Research has been the mainstay of the Centre since its inception. As the following accounts will amply attest, the Centre continues to be responsive to contemporary problems and new questions demanding investigation, while recognising the rigours and challenges of inter-disciplinary scholarship in the broad field of women’s studies. While the Centre has, for practical reasons, limited its choice of areas of research drawing on the competences and interests of the faculty, the Centre’s resources and outreach in terms of the range of topics addressed have been growing. In the following, brief narrations of research projects and related activities have been provided.
From its inception, the Centre’s intention has been to work for change by going beyond the conventions of pure research and academic neutrality. Action research was a direct outcome of this strategy and came to be most fully realised in the Project in West Bengal. Combining women’s grassroots’ empowerment with enhanced livelihood skills, the Project gave hitherto marginalised rural women a voice in shaping their lives and that of their communities. Our action research projects have demonstrated how grassroots women’s organisations – otherwise the most remote from institutions of higher education – can be partners in the production of knowledge about women’s lives and struggles.
Advocacy and Networking
CWDS has been a founding member of various networks including the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS), Forum for Creche and Child Care Services (FORCES) and the National Network of Women’s Organisations based in Delhi. The Centre is an institutional member of the Delhi Library Network (DELNET) and INDEV, an electronic network on development information. In association with various networks and organisations, the Centre has initiated advocacy on various issues such as the rights of children, reservations for women, the right to food, the rights of forest people, protests against the population policy, questions of legal reform, and so on.
Teaching Women’s Studies
The partnership with Ambedkar University Delhi has provided a platform for CWDS faculty to engage with the formal teaching of Women’s Studies within a growing academic community of scholars within the university system. It also offers interesting opportunities to share concerns, experiences and issues based on our areas of expertise with another generation of researchers. The short courses offer an opportunity to interact with students from different locations both in India and at the international level.
Library and Information Services
The CWDS library is a specialised resource centre, housing one of the most comprehensive collections of published and unpublished material relating to women in India. Its vast array of resources include books, journals, conference documents, newsletters and an extensive corpus of newspaper clippings. The library also provides a range of regular information services, which include the monthly Current Awareness Service Bulletin, the Library Reading List Series, a listing of current contents of periodicals and analytical alert service, which informs users about the contents of edited volumes received by the library. It also prepares thematic bibliographies on various issues.
CWDS has always valued the critical importance of the dissemination of its work through diverse channels. Ongoing research work undertaken by the Centre is quickly brought out through its Occasional Papers series and monographs, apart from regular contributions through books, articles and reports. The first women’s studies journal – Samya Shakti was broght out by CWDS from 1988 to 1994. Subsequently, renamed The Indian Journal of Gender Studies, this best-selling and internationally acclaimed journal is now published three times a year and distributed by Sage Publications.
An increasing appreciation of the role of visual archives in enhancing an understanding of women’s changing roles and status in India led to the establishment of a photographic archive on women in the pre-independence period. Since its creation, this first national level photographic archive on women for the period 1875-1947 has taken on multiple forms, through a travelling exhibition, a series of calendars and a major book.
Seminars/ Conferences/ Workshops
One of the important functions of the Centre since its inception was to engage itself in continuous dialogue with academicians, policy makers, activists and others through the forum of Seminars/ Conferences/ Workshops etc. The role of the Centre was either to organize such Seminars etc. itself or in collaboration with others, or encourage Faculty participation in seminars/workshops/conferences organised by others.