Impact India 2021: Elevating the Value of Women and Girls in Society
"Impact India 2021" is a research project, jointly undertaken by the Center for Faith and Public Life (CFPL) at Fairfield University and two Jesuit institutions in India - St. Xavier's College in Mumbai and Loyola College in Chennai. The multidisciplinary research team from all three institutions focused upon the sex ratio imbalance crisis in India, a problem caused when there are significantly more boys than girls in the country's general population.
Incubated under the auspices of the Gender and Sustainability Research Initiative (GSRI), this project focuses on the nexus of complex family dynamics and familial pressures that make it acceptable for many Indian couples to choose to have a single, male child. The title, "Impact India 2021" indicates the research goal of leveraging evidence of family dynamics so as to map a pathway for social change that could become discernible in the National Indian Census of 2021.
"Impact India 2021" draws on the rich, multidisciplinary faculty expertise from across our partner institutions. Keeping family dynamics and using gender as the fulcrum of power relations within families and communities, the preliminary report moves beyond merely addressing challenges to women's well-being to investigating and documenting new ways of examining issues that are critical in a family's decision-making process, wherein women and men are partners and have a stake in creating healthy families, and by extension, safe communities.
Because it entails the well-being of communities, responding to gender concerns in a substantive way requires disciplinary knowledge and training from those in the health, business, education, humanities, social sciences, technology and engineering fields. What anchors this innovative research project is the place that gender has at the heart of family dynamics and at the intersections of various analytical and intellectual models. The research findings bring new knowledge and methodologies to bear upon the Indian sex ratio imbalance crisis. It is this deliberate, multi-disciplinary, multi-partner underpinning that enables the CFPL to be a thought leader on Fairfield's campus and amongst Jesuit universities nationally and globally.
Under the joint leadership of Dr. Gita Rajan, professor of English, and Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., director, CFPL and professor of Sociology, Impact India 2021 has just completed a 10-month pilot study of the issue of the sex ratio imbalance in India. Our survey was designed to examine family dynamics and challenges that impact maternal and child well-being by reframing the issue away from women's health to include men and women as a stakeholders for their own well-being within the family unit. This analytical approach provided evidence-based attitudes embedded in family interactions and revealed pressure points within families around the practice of male-child preference.
One expected outcome is to demonstrate the economic value of girls in society, and by extension, their role in strengthening India's GDP. Through this new set of data, we plan to indicate pathways to attitudinal and belief changes in society, and to highlight options for sustaining such changes.
The pilot research study was supported by members of the CFPL Advisory Board and has been implemented in collaboration with Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C and former Chief of Staff for Hillary Clinton.
Dr. Gita Rajan
Listen to Dr. Rajan's WNPR
radio interview (mp3)
Fairfield University faculty members contributing to this project are:
Gita Rajan, Ph.D., professor, principal investigator and founder of GSRI
Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J., professor of sociology and director of CFPL
Dr. Suzanne Campbell, Ph.D., WHNP-BD, IBCLC, associate professor and dean, School of Nursing
Anna-Maria Aksan, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics
Loyola College Chennai, India
Rev. Joe Arun, S.J.
Francis Adaikalam, Ph.D.
Gautam Manoharan, Ph.D.
St. Xavier's College, Mumbai
Rev. Frazer Mascarenhas, S.J.
Vivien Amonkar, Ph.D.
Neha Agrawal, Ph.D.
Aggie Menezes, Ph.D.