YWLPPF Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship

Event Report
Reetwika Mallick

The Gender Impact Studies Center, at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a Two-Month Online National Winter School Program on ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’ from January 6th, 2024 to March 8th 2024.

The chair of the program was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI.

Convenors of the program were Dr Arjun Kumar Director, IMPRI, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI, Prof Gummadi Sridevi, Visiting Professor, IMPRI and Adv Dr Shalu Nigam, Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI.

Day 1:  Fostering Women’s Participation in Decision-Making

The session led by Ms. Amarjeet Kaur addressed the importance of gender-equality for advancement of a society. Women’s participation in decision-making was traced back to women’s role in India’s freedom struggle and as esteemed members of Constituent Assembly. Ms. Kaur also discussed about shaping women’s rights in post-independence era and the role played by women’s movements.

Ms. Kaur highlighted the need for participation of society as a whole in policy-making to overcome the challenges of women-centric policy implementation. In the session, Ms. Kaur discussed the nature of policies to be formulated to ensure an equal and just society.

Various societal cleavages were addressed in the session along with it, Ms. Kaur enumerated the constitutional provisions and policy-oriented solutions addressing the biases.

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Day 2: Women in Public Policy

Prof. Vibhuti Patel addressed the first session of Day 2 of the fellowship program. Prof. Patel outlined the challenges faced by young women in workforce and the constitutional and statutory rights provided to women. Prof. Patel also highlighted the challenges posed by the neo-liberal economic policies across the world for workers’ especially women.

Prof. Patel celebrated the political gains of women in the session and traced the history of women’s reservation bill. Examples of successful women’s movements for political rights across the world was discussed by Prof. Patel. The session also addressed the shifts in agricultural techniques and the subsequent effect on young women. Importance of education in women’s empowerment and the trends in northern and southern India of women’s education was discussed. The question-and-answer session dealt with unpaid domestic work of women and the need of recognizing it as economic activity.

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Ms. Urvashi Prasad in her session emphasized upon the significance of understanding the society from a multi-pronged approach before policy formulation. Ms. Prasad outlined the challenges and opportunities for young women in policy-making. Discussing the strengths of women as policy-maker, Ms. Prasad highlighted women’s ability to comprehend sensitive issues and the growing opportunities for women to gain experiences and excel in the policy-making field.

Ms. Prasad explained the need for updating one’s skills in the policy-making sphere to be relevant to the organisation. Ms. Prasad focused on the importance of getting a holistic experience in policy-making and the need of foresightedness among policy-formulators.

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Day 3: Women’s Movement

Pro. Vibhuti Patel on Day 3, discussed gender dynamics in India, within traditional family structures. Prof. Patel highlighted the need to challenge the patriarchal norms of the family and redefine roles of women and men.

Discussing on indices and data systems, Prof. Patel underlined the importance of accurate data system in addressing gender disparities. Integrating Sustainable Development Goal 5 in development and policy goals could be a positive step towards women’s empowerment. The Question-and-answer session discussed about discrimination in workplaces and discriminatory cultural norms towards women. Prof. Patel explained the importance of solidarity to achieve gender equality.

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Professor Roxanna Marina comprehensively explained the global feminist movement. Highlighting the theoretical trends of contemporary feminism, Prof. Marina explained the inclusive character of fourth wave of feminism. Several scholarly views and feminist movements of India and Latin America were discussed in the session. The unique contributions of different forms of feminism were explained by Prof. Mariana.

Prof. Mariana discussed various forms of discrimination against women and transgenders in workplace. In the session, the avenues to challenge such discrimination was also outlined. The necessary interventions for ensuring women’s empowerment were explained by Prof. Mariana. The speaker stressed the need for equal opportunities, easy access to education, and getting rid of gender stereotypes as the essential steps to creating a fair and inclusive society.

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Day 4: Empowerment of women

Dr Purnima Chauhan on day 4 of the fellowship provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges that women-oriented policies encounter in the process of formulation as well as implementation. Explaining the role of gender in public policy, Dr. Chauhan traced the history of women oriented public policy from ‘women in development (WID)’ to ‘sustainable development goal 5’.

Dr. Chauhan highlighted the diverse impact of policies on different sections of society. She discussed the outcomes of major women-centric schemes in the session, outlining the lacunas and the steps taken to address them. Dr. Chauhan supported the notion of substantive equality in formulation of policies. Policy formulation, according to Dr. Chauhan also requires gender disaggregated data.

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Dr. Simi Mehta shared her insights on the steps to be undertaken while writing research articles in relation to social sciences. Outlining the importance of adopting the appropriate method and exercises in selection of research topic, Dr. Mehta underlined the importance of one’s interest in the area of research.

Explaining each stage of research article writing, Dr. Mehta delineated the thematic arrangement of the arguments under various sub-headings. Dr. Mehta explained the skeleton of the research article that needs to be followed. Dr. Mehta specified the referencing style in the article should be in accordance with the requirements and guidelines of the respective journal. Dr. Mehta also highlighted upon the necessity of review of the research manuscript and editing and revising it accordingly. Following the ethical guidelines are also crucial in research article writing, Dr. Mehta explained.

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Day 5: Young Women Leaders Making Difference

On day 5, Ms. Sangeeta Rege discussed role of women as leaders in health sector. She highlighted the economic contribution of women in the health sector sharing global and national data. Ms. Rege underlined a case study of Kerala’ healthcare sector and the challenges faced by women in the state as healthcare workers.

Ms. Rege in the session discussed comprehensively the barriers faced by young women in selecting their roles in healthcare sector. Ms. Rege acknowledging the smaller number of women role models in healthcare sector highlighted the vulnerability of young women, working in a patriarchal set up. Ms. Rege shared some positive examples from across the world whereby women were successfully represented in leadership positions, proving women can be as effective leaders as men can be and at times can also outperform men in leadership capabilities.

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Ms. Medhavinee Namjoshi enumerated the challenges faced by young women in leadership positions and also traced the solutions to such challenges. Ms. Namjoshi while defining youth highlighted the lacuna in such a definition, neglecting the feminine conceptions. Ms. Namjoshi also underlined the various age groups considered by different organisations for defining youth that excludes a large number of young people from the policies.

 Ms. Namjoshi in the session explained the varied experiences of young women and thereby requiring different strategies to address them. Sharing her experience as a gender and development professional, Ms. Namjoshi tracked the trajectory due to which women remain un-empowered despite efforts made through public policy.

Ms. Namjoshi underlined the self-barriers faced by women that hinders in their empowerment. In the session, Ms. Namjoshi enumerated the lack of mentorship and role models for young women to look up to when they venture out. Giving women the agency, responsibility and ensuring an inclusive working environment were some of the steps that can be undertaken to ensure empowerment of women, delineated Ms. Namjoshi.

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Day 6: Women’s Rights

Prof. Vibhuti Patel highlighted on young women becoming catalysts for change in public policy. She discussed the evolution of women’s rights movement through various phases. Prof. Patel explained the current phase of movement as information, technology and online mobilization. In the session, challenges faced by each phase of women’s rights movements were also highlighted.  Prof. Patel underlined the challenges and step forwards in empowering young women leaders in local government.

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Dr. Soumyadip Chattopadhyay explained the role of data and emerging tech for young women in public policy. Emphasizing upon the exponential increase in data volume, Dr. Chattopadhyay enumerated the challenges of handling such huge amount of data in detail.

Dr Chattopadhyay highlighted the potential of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize public policy. He also suggested the steps the government may undertake to utilize technology in analyzing data and thereby formulating policies. Dr. Chattopadhyay also delineated the need for transparency and accountability in the use of data, as well as the need for clear regulations that govern the use of data.

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Advocate Aradhana Johri Menon spoke about championing safeguards for young women in public policies. She shared several personal experiences while explaining the prevalence of violence against women in India. Accountability for enforcing laws, in essential according to Adv. Menon. She also highlighted the lacunas in criminal laws

Adv. Menon discussed the challenges in implementing laws designed to protect women including sections of IPC and Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005. Adv. Menon listed the hindrances in implementation of laws that addresses violence against women. The question-and-answer session dealt with the practical application of laws to support women facing violence.

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Day 7: Leadership Lessons for Young Women

Prof Rukaiya Joshi, on day 7 of the fellowship underlined the leadership lessons specially for young women leaders in public policy. Prof. Joshi highlighted the under-representation of young women in all spheres of policy making. She underlined leadership roles can be played at every position in an organisation.

Prof. Joshi taking the discussion forward aided in understanding skills to possess to be a successful leader. Discussing Peter Drucker’s approach of polishing the strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses, one can be a successful leader. Prof. Joshi enumerated. Prof. Joshi in the session listed criteria to identify strengths in order to become a good leader. 

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Effective networking and personal development for young women leaders was discussed by Ms. Anna Usha Abraham. Ms. Abraham defined personal development and cautioned at equating career development with personal development. Ms. Abraham outlined the steps one can undertake for personal development. Ms. Abraham delineated the skills required for personal development in the session.

In the session Ms. Abraham traced the essentiality of introspection and also outlined the ways of introspecting. The positive consequences of personal development were traced by Ms. Abraham in the session. Ways of effective networking for young women was discussed by the esteemed speaker. She also listed down the advantages of networking as a aid in personal growth.

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Mr Yash Agarwal addressed on careers in public policy. Mr. Agarwal explained the meaning of public policy using various examples. Despite diverse fields being attached to public policy, Mr. Agrawal outlined five universal pillars of policy that can be identified to assist in deciding career paths in policy. The esteemed speaker explained each of the pillars in detail in the session.

Mr. Agarwal enumerated the diverse skill sets required for different pillars of policy making. Discussing public policy as a career possibility, Mr. Agarwal shared three important points to reckon with. Mr. Agarwal attached immense importance to the appropriate skill sets one requires to posses for each distinct step of policy making. 

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Day 8: Society Led by Women-

Adv Dr Albertina Almeida emphasized upon the need for advancing inclusivity in society and the challenges faced in addressing this. Adv. Dr. Almeida discussed in length various aspects of inclusivity, including the dilemma of the notion of inclusivity. Adv. Dr. Almeida explained ways in which women’s experiences in life and governance differs from men’s. She explained the differences using various policy examples.

Adv. Dr. Almeida discussed the negative impacts of non-inclusive societies on individuals in particular and societies in general. In the session, Adv. Dr. Almeida, an expert in the field, explained the inclusive provisions enumerated in the Indian Constitution. Adv. Dr. Almeida, in the session listed the steps to be undertaken at different spheres by which an inclusive society can be constructed. She highlighted the need to identify plural realities of women, while designing policies.

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Ms. Seema Kulkarni illustrated the impact of climate change on young women and highlighted the steps to mitigate them. Ms. Kulkarni defined climate change and the preventive steps of IPCC report to save earth from extreme case of global warming. Ms. Kulkarni in the session discussed the disastrous consequences of climate change. She discussed how agriculture itself gets affected by climate change and at the same time is a contributor towards global warming.

Through various case studies and interview clips, Ms. Kulkarni discussed impacts on young girls of climate change. Ms. Kulkarni enumerated the health impacts on young women due to increase of domestic burden and rise in temperature. Ms. Kulkarni, highlighting the actions needs to be taken by young women to mitigate climate change. While policy formulation, she highlighted the importance of taking into account the intersectionality of caste, gender and economic background.

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The entrepreneurial journey of young women was discussed in detail by Ms Anjali Bawa. Ms. Bawa explained the meaning of entrepreneur while outlining the challenges of women entrepreneurs. The four major challenges discussed by Ms. Bawa included- Lack of access to funding, gender biasedness and stereotypes, dual burden on young women and lack of mentorship and networking opportunities.

Ms. Bawa in the session steps to address the challenges of young women entrepreneur. Some of the important way forwards included- building a personal brand, network with women who have gained funds, effective time management actively seek out for mentorship programmes. Ms. Bawa encouraged the participants to convert every challenge as opportunity.

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Day 9: Women in Public Services

Prof. Sanjukta Bhattacharya discussed on Women in Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and Leadership. Prof. Bhattacharya traced historical trends of women’s participation in diplomacy and the crucial policy decisions taken by them. She explained the challenges faced by women in the sphere of diplomacy using case studies.

Prof. Bhattacharya underlined the need for Feminist Foreign Policy in dealing with countries. The ongoing tensions at Gaza, Prof Bhattacharya enumerated the hardships faced by women in wars. She said that women face a great level of economic and social difficulties during such turmoil. Prof. Bhattacharya reiterated the need to look war from women’s lense to safeguard women’s rights.

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Dr. Nivedita P Haran discussed on empowering women in public services. Dr. Haran introduced a broad definition of public services, beyond civil services. She guided how public policy could be more inclusive and coherent.

Dr. Haran explained the positives of making public services more inclusive. She noted that it is easier to develop leadership qualities in women than in men, making women more adaptable and dynamic leaders. The inclusive participation of women in policy making has an overall positive impact on society, Dr. Haran explained through a case study. Towards the end of the session, discussions over safety of women in public services were also discussed.

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Presentation by Participants on various topics enlightened the session. Changing Role of Women in Use of Common Property Resources (CPR); a poetic documentary was presented, intersectionality in feminism; vital issue hindering women participation in workforce- Women Harassment at Work Places; Rethinking Violence Against Women in Domestic Spaces; Tyranny of women among Rohingya refugees; Impact Study on Early Childhood Education Policies in India; Engendering Urban Spaces; Refugee rise and humanitarian interventions.

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Day 10: Valedictory Address

Ms Kanta Singh talked about kleptocracy in the policy process and provided a holistic perspective of women’s empowerment. She further talked about consultancy and their role in decision making. She propounded that as students of Public Policy we must take an inclusive approach. She talked about investment in Gender equality focusing on financial investments.

Ms. Singh explained the importance of green and clean economy. She further elaborated upon other ways of bringing money in women’s sense. She highlighted the need to nurture women and provide them opportunities as leaders.

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As part of program presentation, the participants discussed several crucial issues through presentations. Topics included- stalking as violation of human rights; women’s leadership in global health; tyranny of Tibetan refugees; states’ responsibility towards homosexuality; women’s healthcare and English education; gender equality and empowerment; empowering inclusive policy-making for an equitable India; presentation on Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.

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Acknowledgment: Written and posted by Reetwika Mallick, intern at IMPRI.