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Title:Violence against women in India: Empowering settings, empowered communities, and social change
Author(s):Menon, Suvarna Vinod
Director of Research:Allen, Nicole
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Allen, Nicole
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cohen, Joseph R; Rappaport, Julian; Aber, Mark; Greene, Jennifer
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):domestic violence
violence against women
Abstract:Gender-based violence affects women globally. Such violence has become a salient concern for women in India, where communities are becoming increasingly aware of the risk of gender-based violence that women face on an everyday basis. A growing body of literature has demonstrated that cultural forces influence women’s vulnerability to violence by shaping the acceptability of violence, creating gendered norms that are disempowering for women, and presenting barriers to help-seeking. Indeed, violence against women (VAW) can be conceptualized as a context of disempowerment for women, restricting their agency and mobility. Often, an effective response to VAW is characterized by restoring a woman’s agency and power over her life. Further, the response to VAW requires system change and increased coordination across stakeholders from a variety of sectors (e.g. criminal justice, law enforcement, government); and community change that fosters social norms that are supportive of survivors of violence. This study sought to further this body of knowledge by examining VAW within the Indian cultural context with an emphasis on the response to VAW using a case study of a grassroots organization. This agency has an aim of creating a violence-free and gender-just society through social action, capacity building, and advocacy. The organization is a non-profit organization that engages in grassroots programming, networking, and advocacy with other stakeholders like government agencies. Their current work focuses on capacity building initiatives, particularly with rural women; advocacy; and supporting survivors of intimate partner violence or family violence. An empowerment framework is utilized in this study because of its relevance to women’s movements and its centrality to the response to VAW (Goodman & Epstein, 2008). The field of community psychology has examined the functioning of organizational contexts as empowering (i.e. empowering its members) and empowered (i.e. facilitating social change) settings. However, little is known about how empowerment can be characterized in the Indian context, and how the formal response to VAW is aligned with goals of empowerment and the promotion of women’s safety and well-being. Specifically, this study had three objectives: a) to examine what characterizes the nature of the organizational response to VAW through a case study of a women’s organization in India that works with survivors of domestic violence; in particular, to understand how this is an empowering setting for survivors; b) to examine how this setting functions as empowered setting fostering institutional change evidenced through efforts to engage in collaborative efforts across other formal systems responders (e.g., law enforcement); and c) to examine how this setting functions within a patriarchal space as an empowered setting facilitating community change evidenced through its facilitation of counter narratives of social change. More specifically, the study examined the following questions. Study 1 (Chapter 3) examined what characterizes the agency’s current practices with survivors of violence, that is, the organizational process of working with survivors of violence; understanding the mechanisms that facilitate empowerment of women; understanding how the agency navigates cultural tensions that may accompany an empowerment agenda; and finally, examining potential empowerment related outcomes with survivors. Study 2 (Chapter 4) aimed to examine the activities engaged in by the agency related to institutional change processes, understand the aspects of an empowering setting that appear to be salient in promoting institutional change, understand other processes that might facilitate institutional change, and examine the outcomes seen as a result of the agency’s efforts. Study 3 (Chapter 5) sought to examine what activities the agency engages in related to shifting community narratives related to the community response to domestic violence, what mechanisms or strategies adopted by the agency are salient for shifting community narratives, and how these mechanisms differ at the individual versus the community level. These studies occurred within a particular service delivery context and attended to organizational structure, staff perspectives and survivor voices to understand the agency’s functioning, while also examining distal cultural forces that may facilitate or impede women’s empowerment and social change.
Issue Date:2019-04-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Suvarna Menon
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08

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