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News Category: India


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

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Inaugural Harvard B4 Fellowship Opens New Doors for Postdocs


Left to Right: Venki Murthy, Ramya Purkanti, Gayatri Ramakrishnan, Parvathi Sreekumar, and Praveen Anand

One year ago when Parvathi Sreekumar earned her PhD in Crop Physiology at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, she never would have guessed that today she’d be halfway around the world, learning computational biology and bioinformatics to study bacteria in Philippe Cluzel’s lab. Yet here she is in Cambridge, along with three other research fellows from Bangalore who were awarded the inaugural Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings (B4) Fellowship, co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute (SAI) at Harvard University and the Institute for Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) in Bangalore. The four fellows, selected from over 52 applicants, earned their PhDs in different fields from different institutes in India, but all now share the unique experience of spending 11 months pursuing research in a completely new direction at Harvard. “Being part of this fellowship is broadening my research exposure and equipping me with new skills that I can go home and implement in India. I’m grateful that students from diverse fields are being given an opportunity like this,” says Sreekumar.

Each B4 fellow is matched with a lab at Harvard that focuses on a research topic within the biosciences, including Systems and Synthetic Biology, Neuroscience, Genomics and Bioinformatics, Soft Robotics, and Biomedical Engineering. For Ramya Purkanti, who studied evolutionary cell biology in yeast for her PhD, Michael Desai’s lab was a perfect fit. “Michael’s lab is also studying evolution using yeast, but they’re asking very different questions,” she says. “My PhD investigated the development of organelles within eukaryotic cells, and now I’m researching the development of sexual reproduction – why did sex evolve when it’s so costly to find mates, and only half of an organism’s DNA gets passed down? The way this lab asks scientific questions, designs and sets up experiments, mines the data, and interprets results is very sophisticated, and I’m really enjoying learning it.”

Aside from the challenging task of getting up to speed on their host labs’ research while simultaneously moving their own projects forward, the B4 program has no official requirement of the fellows. That freedom to explore an environment that’s as brimming with academic activity as Harvard’s has proven to be almost as valuable as the time the fellows spend in lab. “The fact that I get to work on what I’m interested in without extra limitations or requirements sounded too good to be true,” says Praveen Anand, a fellow working in Sean Eddy’s lab. “This fellowship gives me a perfect opportunity to network and learn directly from people who are already well renowned in their fields. I have also started to attend the LS50 course to brush up on my statistics, and found it amazing.” Purkanti agrees: “Something that really struck me was a lecture I attended about a new photosynthetic bacterium, because the lecturer presented her science in jargon-free English and put it in the global context, so that everyone in the audience could understand. Now I want to learn how to speak about my own science in a similarly fluid, ‘normal’ English, too.”

The B4 Fellowship is the brainchild of MCB professor Venkatesh Murthy and Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna (who is also the Director of the Harvard South Asia Institute). It represents just one part of the larger B4 program, whose overall goal is to connect research institutions in Boston and Bangalore to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the biosciences, with the key point being to “Invest In People” to grow the sector for societal benefits. All four B4 fellows agree that it is definitely living up to its stated purpose. “The opportunity to nurture and shape our scientific temperament at one of the best institutes in the world is unparalleled,” says Gayatri Ramakrishnan, who is working with Martha Bulyk at Harvard Medical School. “This program is of immense help and provides a much-needed boost to graduates like us who are in the early stages of their academic careers.” “It was really good at this stage to push myself and learn new things,” adds Sreekumar. “I might not have had the impetus to try something new if I had stayed at my home institution.” Her host advisor, Philippe Cluzel, says, “I see the B4 program as a great opportunity to bring together people with different scientific backgrounds and ask them to work on a problem they could not have tackled otherwise. It has been a really great experience to have Parvathi among us, and I am sure we will keep in touch once she is back in India.”

The one thing the fellows would change about the program (aside from the static in Boston’s dry winter air that makes their hair stand on end)? Make it longer. “I wish I had arrived here earlier, maybe as an undergraduate or as an intern, as I would have had the privilege to explore, experiment and learn as much as possible,” laments Ramakrishnan. “It would be very useful to have at least two years to gain this experience and contribute even more positively to the growth of research and technology back in India,” adds Anand. “We aspire to expand the duration as well as the number of fellows in the coming years”, says Murthy. “We hope that these fellows will take their experiences back to India and influence the system in small, but significant ways – even though the actual period of time they are here is quite brief.”

The B4 Fellowship complements the B4 Young Scientist Development Course, which took place in Bangalore in January, 2017. Read about that program here.

The B4 program is supported by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Information Technology & Biotechnology and Science and Technology.

 

by Lindsay Brownell for the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University
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Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India


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Professor Jennifer Leaning discusses forced migration at one of our Partition seminars

 

By Tarun Khanna (Director, SAI; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School)

Both my mother’s and my father’s sides of our family migrated from what is now Pakistan. As a result of Partition, many of them had to leave their lives behind, with years of hard work quickly wiped out, when they moved to New Delhi and were forced to start again. Partition has always been part of my family’s folklore but my grandfather, who bore the brunt of it, passed away very early. I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him.

At the SAI, we have embarked on a major research project to understand the history, context and continuing impact of Partition, as its 70th anniversary approaches. There has, of course, always been a great deal of interest in this defining historical event from scholars at Harvard and elsewhere. Professor Jennifer Leaning’s team from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been studying Partition for more than a decade — her ongoing work is central to our collective research.

At the SAI, we have already undertaken a major interdisciplinary project of a similar scale. Our work on the Kumbh Mela was a very successful collaborative effort involving dozens of faculty, students, graduates and undergraduates. We created a platform so that other people could participate; scholars from the region as well as other universities around the world. We produced scholarly papers, videos, architectural designs and ultimately, a book.

The SAI hosted a series of eight seminars at Harvard, beginning on Feb 1, in which Harvard faculty and visiting scholars presented research on various aspects of Partition’s legacy, influence and implications. These were free and open to the public. The seminars also formed the basis of a series of podcasts, also produced by the SAI, to bring this research and these conversations to a much wider audience.

We are also approaching the primarily historical and qualitative study of the Partition through alternative analytical lenses. This will involve attempts to quantify Partition and examine its magnitude, much as we did with the Kumbh Mela; this will add a new dimension to our collective understanding. A collection of us – Professor Asim Khwaja from HKS and Professor Prashant Bharadwaj from UC San Diego, both political economists, have teamed up with Professor Karim Lakhani, a crowdsourcing expert, and me for this part of the project – will use political speeches, crowdsourced oral histories and other data to analyze Partition in a way that has not been done before.

Partition is one of the most important events in human history; it is the largest migration that ever took place. Millions of people were affected, mostly negatively. Right now, huge numbers of people are forced to leave their homes in distressing circumstances and as academics, it is important for us to gain an understanding of the mechanics and impact of involuntary migration, particularly in the modern context. We are also studying how new countries are born. Pakistan was a brand new nation-state; India became smaller; Bangladesh eventually came into being. Through the lens of Partition, we are able to study the formation (and regeneration, in India’s case) of the institutions that are necessary for the functioning of a country. Again, these are modern issues and it is as important for us to understand them today as it was 70 years ago.

 

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President of India honors Harvard Research Fellow


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Dr Satchit Balsari – a frequent and highly-valued South Asia Institute collaborator – received a prestigious Dr BC Roy National Award from Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, at a ceremony in New Delhi earlier this month. He was honored for outstanding services in the field of sociomedical relief.

Dr Balsari is a Research Fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and Director of the Global Emergency Medicine Program at Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

His inter-disciplinary interests in mobile technology, disaster response and population health have been informed by his clinical practice in New York City and his field work around the world including, more recently, in Jordan, Iraq, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. His research has resulted in innovative applications of mobile, cloud-based technology to address public health challenges in mass gatherings, disasters and humanitarian crises.

At the FXB Center, Dr Balsari’s research has contributed to advocacy on behalf vulnerable populations affected by disasters and humanitarian crises, including children in Haiti, refugees in Jordan and the Rohingya in Bangladesh. He is currently part of Professor Jennifer Leaning’s team assessing the impact of the Syrian war on medicine and public health in the region

At Harvard, Dr Balsari co-teaches a university-wide course “Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems,” led by SAI Director Professor Tarun Khanna; and “Societal Response to Disaster and War”, with Professor Leaning at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

In the summer of 2017, Dr Balsari will join Harvard Medical School as faculty in emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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Building Budding Brain Biologists: Harvard’s inaugural B4 Program in India


In the gleaming academic fortress of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, India, MCB professor Venkatesh Murthy and Advisor/Preceptor Laura Magnotti spent two weeks over winter break giving 25 engineering and computer science students a crash course in something completely different: neuroscience. The Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginning (B4) Program, which is administered by the Harvard South Asia Institute, hand-selected the participants from about 150 undergraduate and graduate student applicants from all over India. It is supported by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Information Technology & Biotechnology. Through a series of five daily sessions consisting of three lectures, one presentation by a local scientist, and one hands-on demo that included activities from dissecting a goat brain to recording action potentials from a cricket leg, the students gained a comprehensive knowledge of the field of neuroscience, basic concepts, and how to apply them. “Teaching this short winter course to smart and enthusiastic students without much of a neuroscience background was gratifying because we could see in real time how excited and awestruck they became about the brain,” says Murthy, director of the B4 program.

Why teach neuroscience to students who are committed to degrees in other fields? “The educational system in India is very narrow. There are no general education requirements; once a student enters university, they pretty much only take courses in their declared field of study,” says Magnotti. Murthy himself was educated in that system at the Indian Institutes of Technology: “I only learned about biology as a research endeavor when I came to the US for grad school, and then I ended up making a career out of it. If India’s brightest students don’t know that some of the questions and ideas they come up with can be applied to solve problems in other fields, they might never do that.” The three NCBS PhD students who were teaching assistants for the B4 course – Siddharth Jayakumar, Sahil Moza, and Mostafizur Rahman –  agree. “I honestly wish I had access to such a course when I was a curious undergraduate student in India thinking about the brain,” says Moza.

Neuroscience is a logical gateway for bridging the gap between engineering and biology. “In the B4 program we describe neurons as electronic circuits, and axons as cables,” explains Magnotti, “and lots of theories from engineering and electronics are easily applicable to neurobiology. These are real applications of the concepts the students have already been learning, so they don’t have to start completely over in order to explore the new field of biology.”

The B4 program built upon the previous success of the Resonance program, which ran a similar course in 2013 in conjunction with professors from MIT. One student from Resonance ended up going to graduate school in Germany to study biology, and many of the B4 students are reconsidering what they want to study as a result of the program. “They all seemed to really love the experience, and a lot of them asked how they could come to graduate school in the US or worked on setting up summer internships with biology professors in India,” says Magnotti. “Even if they don’t end up switching their majors or careers, we think the broadening of their perspectives and awareness of other fields of science is valuable and definitely worth investing in.” “I think one of the most unique opportunities for the participants was meeting and interacting with faculty from diverse backgrounds,” adds Jayakumar, one of the TAs from Bangalore. “It gave them, as undergraduates, a glimpse of what research in modern-day neuroscience is like.”

Another part of the B4 program involves bringing Indian postdocs to the US for a year to gain exposure to new ideas that they can then bring back to India to further disseminate the benefits of a broader education. “Although a year is really short for carrying out a comprehensive project, my hope is it will still allow bright postdocs from India to gain direct exposure to the way life science research is thought about and conducted here, and to make connections that will benefit them when they return to populate the research ecosystem in India,” says Murthy.

by Lindsay Brownell for the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University
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Student voices: Learning How to Navigate Big City Labor Markets in Small-Town India


kunal2This is part of a series of reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Kunal Mangal, PhD Public Policy, 2021, HKS

I had two main goals for this visit. The first was to develop and pilot a survey on career awareness, in collaboration with my partner organization, LEAP Skills Academy. The second was to develop relationships that would be helpful in allowing me to continue to this work in the future. In this report I’ll describe the progress I made on each of these goals.

Based on my observations the past summer, I felt that students in small-town Haryana generally lacked awareness about careers outside of their local labor market, and hypothesized that this lack of awareness may lead students to under invest in their skills (relative to what they would have preferred to do if they had full information). The primary purpose of the survey was to test the underlying assumptions of this hypothesis.

Since writing my grant proposal, I decided to refine my research question in several ways. I focused my survey on the specific knowledge students had of what employers expected from them. The fact that English and computer skills are generally valued in the private sector seems to be well known; the uncertainty seems to lie in what firms are specifically looking for in candidates when they interview them. However, a challenge in taking this approach is that different sectors of the economy can have very diverse requirements of job seekers. After talking to LEAP trainers and local professors, I decided it would be best to focus on IT-related degrees. The advantage of doing this is that students in IT-related degrees are typically positioning themselves for a single sector of the economy, where companies tend to have similar requirements and expectations. This lends itself to measuring knowledge with an objective test.  

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Mar. 20 – 31: Visiting Artists at Harvard


SAI is pleased to announce our Visiting Artists for the Spring semester, who will be at Harvard from March 20 – 31. During their time at Harvard, the artists will display their work on campus, meet with students, attend courses, and give a public seminar.

Check back on our site for details about the seminars.

Madhu DMadhu Das is a multi-disciplinary Visual Artist based in Mumbai, India; his artistic practice is primarily concerned with the projection of identity onto the social and natural world: in a way that the two are woven together in the Indian space (both mythic space and actual); Exploring both conceptual and material sensibilities through range of media including drawing and painting, photography, performance, video, site-specific interventions, collaborative community projects and interactive/performative installations.

In his work, human body often establish an improvisational relationship with object and sculptural elements in the space. The work has involved the spaces in both a narrative sense and as a site of memory to re-narrate historical events as a way of plotting connections between the particular and the universal. Subjectively, he adapt aspects of material culture as well as methods from anthropology, allegorical fiction as conceptual tool, which later extends to the space of the viewer, from the point of a storyteller, exploring exciting linguistic devices and imagery with a sense of irony and paradox.

Das received his Masters of Arts (Painting) from S N School of Fine Arts and Communication, Central University of Hyderabad, India in 2013. Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) from College of Fine Art, Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, Bangalore, India 2009. He was awarded the Inlaks Fine Arts Award, Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, India (2015) and Shortlisted for Emerging Indian Visual Artists by Delfina Foundation, UK (2014).

 

IMG_0452Rabindra Shrestha is a Nepalese visual artist. Installation, detail pen and ink drawing, painting, traditional painting (Paubha), illustration, cartoon, and ceramic art are the different mediums of his visuals expressions. Most of his art is directly conceptual based. The collaborative line art project, Earthquake line and Finger prints with red line are some of his series in the Nepali contemporary art scene. Many people refer to him as a “Line Artist”. Shrestha’s works has been exhibited throughout the National Fine Art exhibition (nine times), Kochi-Muzirise Biennale 2014 (India), and Asian Art Biennale (Bangladesh). He secured the National Special Award (NAFA) from National Academy of Fine Arts three times, and was a winner of the US embassy Art Competition (Nepal).

 

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Mentoring of entrepreneurs is missing in India: Tarun Khanna, Harvard Business School


This interview with SAI Director Tarun Khanna was published in The Times of India.

The entrepreneurship ecosystem in India needs to evolve beyond ecommerce and mcommerce and into areas such as education and healthcare, said Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School .

Khanna is involved with the startup ecosystem in India as investor and entrepreneur and is also an advisor to the Niti Aayog. Khanna, who was recently in Mumbai, spoke to ET on the deeper structural issues facing entrepreneurs.

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HBS Creating Emerging Markets and India Research Center host inaugural conference in Mumbai


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Read an interview with participants of this conference:
HBS Working Knowledge: Reputation is Vital to Survival in Turbulent Markets
Reputation and resilience are key ingredients that determine whether companies will survive tumultuous markets, according to a new paper byGeoffrey Jones, Tarun Khanna, Cheng Gao, and Tiona Zuzul.

By Rachael Comunale

The Harvard Business School Creating Emerging Markets project (CEM), in collaboration with the HBS India Research Center (IRC), hosted a two-day conference titled, “Creating Emerging Markets: Lessons from History” on February 13-14 in Mumbai. The event showcased the CEM archive, which includes more than 100 video interviews with business leaders in emerging markets conducted largely by senior HBS faculty, and it also marked the 10th anniversary of the IRC. Guest speakers included distinguished business leaders Rahul Bajaj, Ritu Kumar, Jerry Rao, Zia Mody, Anu Aga, and Yusuf Hamied. The event also attracted prominent scholars, including Gita Piramal, Mahesh Vyas, Chinmay Tumbe, and Shekhar Shah, and leading corporate archivists, including Vrunda Pathare, Rajib Lochan Sahoo, and Usha Iyer. Over 120 guests attended.

Lessons from History

The two-day conference in Mumbai sought to address – through two different forums – the question: what is the value of history in business? Day One of the conference explored the value of history for today’s practitioners and policy makers through the lens of four major issues currently facing businesses in South Asia and other emerging markets: spurring innovation, managing family business, navigating business-government relations, and promoting responsible business practices. Each discussion began with a series of short clips from the CEM archive that addressed the specific theme in more detail. For example, during the innovation panel, guests watched a short video of Yusuf Hamied discussing the necessity of incremental innovation in the pharmaceuticals industry in the 2000s.

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Livelihood Creation Profile: Kumaun Grameen Udyog


This is part a series of organizations in India who received a Social Innovation grant through the SAI/Tata Trusts project on Livelihood Creation.

 

 

ORGANIZATION DETAILS

  • Organisation Name: Kumaun Grameen Udyog (KGU)
  • Registered As: Section 8 company
  • Year Founded: 1996
  • Locations: Nainital District, Uttarakhand
  • Email: info@kgu.org.in, sarika@kgu.org.in
  • Contact Number: +91-7535977771
  • Website: http://www.kilmora.in/

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