Click to Subscribe & Stay Informed via Email!

Subscribe Here!

Subscribe and stay informed about our latest news and events!
  • Please List your Professional Affiliation
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

News Category: Announcements

Does the Fight for Working Women’s Rights in India Leave Out Informal Workers?

Tata Trusts and Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) recently embarked on a collaborative journey in knowledge creation and capacity building for social and economic empowerment in India. The 18-month research project titled, Livelihood Creation in India through Social Entrepreneurship and Skill Development (beginning October 2015) was the first step in this direction. The project focused on three key areas including rural livelihood creation (emphasis on the handicrafts and handloom sectors); educational, social and economic empowerment of women; and science and technology-based interventions for poverty alleviation.

There is consensus that India’s future growth depends in part on addressing the severe current deficit in gender equality. Much work has been done to address this discrimination through legislation, social policy, grass roots organizing, educational targeting, and public sector training. Despite the imperative of higher education as a preparation for engagement in a skill based global economy, only 6% of rural girls make it to college. 46%of Indian girls are still married before they are 18, and 16% experience their first pregnancy before they are 15 years old. At the same time, sexual violence against women continues to be reported at high levels—every third Indian woman between the ages of 15 and 49 years has experienced sexual or physical violence during her lifetime. Women are severely underrepresented in leadership positions in industry, academia, and government.

One component of the Livelihood Creation ProjectBuilding Pathways with Women Project (Pathways)—aimed to make an impact on the highlighted issues through three sustained interventions at the educational, social and economic levels. The culminating step in this project focused on economic empowerment of women in India. India’s impressive growth, improved physical infrastructure, strong manufacturing capabilities, and an evolving higher education system, have positioned it as an emerging world leader. With the second-largest population in the world, India generates 14% of the global talent pool; however, India’s women are forced to navigate a familiar—and daunting—set of obstacles and challenges in their search for economic empowerment and professional success. Although the knowledge economy in India has created enormous opportunities, a large proportion of Indian women are still prevented from reaching their full potential in the workforce. The interventions in this area focused on the legal and social reforms for strengthening women’s economic self-sufficiency, legal and financial incentives for generating better opportunities for women, exploring organizational platforms for women’s economic empowerment in India, studying examples of institutions that have achieved considerable success in the economic empowerment of women, and suggesting ways in which they can be scaled up.

Learn more about the Livelihood Creation project.


In a recent feature on NDTV, The Startup Wednesday show explores how women with informal employment often don’t reap the benefits of progressive equality legislation. Eight out of ten working women in urban India are informally employed. The women who work in garment factories, construction sites, as rag-pickers, tailors, and domestic helpers have no social security, no formal places of work and no legal contracts to protect their rights. This feature presents the challenges of home-based working women and startups that are employing and empowering women in India. Watch as experts, entrepreneurs and the working women themselves talk about the issues they face.

Does the Fight for Working Women’s Rights in India Leave Out Informal Workers?
June 7, 2017, NDTV

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

2017 SAI Symposium: Life Sciences Panel [VIDEO]

The fascinating life sciences panel at the 2017 Symposium featured:

Parvathi Sreekumar: a bioscientist based at the Department of Crop Physiology, University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore. She is a member of the inaugural cohort of SAI’s Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings (B4) Program and is spending a year at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow.

Muhammad H. Zaman: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University. He is using quantitative tools to understand tumor metastasis, developing robust technologies for high-value healthcare problems in the developing world, particularly in the area of maternal and child health and working on health and innovation policy issues in developing nations.

Conor WalshJohn L. Loeb Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the John A. Paulson Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Venki Murthy: Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neurobiology at Harvard University.

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium XVIII

ACSAA Symposium web banner

October 12 – October 15, 2017

Harvard South Asia Institute is proud to co-sponsor the biennial American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium. ACSAA symposia serve as opportunities to meet colleagues, reconnect with mentors and graduate school cohorts, and share one’s current research with the field. From senior scholars to graduate students, ACSAA symposia are one of the primary ways ACSAA members gather and support one another, share ideas with a group of like-minded colleagues, and participate in the ACSAA community. We are looking forward to welcoming you all in Boston/Cambridge, MA!

ACSAA 2017 Organizers

Jinah Kim, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art & Architecture
Laura Weinstein, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy curator of South Asian and Islamic Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

About the ACSAA

The American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study and awareness of the art of South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayan regions. In addition to periodic symposia, usually held every two years, ACSAA pursues these goals through various projects, including its annual bulletin, bibliographies, a color slide project, a microfiche archive and outreach materials. Since its incorporation in 1967, ACSAA has grown from its original fifteen members to an organization of some three hundred individuals and institutions. ACSAA is formally affiliated with the College Art Association (CAA) and the Association of Asian Studies (AAS).


For more information about this conference, please visit our website:

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Applications open for Crossroads Summer Program

The SAI Crossroads Summer Program is a fully-funded career development opportunity for students from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Africa who are the first in their families to attend college and may also be facing challenging financial and social circumstances. The application deadline is July 1, 2017, and the program will run from August 11-14.

Apply here by July 1, 2017. The application process is open now and we encourage early entries.


Leading Harvard faculty will teach an intensive, multidisciplinary four-day curriculum in Dubai, for up to 60 accomplished, motivated young scholars.

Program details

  • Class size: up to 60 students drawn from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • Location: Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai
  • Cost: FREE (The program will cover the costs of international travel, board, lodging and class materials. Visa costs are the responsibility of selected candidates.)
  • Application deadline: July 1, 2017
  • Questions: Write to (Subject line: SAI Crossroads Summer Program)


  • Tarun Khanna is the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of the South Asia Institute at Harvard University.
  • Karim R. Lakhani is Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, the Principal Investigator of the Crowd Innovation Lab and NASA Tournament Lab at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science and the faculty co-founder of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative.
Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Congratulations, Class of 2017!

Here at SAI, we are wishing the young minds of tomorrow the very best as they celebrate their triumphs, diligence, and vigor. Happy commencement!
Commencement_Hero Banner1
(PC: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Registration Open for Workshop on the Liberal Arts in Higher Education

The Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI) Workshop on the Liberal Arts in Higher Education is a forum for higher-education faculty, administrators, and leadership from universities across South Asia, the Middle East, and neighboring regions (Central Asia and East Asia) to explore ways in which universities may develop a liberal arts education program for undergraduate students, while fostering such objectives as sustainable development; social inclusion and peace; and cooperation across national boundaries among individuals, institutions, and governments. These goals are essential to addressing shared global challenges and to realizing opportunities to advance human well-being. Universities, as institutions that prepare future leadership of societies, have a unique role to play in the achievement of these goals, educating students as global citizens who can understand, value, and contribute to the common good.

Beginning with a public lecture on the evening of August 18th, the inaugural event of the Harvard SAI Liberal Arts Education Workshop—in partnership with the Harvard Club of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the Ismaili Centre in Dubai—will be held on August 19-20, 2017, with the aim of launching a consortium of stakeholders committed to a robust and vibrant future of liberal arts education. Co-sponsored by the Harvard Business School Club of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Harvard University Asia Center, and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Pakistan, this workshop will allow Harvard SAI to initiate a multi-year engagement convening on an annual basis for collaboration, knowledge sharing and the exchange of ideas.

Harvard University faculty will be leading the discussion on a range of topics, enabling participants to customize their schedules in accordance with their university settings.

Registration for the workshop is now open. Learn more about the event here.


Register by Friday, July 7

Request an invitation here.


Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Seed for Change competition winners announced

2017-05-04-PHOTO-00000055Congratulations to Sakhi, the winners of our 2017 Seed For Change competition. The team won $40,000 to further develop menstrual cups that are high-quality, affordable, and environmentally safe in India.

The two other finalists were:

Anantara, which converts collector-only economies into craftsmen communities whose culturally rich, value-added activities positively reinforce forest ecosystems.
Barakat Bundle, which reduces preventable infant and maternal mortalities and morbidities in South Asia by packaging together demand-inducing new­born essentials such as baby clothes and baby powder as well as low-cost evidence-based public health items such as clean delivery kits for safe births and oral rehydration salts for diarrhea.


More information about the presentations from our annual symposium:

Sakhi is a social enterprise that provides an innovative, high-quality, low-cost, reusable, and environmentally-safe menstrual cup for women and girls in India, along with a gender and culture-sensitive menstrual health education and training program. Sakhi’s 360-degree approach addresses the significant challenges and taboos faced by the world’s largest menstruating youth population—116 million girls ages 15-24—and the world’s second largest menstruating female population—358 million women between ages 15-54. Sakhi’s team and strategy prioritizes local entrepreneurship and self-sustainability; culture, religion, and gender sensitivity to create positive social norms; and attention to health safety, sanitary practices, infrastructure challenges, and environmental sustainability. Sakhi’s unique medical-silicone sterilizer case with menstrual cup is a one-of-a-kind solution, custom-designed for Sakhi’s demographic that includes married millennials, young mothers, working women, and athletes. Seed for Change’s one-time investment and Sakhi’s community reinvestment strategy will yield project sustainability over the first three years and profitability in subsequent years. Seed for Change’s valuable support will enable Sakhi to incubate the social enterprise to help Indian girls and women eager for an affordable, portable, safe, and hygienic market-based solution to manage their monthly menstruation cycle with dignity, safety, and confidence.

Team Members: Sutopa Dasgupta, Ph.D. student, Harvard University; Andrew Powell; and Usha Venkatachallam


Anantara is a not-for-profit design collective working at the intersection of forest conservation through livelihood creation. By working with forest communities and their emerging small forest enterprises, they seek to convert collector economies into craftsmen communities through design. The focus is on sustainable harvesting and the creation of new value chains and value-added facilities within forest communities, to provide year-round employment opportunity through environmentally reinforcing activities. Forest degradation is linked to unsustainable harvesting, which is a result of acute poverty. Such practices threaten to erode indigenous cultural knowledge that has accrued over centuries as the forest  communities stewarded their ecosystems. There are several NGOs and support institutions actively working to address the issues of forest conservation through sustainable harvesting and livelihood creation, but they have been largely unsuccessful across two major verticals: design development and market linkages. Anantara seeks to bridge this gap by providing branding, product design services, and a marketing platform. They will create value for the support institutions by increasing efficacy of their livelihoods program, and create value for the small forest enterprise by improving their products and providing a market for the same; thus, empowering forest communities to better steward their ecosystems.

Team Members: Aaron Mendonca, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Prathima Muniyappa, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Prabhat Kumar; and Elena Mechik


Barakat Bundle is a nonprofit providing lifesaving bundles to mothers and newborns in South Asia. They package together demand-inducing newborn essentials—such as baby clothes—as well as low-cost, evidence-based public health items—such as clean delivery kits for safe births. They provide them to low-income mothers for the birth of their first child. The medical items in the bundle specifically target causes of maternal and infant mortality and morbidities in targeted regions. The desirable goods incentivize demand for the bundle, encouraging utilization, and some also address cognitive development. Barakat Bundle integrates seamlessly into existing community health worker and health system infrastructure creating a framework for sustainable delivery. For more information, visit

Team Members: Karima Ladhani, Harvard School of Public Health; Nayab Ahmad, Harvard College ’15; Dr. Jyoti Ramakrishna, Harvard School of Public Health; and Amanda Hahnel

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

2017 SAI Symposium: Arts Panel [VIDEO]

Our fantastic arts panel at the 2017 Symposium featured:

Shahzia Sikander: A Pakistani-born visual artist – trained in Pakistan and New England – who challenges the strict formal tropes of miniature painting as well as its medium-based restrictions by experimenting with scale and media. She received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2006.

Shanay Javeri: Assistant Curator of South Asian Art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is a graduate of Brown University, where he studied art semiotics and history of art. He completed his doctorate at the Royal College of Art in London, specializing in South Asian art.

Homi Bhabha: Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language, and the Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University.

Share Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn