Women’s Studies in Higher Education in India: Some Reflections

Abstract: Women, for centuries have been excluded from the process of knowledge generation Their contributions to art, literature and science are, by and large, unrecognized, resulting in partial, even inaccurate, portrayal of their lives and concerns. Women’s studies emerged out of this felt need to reformulate the prevailing models of knowledge construction. This paper seeks to chronicle the birth and progression of Women’s Studies in India during the last quarter of a century, capture the challenges and the innovations introduced by the ‘women’s studies beings’ and project issues and visions for the future. While emphasizing that Women’s Studies cannot be limited within boundaries, the article says that higher education is to be made socially relevant by bringing it closer to burning social issues.
 Keywords: women’s education, women’s studies, women’s education movement, higher education, new education paradigm need, gender inequality, mainstream women’s studies, curriculum development, subordination, marginalisation, empowerment through knowledge, women’s empowerment

Women, for centuries have been excluded from the process of knowledge generation; their contributions to art, literature and science are, by and large, unrecognized, resulting in partial, even inaccurate, portrayal of their lives and concerns. Attention, for more than a quarter of a century now, has increasingly focused on bridging the existing knowledge gap, as well as critiquing the current social scenario and transforming it. Women’s studies emerged out of this felt need to reformulate the prevailing models of knowledge construction.

It is not easy to capsule in one brief essay the birth and growth of women’s studies in India, with its diversity and cultural plurality. The present paper seeks to chronicle the birth and progression of women’s studies during the last quarter of a century, capture the challenges and the innovations introduced by the ‘women’s studies beings’ and project issues and visions for the future.

The Genesis: Women’s Studies takes birth

At the international level, the Declaration of the International Year and later Decade for Women and the four world conferences in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing(1995), all of which emphasised the need to carry on research in all aspects of women’s lives, brought into sharp relief the necessity of acquiring systematic information on subordination and inequalities faced by women and to conduct specialized study of various aspects of women’s lives. This emphasis on systematically looking into and critiquing the roots of oppression and structural inequalities as well as clarification of issues like relationship between knowledge and action, academic activity and concern for the empowerment of women proved to be necessary and contingent factors in the birth and growth of women’s studies.

Meanwhile, at the national level the acceptance of the notion of gender equality in the Constitution of India led to the presupposition of automatic elimination of biases and prejudices against women and promotion of their rights and liberties. It was only in 1974 that the Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI), “Towards Equality”, which in the words of Vina Mazumdar was ‘an eye-opener to the stark inequalities between men and women’, revealed the fallacy of these assumptions. The Report laid bare the fact that women continued to remain in feudal chains; voiceless silent bearers of inequalities, inequities, violence and socio-cultural prejudices which kept them powerless and ‘expendable’ in a highly patriarchal society. This was the catalyst which set the ball rolling for the foundation of women’s studies in India. It gave a fillip to research on the status and condition of women, their particular concerns and issues as well as the causes of their subordination and marginalisation, be it in the family, the society at large or within decision-making.

This is not to say that there was no research on women being conducted prior to this. Many scholars were engaged in studying issues relating to women, thereby gradually lifting the veil from the marginalised status of women. However, the focus and thrust differed and, by and large, the women’s studies perspective was missing. However, these were to evolve into a separate field of study only with institutional acceptance.

The agenda of Women’s Studies in India was defined, in the first instance, by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR); it had three distinct objectives: (1) to identify and work for needed policy changes; (2) to persuade the social science community to re-examine the methodology, concepts, theories, and analytical apparatus of social research, which had successfully excluded women’s role, status and situation from the entire arena of social investigations; and (3) to revive the social debate on the women’s question, which had emerged as a major issue during the freedom struggle but had faded in the post-Independence period.1 SNDT Women’s University, pioneer of the use of the term ‘women’s studies’ in India, had already taken the first crucial step of establishing a Research Centre for Women’s Studies in 1974.

The decade of the 80’s witnessed some critical developments in the women’s studies front. The First National Conference on Women’s Studies, with the identified objective of generating consciousness on women’s issues was convened in Mumbai in 1981. This was followed by the establishment of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) in 1982. A UNESCO Meeting of Experts on Women’s Studies and Social Sciences in Asia was held in New Delhi in October 1982. The focus was on multifarious issues relating to women’s studies including definition, objectives, curriculum development, trends in research, etc.

Following this the National Policy of Education (NPE,1986, updated in 1992) also emphasized upon women’s studies as a “critical instrument of social and educational development”. The Policy, stressing upon education of women, laid down that, “education will be used as an agent of basic change in the status of women. The National Education System will play a positive interventionist role in the empowerment of women… Women’s studies will be promoted as a part of various courses and educational institutions encouraged to take up active programmes to further women’s development.”

Recognising women’s studies as a “critical instrument for social and academic development” the University Grants Commission (UGC), too, embarked upon a process of strengthening it in India, at a time when the UGC had its first woman Chairperson, Dr. Madhuriben Shah. Apart from supporting financial assistance to individual research activities, it set up Women’s Studies Centres/Cells in various Universities and Colleges in India. Its guidelines for the promotion of Women’s Studies, clearly reflecting the objectives of the Women’s studies movement, envisaged women’s studies as “playing an interventionist role by initiating the gender perspective in many domains in the generation of knowledge; in the field of policy domain and practice”.2 Women’s lives and concerns became central issues of academic research, debate and theorizing.

A broad spectrum of organizations in the country are now engaged in Women’s studies. These include women’s studies centres funded by the UGC, Centres supported by the ICSSR, non-governmental organizations as well as individual researchers. The first Research Unit for Women’s Studies, as mentioned earlier, was set up in SNDT University, Mumbai (the first Women’s University in India) way back in 1974, which blazed the trail for others to follow in, what was previously, uncharted territory. The ICSSR started a Centre for Women’s Development Studies in 1980 in Delhi. Women’s Studies Centres were also set up by the UGC in various Universities of India in the mid-eighties; initially four, the number has now grown to thirty-two3 . There also arose a number of autonomous Women’s Studies Centres such as Aalochana, Anveshi, Vimochana, Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) and others.

Women’s Studies in Higher Education : Substance and Strengths

Before delving into the specific concerns and directions of women’s studies in India, it may not be out of place to probe briefly into what women’s studies is all about.

Women’s studies provides an alternative world-view rooted in gender equality; it critically examines and challenges the social processes through which patriarchy constructs and reinforces itself. It has been defined as “ the pursuit of a more comprehensive, critical and balanced understanding of social reality. Its essential components include (i) women’s contribution to the social process; (ii) women’s perception of their own lives; (iii) roots and structures of inequality that lead to marginalisation, invisibility and exclusion of women from the scope, approaches and conceptual frameworks of most intellectual enquiry and social action. Women’s studies should, thus, not be narrowly defined as studies about women or information about women, but viewed as a critical instrument for social and economic development.”4

This comprised the Indian vision of women’s studies, which was clearly articulated in the first guidelines (1986) for women’s studies enunciated by the UGC and formed the essential components of women’s studies in India. It was believed that women’s studies would help “to conscientise both men and women by helping them to understand, recognise and acknowledge the multidimensional roles played by women in society” and promote a better understanding of women’s contribution to societal processes, their struggles and aspirations. The aim would be to investigate and remove structural, cultural and attitudinal causes of gender discrimination and to play an interventionist role through a trinity of knowledge, action and commitment for empowerment of women to achieve effective participation in all areas of national or international development. Not only would women’s studies help in providing ‘visibility’ to hitherto ‘invisible’ women, but also help in developing alternative ‘concepts, approaches and strategies for development.’

Women’s studies emerged as a result of the feminist movement which demonstrated that the study of women is more than a compensatory project. Consequently, it has the potential, fundamentally to reshape the way we view the world. It seeks not just to interpret women’s experiences but also to change women’s condition for it represents a transformation of consciousness, social forms and mode of action. It interrogates the entire system of socio-economic-political and cultural subordination of women as well as influences, reshapes and recasts dominant ideologies.

It must be emphasized that the evolution of Women’s studies in India is co-terminus with the spread of the women’s movement. A symbiotic and mutually complementary relationship exists between women’s studies and the women’s movement; they at once interact with and influence each other. Women’s studies contributed to the resurgence of the women’s movement in the post 1977 period, and women’s movement ‘brought new dynamism and directions to women’s studies”, as VinaMazumdar very succinctly puts it. Women’s studies in India did not limit itself to the development of theory alone, but being rooted in social reality, extended to providing, what noted sociologist, M.N.Srinivas describes as a “thrust from below”, and a challenge to the glass ceiling.

Search for a New Paradigm: Making Women Visible

       Within higher education women’s studies has encouraged analytic responses to feminist issues and opened new vistas of research, criticism and speculation. As a comparatively new emerging field, women’s studies continues to develop its defining questions and extend the frontiers of knowledge. ‘Malestream’ concepts, tools and techniques justify gender inequalities and inequities. Women’s studies not only seeks to interrogate these, but present alternative formulations which reveal the marginalisation, invisibility and subordination of women. It, at the same time, provides critical inputs to policy making for women’s empowerment and development, engendering policy, whether at the national or international level.

A shift in focus is visible. The realization has dawned that studies should focus on both men and women to comprehend gender-based discrimination, for a unitary focus on women alone does not suffice as gender gets mixed with other variables such as caste, class and religion. Women’s studies has introduced new concerns into intellectual inquiry such as social construction of gender, its intersectionality with caste, class and religion as well as interrogated the notion of a ‘universal sisterhood’ and directed attention to the ‘differences’ which exist between women, leading to cognizance of the necessity for a ‘differential’ analysis.

Activism and Academics

Women’s studies in India continues to be simultaneously an academic discipline and pursuant of social activism. There are few, if any, boundaries between the academic institutional status and the social grassroots activism of women’s studies in India. Its particularistic character is easily distinguishable from that of western universities that often restrict women’s studies to classrooms. Granted that Women’s studies was a consequence of social activism of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in the American Universities where, since then, it has restricted itself to the academy. The ideological commitment of the women’s movement continues to underpin most research and writing in women’s studies. The concerns of women’s studies cannot be limited within boundaries, whether academic or geographic, for its ultimate aim is to eliminate the very conditions of oppression everywhere.

Women’s studies is not divorced from the society or culture at large; its existence and being is not exclusively situated in the ivory tower of Universities alone. Wedded to the task of provoking social change, it extends beyond the four walls of the University through outreach and extension programmes. These are geared towards empowering women- be they the grassroot women leaders, who have recently entered the Panchayati Raj Institutions or urban local bodies or the educated women of the middle class on the one hand and sensitising various levels of functionaries to women’s issues and concerns, on the other.

Nor is women’s studies separated from other contemporary movements. The notion of sustainable development is inherent in the philosophy underlying women’s studies. Its basic thrust has been to, conscientise the institutions, and establishments at large about the unfortunate marginalisation of women in all spheres, and then bring women’s studies into the mainstream. The idea is to make higher education socially relevant by bringing it closer to burning social issues. Confronted with the harsh reality of women’s lives, their vulnerability and oppression, the women’s studies scholars found that it is neither possible nor plausible to define a narrow agenda for themselves. Academics could no longer live in seclusion, alienated from burning social issues and maladies afflicting the nation at large.

Keeping this in mind, the women’s studies beings have demonstrated the intersectionality of the academy with social activism and continue to combine the two in judicious measure. Activism is essential as a strategy for promoting reform and establishing the credibility of women’s studies. Most of the women’s studies scholars are involved in the women’s movement and have taken a strong stance on issues relating to women, be it empowerment, reservation, fundamentalism, violence against women, women’s human rights, health and reproductive rights, globalisation, livelihoods, or feminisation of poverty.

Both the academy and the activist organizations have benefited from each other’s presence in their bailiwicks. Perhaps the most notable benefit has been that intersectionality of such a magnitude is a unique experience as in most parts of the world the dichotomy between the two is rather severe and possibly detrimental to the cause of feminism. There has been a profound sociological impact in that several social normatives are challenged and solutions offered to change the inequities in society. Women’s studies units, be they the Women’s Studies Centres or individual scholars, have been the focal points from wherein has radiated the desire and action for change. In some cases the change has been immense; in others, merely pointing out the areas needing change has been a necessary prerequisite to changing the conditions. And in yet other cases, change has been more intangible.

Mainstreaming Women’s Studies and Curriculum Development

One of the changes inspired by women’s studies is visible in its challenge to the gendered nature of the mainstream courses and insertion of women’s issues and concerns into them. In this the Women’s Studies Centres set up by the UGC had a major role to play. Although these Centres are specifically mandated to focus on teaching, training, research and extension, they were originally not designed as teaching departments. They were supposed to act as catalysts to help in revising curricula and ‘sprinkling’ the women’s studies component in various disciplines. The realization had dawned that ‘women’ were left out of the various academic disciplines and gender as a category must be incorporated into the course content as well as research programmes, if the concerns and issues of one half of humanity were not to ‘lapse into invisibility’.

A debate arose among women’s studies scholars as to the desirability of formal degree programs in women’s studies because of concerns regarding the “ghettoisation” of women’s studies and eliminating its multi-disciplinary character. Some believed that it should merely act as a catalyst rather than get absorbed in mainstream teaching. A poser was raised: Is women’s studies a discipline in itself? Initially there was a proposal for a Foundation Course on women’s studies as distinct from formal degree programmes. However, this proposal could not take off. Many Universities were offering Certificate Courses on women’s issues. Some had already started Refresher Courses in Women’s studies which had made it possible to incorporate women’s perspective in the teaching of various subjects.

Gradually it was realised that for women’s studies to ‘come into its own’, it was essential to bring it into the mainstream of the academy, which could be done only by introducing formal teaching programmes. The Centres were also mandated by the revised guidelines of the UGC (1998), to begin formal teaching programmes and some of the Centres are now offering various levels of courses. The aim is to create and maintain a teaching/learning environment for feminist and gender studies, and provide an impetus to sustaining a research for feminist and gender studies, and provide an impetus to sustaining a research community that contributes to the development of women’s and gender scholarship within the two-thirds world/Indian context. The trine objectives are to create awareness, to intellectually equip students and to empower all.

Starting teaching in women’s studies has its own problems, not least of which is that very few women’s studies experts are to be found; being a woman is not enough. Is women’s studies only by women and for women, one might ask. The discipline is faced with a challenge of how to break this ‘only for women’ domain of women’s studies. A first step has been taken, in quite a few Universities, in that male colleagues are involved in the activities undertaken by members of the women’s studies family, resulting in a shift from alienation to alliance.

Women’s studies research has a critical role to play through examining the forces behind and the causative factors of misrepresentations, invisibility and marginalisation of women and exploring alternatives, which would eliminate women’s suppression and subordination. Through research, women’s studies has revealed the magnitude of the problems confronting women: missing women, discounting of women’s work, invisibility in decision-making, impact of globalisation as well as environmental degradation upon women and so on and so forth and exposed as MaitreyiKrishnaraj pithily observes “inadequacies in our understanding and perceptions of women’s issues and women’s lives and have made us a little more sensitive to the biases that distort reality.”5 The presumption is that knowledge leads to action.

The changing social and political contexts have brought new issues on to the women’s studies agenda. Earlier the research was more in the colonial context- arguing for social reform and justifying India’s cultural heritage. Then with the adoption of the Constitution and resurgence of the women’s movement a trend of critiquing and probing arose. If, on the one hand, women’s studies started digging out historical evidence of women’s involvement in various movements such as Telangana, Tabhaga, Environment conservation movements, as well as the national movement, questioning the patriarchal ideology, bringing out the invisibility and marginalisation of women, on the other, it is penetrating into literary criticism, so as to correct the imbalances and distortions. The area is constantly broadening. The emphasis is on bringing a women’s perspective into research on all issues. Women’s studies now seeks to analyse not only the visible aspects of subordination, but to explore and analyse links between women’s marginalisation and other factors and forces such as masculinity, development , parochial tendencies, sexuality etc. For instance women’s studies now seeks not only to look at domestic violence, but also to explore its various facets as well as its impact upon the national economy. It looks at the WTO and assesses how it has enhanced violence against women. The examples of new inroads made by women’s studies into mainstream social science research are as limitless as the field itself.

Research within women’s studies is not limited to uncovering previously unknown facts, but has a futuristic vision embedded within it. For one thing, women’s studies has a strong component of policy-oriented research leading to either direct intervention in policy debates or providing the gender component in policy making. The research studies undertaken by the ‘women’s studies family’ have filtered into the task forces, committees, working groups set up by the national as well as state governments from time to time on various women’s issues. The whole debate on women and development and the incorporation of ‘women and development as a chapter in the Sixth Plan was in itself the result of the researches carried on by women’s studies researchers, such as Maithreyi Krishna Raj, Devaki Jain and others. Women’s studies research has equally impacted other policy documents including the National Policy on Education, National Population Policy as well as the National Policy on Empowerment of Women. The studies have also provided a gender focus into organizations such as the Central Statistical Organisation, the National Sample Survey Organisation, etc.

Another significant aspect of research is the building in of an action component in most of the research undertaken. Even if the researchers in women’s studies were not able to initiate action themselves they provided the input into the development plans of various levels of administration. Academic neutrality in women’s studies research is a questionable concept. The whole concept of value free research is interrogated, for the whole notion of gender equality is itself a value. Women’s studies subscribes to the notion that to bring in a society free of discrimination and subordination, research has to be value-oriented.

There is a need to undertake research to build a theoretical component in women’s studies with an Indian perspective, apart from impacting the ideological dimensions and dilemmas of knowledge. Research must be backed up by concern for change and progress. Knowledge must be generated not only for its own sake but also for change.

Women’s studies has come a long way since its inception. It has sprouted and spread its branches in many directions and is increasingly making its space, establishing its credibility and legitimacy in the academic field; moving from the periphery to the centre. Yet its onward movement has had to and is still encountering numerous hurdles and pitfalls along the way.

Challenges and Constraints

       The challenges to women’s studies are manifested in many ways, but the most detrimental to the larger cause of feminism has been the persistent patriarchal mores, which have gradually but surely systematised their repressive moorings, within higher education. These are visible in different ways, but are present nonetheless. One of these is in the ‘dismissal’ of women’s studies as an aspect of social work. Women’s studies scholars are “belittled and marginalised”6 within the Universities. Neera Desai drolly remarks, “There was a joke in our group that we were known more outside the University and in the international fraternity than in the small world of our institution.”7 Nor are these scholars treated at par with scholars in traditional disciplines. There are relatively more people entering the field of women’s studies, more research is being conducted on women’s issues in traditional disciplines, yet recognition of these scholars and weightage to their work is lacking. Thus, recognition and acceptability within academic circles proved to be a daunting task for women’s studies for it was viewed patronizingly, even condescendingly, if not downright cynically. As bell hooks says, “Given the way universities work to reinforce and perpetuate the status quo, the way knowledge is offered as a commodity, women’s studies can easily become a place where revolutionary feminist thought and feminist activism are submerged or made secondary to the goals of academic careerism.” 8

Another serious dilemma confronting women’s studies is the lack of autonomy. The agenda of those involved in this is not self-driven, but is set by institutional priorities as well as client driven ideas. The bureaucratised system within which they have to operate leads to lack of functional autonomy and is equally detrimental to effective performance.

The constraints on access to economic wherewithal leads to the researchers’ image as forever seeking funding, thereby undermining their legitimacy. The financial worries are exacerbated by developments such as globalisation as the fiscal austerity measures adopted by the Governments leads to cuts in finances for the educational sector, pushing women’s studies scholars to depend on donor agencies, which have their own research priorities and agendas, for funds, leading to external determination of research agendas. As Mary John comments, “women’s studies has come of age at a time when the social sciences and humanities (constituting the larger intellectual community) are themselves facing an uncertain future due to reduced state funding, privatisation within higher education and growth of a project culture largely depended on foreign funding.” 9

Another haunting question is that while large amount of research has been and is still being conducted, some significant areas continue to be unresearched or partially researched, while in others there is a duplication of research efforts leading to wastage of expertise, time and resources. Hence the effect remains piece-meal, lacking a cohesive pattern. It is like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which are scattered here and there but the puzzle itself remains incomplete for want of synchronization. The research has to be woven into a mosaic. The various members of the women’s studies family, be they the UGC funded centres, Centres outside the University system, or individual researchers need to meet periodically to have a dialogue on collaborative research, prioritisation of issues, evolving common methodologies, sharing of research findings and identifying the gaps for their future agendas. A common database could be created. They among themselves need to develop mechanisms wherein they can not only share but also review and critique the existing research. There is a need to collate, analyse and make accessible research findings to all who wish to work on women’s issues and concerns.

Furthermore, it needs to be emphasised that even when significant research is being conducted, it tends to be ignored and minimized as polemic, and a question mark is raised on the relevance of the work.

One of the persistent problems, which continues to plague women’s studies, is the lack of clarity about the term. Notwithstanding the familiarity of the term, people, even high-level academics have only hazy conceptions about its domain, tools, tasks and boundaries. “When references are made to ‘women’s studies’,” as Mary John observes, “it is often not clear whether we are talking about a ‘subject’ with its own curriculum, about a field of scholarship, or about outreach and advocacy on women’s issues.” 10

An additional challenge may be identified in the teaching of women’s studies. Mention has already been made of the difficulties involved in starting formal degree programs in this discipline. Apart from this, the teaching of concerns, issues and rights of women, not accompanied by corresponding changes in the social order and mores leads to a dilemma in young minds- a dilemma of equating theory with praxis, what should be with what is. As MaithreyiKrishnaraj comments, “We conscientise them (women students) with notions of justice and equality for the sexes without generating the support systems that will enablethem to resist practices that go against these principles.” 11 What’s more, women’s studies needs to evolve a pedagogy suitable for its teaching and learning. Ordinary classroom teaching is no longer sufficient for women’s studies, which has not only to familiarise students with its theories and methods, but also orient them towards transforming society and gender relations. This teaching has to be an empowering activity, using non-traditional forms of discussion and assessment.

The increasing emphasis on diversity and difference is both a challenge to and outcome of women’s studies. It led to the recognition that the experiences of third world women and women of colour are different and cannot be measured on the basis of concepts and tools evolved in the West. It is also essential to recognise that despite the universality of gender subordination, there continue to be areas of conflict even within the limited sphere of one nation, between women, based on categories other than gender. Hence the need to evolve feminist theory which takes into account the struggles and aspirations of third world women, reflecting their own situational reality, be it local or national, while keeping in mind the diversities even within this sphere. Building up an Indian/ third world feminism is an imperative task for it will serve both epistemological and methodological ends.

Apart from this there is a need to break away from the established paradigms of women’s studies. There are many new conjunctions of feminist and gender studies that may and should be made in the near future. There are many new juxtapositions between these theoretical frameworks and others, such as critical race theory, postcolonial theory, multiculturalism and cultural, political and social theory still in need of further research and development. The task of women’s studies has increased with this expanding horizon. Nor can it remain sheltered from upheavals on the socio-economic and political front. Globalisa-tion, feminisation of poverty, revivalism and fundamentalism, the widening social inequalities, likewise pose challenges for women’s studies. The commit-ment of the women’s studies movement to the ideals of democracy, equality and secularism brings it into direct confrontation with parochial and divisive forces.

Women’s studies has left its impact on most of the traditional disciplines, but has not managed to achieve “the kind of transformative effect upon higher education that was envisaged during the late 1970’s and 1980’s, when women’s studies first emerged” 12 , for the idealism of women’s studies had to confront the pragmatics of educational politics. It still has little or no presence in many educational institutions, particularly in professional programs.

It would not be out of context to mention that the Centres for Women’s Studies are faced with their own particular pragmatisms which directly or indirectly impinge upon their functioning. Structural constraints, appointment of persons not well versed with or sensitised to the issues and concerns of women, are equally detrimental to the effective functioning of the Centres. Thus, some Centres have succeeded in making their space academically while others lag far behind and have in fact proven ineffective in establishing their presence within academia.

The structure of women’s studies continues to be ‘fragile’, its very existence threatened by the patriarchal foundations of the higher education system. It continues to feel beleaguered by the pressures on its constituent units to constantly justify their existence, which still yet they continue to be inspired by a visionary hope of one day establishing not only their legitimacy and relevance, but also to make a dent, if not break the hold of patriarchal structures, be they in education or the society at large.

What does the future portend? An era of peace and justice, of liberty and equality for all, regardless of race, class, caste or sex, in which women’s studies has a seminal role to play. It has come a long way from its meagre beginnings in the 1970s. Yet the task is far from over. It still has far to go. It is hoped that not only the current trend of increased presence of women within the portals of higher education continues, but women’s studies has an increased presence in the University campuses via formalized infusion into curricula and exercising legitimacy by becoming a discipline in its own right. The expectation or perhaps the vision continues that women’s studies will become an exemplar in creating a culture by which the marginalized can and will redefine the mainstream so that one day there will be an ethos where equity in all aspects of University and societal life will be a reality. The hope ‘lies eternal’ that the visions and the dreams of the founders of the women’s studies movement will be realized in the not too distant future. This would, however, be possible only with conjoined conscious effort and commitment on the part of policy makers, administrators and women’s studies scholars as well as the sustained support of the women’s movement.

1. VinaMazumdar. “Women’s Studies and the Women’s Movement in India: An Overview” in Women’s Studies Quarterly. XXII. 3 & 4, (1994): 43

2. Guidelines for the Development of Women’s Studies in Indian Universities and Colleges. New Delhi: University Grants Commission, 1998, 3.

3. Under the revised UGC Guidelines, the Centres have been classified in three phases – I, II, and III. Only six Centres have been placed in Phase III by the UGC. The Phase III Centres are expected to serve as resource or nodal centres for the region and in particular are mandated to develop as strong academic centres of teaching and learning, generating new thinking and knowledge on feminist theory and offering women’s studies courses.

4. As quoted in Vina Mazumdar, “Women’s Studies and the Women’s Movement in India: An Overview” in Women’s Studies Quarterly, XXII. 3 & 4, (1994): 45

5. Maithreyi Krishna Raj (ed), Women’s Studies in India: Some Perspectives. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1986, 2.

6. Rekha Pappu, “Women’s studies in Higher Education”, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 9. No.2 (2002): 230.

7. Rekha Pappu, “Women’s Studies”.

8. Bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminism,, Thinking Black. Sheba: London, 1989, 51.

9. Mary E. John, “Introduction to a Round Table Discussion”, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 9. 2 (2002): 206.

10. Mary E. John, “The Encounter of Sociology and Women’s studies”, Contributions to Indian Sociology, 35. 2 (2001): 238.

11. Maithreyi Krishnaraj, forthcoming.

12. Mary E. John, “Introduction to a Round Table Discussion”, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 9. 2 (2002): 203.

 Is Director, Centre for Women’s Studies and development and Professor of Political Science in Punjab University, Chandigarh. Specializes in Women and Development, Women and Politics and Women and Human Rights. Is Chair of International Political Science Association’s Research Committee on Women, Politics and Developing Nations. Is co-editor of the forthcoming Sage Publication, Recreating Knowledge: Narratives From The Women’s Studies Family.

MANVINDER KAUR. Is a Research Officer and a Gender Trainer in the Centre for Women’s Studies and Development, Punjab University, Chandigarh. Teaches Feminist Theory to Post Graduate classes in Women’s Studies. Has published research articles and is well versed in gender issues.

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PAM RAJPUT. Is Director, Centre for Women’s Studies and development and Professor of Political Science in Punjab University, Chandigarh. Specializes in Women and Development, Women and Politics and Women and Human Rights. Is Chair of International Political Science Association’s Research Committee on Women, Politics and Developing Nations. Is co-editor of the forthcoming Sage Publication, Recreating Knowledge: Narratives From The Women’s Studies Family.MANVINDER KAUR. Is a Research Officer and a Gender Trainer in the Centre for Women’s Studies and Development, Punjab University, Chandigarh. Teaches Feminist Theory to Post Graduate classes in Women’s Studies. Has published research articles and is well versed in gender issues.

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