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News Category: News

Philanthropy’s role in South Asia and the US

From left: Alnoor Ebrahim, Rohini Nilekani, and Geeta Pradhan

By Abhishek RahmanMDiv Candidate, Harvard Divinity School

Are corporations improving their environmental, social and governance footprint? According to the panelists at a SAI Special Event on November 18th titled ‘The Use of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility for Social Change in South Asia and the US,’ there is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.

Moderated by Alnoor Ebrahim, Harvard Business School, the event, which took place at the Harvard Faculty Club, highlighted models of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in India and the U.S. and included panelists Rohini Nilekani, chairperson of Arghyam Foundation, and Geeta Pradhan, an executive at the Boston Foundation.

Drawing from their diverse experiences in the private and public sector, the panelists agreed that progress in the field of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in the past decade has been driven by a combination of evolving global guidelines, increased stakeholder expectations, and more demanding corporate disclosure requirements.

Recalling her personal trajectory in the social sector space, Nilekani talked about how the definition of philanthropy in India has changed from “having a big heart to now having big wealth.”

Commenting about the influence of her left-of-center political beliefs on her philanthropy, she told the audience, “I believe, in a country like India, only when we build a strong society or samaj, can development happen. So, I spend my philanthropic capital to build people’s institutions, which can resist the oppressive forces of the state and the market.”

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    Thank you!




























    This Thanksgiving, the South Asia Institute would like to thank our supporters all over the world and at Harvard, without whom we would not be able to fulfill our mission of advancing and deepening research on global issues in South Asia:

    2 visiting fellows

    3 Research Affiliates

    4 finance administrators

    student coordinators

    9 staff members, including 4 in South Asia

    19 South Asia-related student groups at Harvard

    19 Advisory Council members

    20 faculty Steering Committee members

    21 Harvard faculty who have lead SAI seminars or research projects this semester

    1,098 Twitter followers

    1,166 people who have attended SAI events so far this semester

    2,148 Facebook fans

    And all of the staff who make our events possible!

      Access to sanitation and women’s rights

      By Ghazal Gulati and Divya Sooryakumar, Ed. M Candidates, International Education Policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education

      “We have a moral imperative to end open defecation and a duty to ensure women and girls are not at risk of assault and rape simply because they lack a sanitation facility.”

      -UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Message for World Toilet Day, Nov. 19, 2014

      From left to right: Subhadra Banda, Ramnath Subbaraman, and Sharmila Murthy

      Worldwide, 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. Of the 1 billion of people in the world who defecate in the open, half of those reside in India. The country faces a challenge in meeting the 2015 UN Millennium Development Goal, which aims to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.”

      The theme of this year’s World Toilet Day, which took place on Nov. 19, 2014, is “Equality, Dignity and the Link Between Gender-Based Violence and Sanitation.” The campaign seeks to put a spotlight on the threat of sexual violence that women and girls face in developing nations, due to the loss of privacy as well as the inequalities in access to safe sanitation.

      On Monday, November 17th, SAI hosted a Gender and Urbanization seminar on the topic with Sharmila Murthy, Assistant Professor of Law, Suffolk University; Visiting Scholar, Sustainability Science Program, Harvard Kennedy School, Ramnath Subbaraman, Associate Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Research Advisor, Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action, and Research (PUKAR), Mumbai, India, and Subhadra Banda, Research Associate, Centre for Policy Research; MPP Candidate, Harvard Kennedy School, titled ‘Access to Toilets and Women’s Rights.

      By approaching the issue of access to toilets from multiple perspectives of public health, law, and civil society, the three panelists dove deep into the intricacies of the issue, and into the connection between sanitation, toilets, and gender violence, often a taboo topic in India.

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        SAI Fellowships

        SAI offers three opportunities for scholars and practitioners to continue their research at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

        Fellows are expected to reside in the Cambridge vicinity during the time of their award and to actively participate in the events and intellectual life of the Institute. Fellows are also expected to contribute to the greater Harvard community by teaching, mentoring, or advising students. In addition to the stipend, fellows are provided with health insurance, as well as transportation costs for those traveling from South Asia to Cambridge.

        Aman Fellowship

        SAI offers three opportunities for scholars and practitioners to continue their research at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Fellows are expected to reside in the Cambridge vicinity during the time of their award and to actively participate in the events and intellectual life of the Institute. Fellows are also expected to contribute to the greater Harvard community by teaching, mentoring, or advising students. In addition to the stipend, fellows are provided with health insurance, as well as transportation costs for those traveling from South Asia to Cambridge.
        Total stipend for one term: $20,000

        Babar Ali Fellowship

        The Babar Ali Fellowship supports recent PhDs, those in the final stages of their PhDs, and advanced professional degree holders in areas related to Pakistan.
        Priority will be given to candidates who demonstrate prior educational history that has taken place largely in Pakistan, and plan to return to Pakistan upon completion of the fellowship.
        Total stipend for one term: $20,000

        South Asian Studies Fellowship

        The South Asian Studies Fellowship supports recent PhDs in the humanities and social sciences related to South Asia. Research topics can cover any period of South Asian history or contemporary South Asia. Candidates must be able to provide evidence of successful completion of their PhD by June of the year of appointment and may not be more than five years beyond the receipt of PhD.
        Total stipend for one year: $40,000

        Deadline: January 15, 2015 for Academic Year 2015-2016

        News about SAI’s Fellows.

          Mass casualty triage

          Mass casualty incidents, from terrorist attacks, floodings, earthquakes to bus accidents, are chaotic. With proper knowledge about the principles of triage, even those with no medical training can help.

          Mass casualty triage was the topic of SAI’s second webinar of the semester, on Nov. 19, on disaster management with Dr. Usha Periyanayagam (@uperiy), MD, MPH, International Emergency Medicine Fellow, Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital; Harvard Medical School.

          Eight universities from three countries in South Asia participated in the interactive session, using videoconference software provided by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), with a participation of around 100 students in South Asia, with many more watching online.

          Watch the presentation.

          Dr. Periyanayagam has worked with SAI and the Aman Foundation to improve disaster response in Karachi, and has extensive experience in emergency settings around the world.

          During the webinar, Dr. Periyanayagam explained that “triage” is not treatment – it is a method of sorting injured people and deciding who gets treatment first. “The goal of triage is doing the greatest good for the greatest number – it’s not doing everything you can for every patient,” Dr. Periyanayagam explained. She cited the 2013 Boston marathon bombing as an example of triage working correctly – of the 250 who were injured, no one who was transported to hospital died.

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            SAI hosts Grants Open House

            Vineet Diwadkar, GSD, talks about his “Modeling Mumbai” project

            On Wednesday, November 19, SAI hosted its annual Summer Grants Opportunities Open House at Harvard. For students with an interest in pursuing opportunities in South Asia, this event was a unique chance for them to engage with previous grant recipients, internship site representatives, and SAI staff, to learn more about potential possibilities for in-region experiences.

            The event kicked off with Program Manager Nora Maginn walking students through the nuts and bolts of applying for a SAI grantDivya Sooryakumar, HGSE, SAI Student Services Intern, then shared some examples of the diverse internship site opportunities available to students, ranging from engineering and design internships to curriculum design projects.

            The attendees then had the opportunity to hear from three internship site representatives: Ryan Draft from the Harvard-Bangalore Science Initiative, Shaun Jayachandran, Founder of the Education Non-Profit Organization, Crossover Basketball, and Myriam Zuber of the FXB Center, a human-rights advocacy campaign.

            The highlight of the evening was hearing from three 2014 grant recipients, Brenna McDuffie, Ian Maccormack and Vineet Diwadkar, who shared their diverse experiences from a SAI grant. Brenna, a senior at Harvard College, spent her summer in a Hindi immersion program in Jaipur, Rajasthan and was able to push her language skills to the next level. Ian Maccormack, a PhD candidate at GSAS shared his journey through Northern India and Nepal to recover ancient Buddhist texts for his dissertation research. Vineet Diwadkar, a master’s candidate at GSD, shared his project, “Modeling Mumbai”, an examination of the inherent tension between low-income housing and the demand for real estate in Mumbai.

            All of the grant recipients repeatedly highlighted the value of the opportunity to be in the region enriching their respective fields of study, research and projects. The event highlighted the diversity of projects, approaches, and interest areas that SAI supports.

            Read: SAI 2014 Student Grant Report


            -Divya Sooryakumar, HGSE, SAI Student Services Intern

              Shaping problem-solvers

              This article originally appeared in the Harvard Gazette

              Course spans disciplines to address social, economic challenges in South Asia


              By Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer

              Photo courtesy of Ann Wang/Harvard Gazette

              “The existing system in many developing countries is not working for the masses, so almost by definition you need entrepreneurship,” Tarun Khanna said of the social and economic issues facing India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other nations of South Asia.

              Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School and the director of Harvard’s South Asia Institute, leads the Gen Ed course “Contemporary South Asia: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems.” He was speaking just outside Sever 113, where his students were working furiously on plans for improving maternal mortality in one of two places — India’s state of Uttar Pradesh or the Pakistani state of Punjab. A few minutes earlier, they had been presented with two scenarios and a sheet of relevant data, and then given half an hour to brainstorm solutions.

              The scenarios weren’t Khanna’s, but those of Sue J. Goldie, the Roger Irving Lee Professor of Public Health and the director of the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard. Goldie is one of a handful of co-instructors who have joined Khanna this semester to lend their expertise in key fields.

              While Goldie has addressed health issues, the Graduate School of Design’sRahul Mehrotra has discussed challenges stemming from urbanism; Conor Walsh, an assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has looked at technology; andParimal Patil, a professor of religion and Indian philosophy and the chair of theDepartment of South Asian Studies, is in the middle of four weeks of teaching about solutions enabled by the arts and humanities.

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                2014 Student Grant Report

                SAI offers research and internship grants to Harvard graduate students and Harvard college undergraduate students (freshmen, sophomores, and juniors) to be used during the summer and winter sessions.

                In 2014, SAI awarded 46 grants to students to do a variety internships and research projects in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Grant recipients represent the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, College, Graduate School of Design, Divinity School, Kennedy School, Medical School, and School of Public Health.

                In the SAI 2014 Grant Report, students reflect on their experience and what they learned.

                Examples of testimonials:

                “I can confidently say that this internship has brought me a long away, from my theoretical conception of environmental policy from Harvard courses, with a deeper understanding of the profession,  practice, and substance of environmental law and policy.”

                -Sabrina Ghouse, Social Studies & Environment, Harvard College 2015; Internship with United Nations Development Programme

                “My visit has allowed me to think more broadly about the relationship between private enterprise and urban planning and design in the context of developing countries.”

                -Justin D. Stern, PhD Candidate, Architecture & Urban Planning, Graduate School of Design; Research: Between Industrialization and Urban Planning: Tata Steel and the Two Faces of Jamshedpur

                “What was originally meant to be a preliminary research trip, morphed into a rather substantial research, far exceeding my expectations.”

                -Lydia Walker, PhD Candidate, Department of History, GSAS; National Separatist Movements in the Early 1960s in South Asia and Southern Africa

                “When my friends and coworkers asked me why I was so delighted to be in the city despite the monstrous heat, I’d say in absolute earnest that I have a big crush on Delhi: on its long afternoons working out some idea for a paper with friends over chai; on its lecture- and music- and addafilled evenings. I hope to return to Delhi after graduation for continued study and research”

                -Reina Gattuso, Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard College 2015; Lokniti Program, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi

                “Working with my other lab members, I was able to learn about science and the culture of India simultaneously. In between performing behavioral tests and analyzing our data, we would chitchat about everything from the must-see attractions in India to the country’s education system.”

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                  If Ebola comes to India

                  This article was originally published in the Indian Express

                  By Ashish K Jha, K.T. Li Professor of International Health, Harvard School of Public Health; Director, Harvard Global Health Institute, and Tarun KhannaDirector of the South Asia Institute &
                  Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

                  With the ongoing spread of Ebola in West Africa, it is becoming increasingly likely that the disease will make its way to India. So what should India do to prepare? The Union government has already taken several meaningful steps. It has designated hospitals in major cities as Ebola management centres and formed rapid response teams in every state, each of which will include physicians, nurses and epidemiologists. The state teams are being trained by the WHO and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and will disseminate their training to local first responders. Also, the government has put in place screening protocols at international airports, established 24-hour Ebola helplines staffed by doctors and shortlisted the authorisation of 10 new Ebola-testing labs.

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                    In Memory of John Briscoe

                    John presents at SAI’s Symposium in 2011

                    The Harvard South Asia Institute is saddened to hear the news that John Briscoe, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Environmental Engineering and Environmental Health, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and SAI Steering Committee member, passed away on November 12, 2014.

                    John was a passionate scholar with a deep dedication to water issues and development, especially in South Asia, and spent a great amount of time working in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. In April 2014, John was named the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for his unparalleled contributions to global and local water management issues.

                    “One of the things that we will remember most about John is the way he advised us to think of our work as not bound by borders, but rather that issue-based thinking can span geographies and regions to enrich learning and teaching. This is what John did with his water project, an issue with an immediate urgency for many parts of the world. His approach and perspective will live on in the way that SAI brings together faculty, students, and regional experts across disciplines and borders.”

                    Meena Hewett, South Asia Institute Executive Director

                    “John was an extremely dynamic individual who combined theory with practice and with a deep sense of the issues of water policy especially in the developing world. He was known world wide as ‘water Briscoe’ and the go-to person on matters of water policy. He was my office neighbor for 5 years and I saw first hand what a dedicated teacher he was. There were always dozens of students from different parts of the campus waiting to see him! A truly wonderful colleague and a very special friend! I will miss him greatly.”

                    Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Benjamin Peirce Professor of Technology and Public Policy and Professor of Physics, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Director Science, Technology and Public Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School

                    “Professor John Briscoe was a teacher, a guide, a mentor, and a dear friend. To us, his students at Harvard, whom he led on field study trips of the Indus in Pakistan, he was ‘JB’. His warmth and care infected us and motivated many of us to do advanced studies in water management and development. He taught us to see that as bad as we thought things were, the glass was always ‘half full’. You will be missed John, and we will endeavor to build on your legacy, for those deprived of the full potential of their water resources.”

                    - Erum Sattar, SJD Candidate, Harvard Law School