the survey to 27, 000 families from targeted socio-economic levels to measure male-child preference, which is one of the root causes of the sex ratio imbalance crisis. We will identify critical social factors and a family’s knowledge gaps and demonstrate that concrete measures to elevate the value of Indian women must begin by educating girls, and creating a sustainable employment pipeline. The title, Impact India 2021, signals the goal of generating evidence-based research on adverse familial attitudes to having girls, and sheds light upon educational opportunities for girls and access to employment for women. The outcome of this research is expected to become discernible in the 2021 Indian National Census.
Impact India 2021 will help build capacity for global corporations amongst one of the largest workforces in the world in two high priority sectors—technology and life sciences. It will also have a sustainable footprint because it will build attitudinal capacity amongst the younger generations to accept the worth of each person. The project will establish each individual’s value within the family regardless of one’s biological sex and provide communities with evidence to help create more efficient, targeted, and effective societal changes.
The Center for Faith & Public Life at Fairfield University is optimally positioned to lead Impact India 2021. Founded in 2005 by Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., the Center has become internationally recognized as a forum committed to social equality and to advance the common good. It is a resource for scholars engaged in multidisciplinary research in many areas of the University. The Center actively supports community-based teaching and research that combines meaningful community service, critical reflection and civic education to enhance academic learning.
Dr. Gita Rajan is the Project Director for Impact India 2021. Rajan is aprofessor of English at Fairfield University, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Faith & Public Life, and an expert scholar in South Asian issues of gender and culture. She has a distinguished career as published academic and educator, with a special passion and focus on sustainable equity for women. Her philosophy in engaging in development and gender projects is to create solidarity and access lasting connections between and amongst local-global constituencies.
Successful Pilot Study
Fairfield University, St. Xavier's University in Mumbai and Loyola College in Chennai partnered to conduct a ten-month pilot study in 2011 that demonstrated why male child preference is based upon antiquated attitudes and misperceptions of the economic and social value of girls and women in Indian society. The pilot study examined family dynamics around the issue of male child preference by reframing the question away from women's health to include men and women as stakeholders for their own well-being within the family unit. This innovative approach provided evidence-based data on attitudes embedded in family interactions, and revealed pressure points within families around practices of male child preference.
The Pilot Study research concluded that male child preference is based upon complex attitudes about gender roles in urban, nuclear family settings, combined with antiquated notions of a family’s status embedded in sons. Families noted that boys must be better educated because they are better wage earners, and they make better political leaders and business executives. All surveyed families remain largely unaware of opportunities for educating girls and access to employment for qualified women.
Implementation of Phase II
The results of the Pilot Study have generated tremendous interest in scaling up research to a three-year period in India, with a planned expanded research network to include 8 academic institutions and 14 community partners from across the nation. The goal of this wide-ranging research is to map opportunities for educating girls and provide practical empowerment strategies for women by developing access to jobs. This social change can be sustained only if there is an attitudinal change at the family level, support at the community level, and policy recommendations enacted at the public sphere level—all these measures will be based upon evidence-based data, which will lead to greater “value” of women and girls in Indian society.
The implementation of Phase II research will span over a three year period from 2013– 2016. Our major goals for this Phase are:
- Mine data collected from 3,000 families in each of the 8 academic partner locations in cities mentioned above, surveying a total of 24,000 families.
- Authenticate familial attitudes about girls and women with our evidence-based data; map knowledge of educational opportunities available to girls, job opportunities, and career development for women in two priority sectors: technology and life sciences.
- Statistically demonstrate to 24,000 participant families and to communities that the “value” of girls and women is a concrete reality that opens doors to raising a family’s income, and thus raise the Indian GDP. Government statistics indicate this is a fully realizable goal.
- Model communication avenues to countermand regional misconceptions that families throughout India have regarding skilling-up and employment prospects for women. This information is critical to generating workforce development initiatives as well as enlisting and uniting widespread support of academia, popular culture, community organizations, and the Indian government, all committed to real change.
Impact India 2021 therefore will address challenges to women's well-being by investigating and documenting new ways to deal with critical issues within a family’s decision-making regime. Our collaborative, strategic focus of enhancing the value of girls and women in Phase II will blend with existing efforts within India, and be attentive to gender imbalances in a substantive manner, which requires multidisciplinary knowledge-life sciences, business, education, humanities, social sciences, technology and engineering. Gender dynamics are systemically the fulcrum of power relations within families and communities, and thus, our research will unearth overt and covert biases. What anchors this innovative research project is the place that gender attitudes have at the heart of family dynamics and at the intersections of various analytical and intellectual models.
Impact India 2021 research premise is grounded on a firm belief in the human dignity of each person, with the knowledge that women and men as partners have a stake in securing a healthy and prosperous future for their own families, and by extension, in forging safe communities.