625.4 Constructing political spaces: Experiences of the Uttarakhand women's federation, a rural women's movement in India

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 9:54 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Divya SHARMA , Development Sociology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
This paper will examine the experiences of the Uttarakhand Women’s Federation (UMP), a rural women’s movement organised around a diverse set of issues in the hill villages of Uttarakhand, India. Drawing on focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews from 14 villages conducted in 2009, I will explore the formative processes of the women’s groups at the village level since the mid 1980s as well as the process of forging a state-wide movement over a period of two decades. I will attempt to identify the strategies, which enabled the creation of spaces for deliberative decision-making for women and then explore how women have subsequently used this space in contingent ways. Identifying commonalities and differences across villages, I will illustrate how this process has cumulatively enabled the formation of a fluid collective agenda at the state level, articulated explicitly in recent years through their active participation in electoral politics.  

The absence of an explicit ideological frame in this instance often critical to projecting and identifying a unified, coherent movement focuses attention on the actual practices and interactions of women with each other through these groups, mediated and shaped by the organisations involved. I will attempt to show how the strategies of mobilisation in this instance were cognisant of the inherently political nature of development and were directed towards forging critical collective consciousness, not charting a coherent path of change. Finally, I will analyse the content of these interactions, practices and strategies of mobilisation, focussing on how differences and conflicts that arise at multiple levels -within the village community, between women and network of community based organisations, with state institutions and officials-are negotiated. This process makes visible the contradictions of the development framework, where collective action by women around immediate struggles and needs cumulatively also outlines an alternative but fragmented vision of change.