Gender, liberalization and agrarian change in Telangana
This dissertation investigates the origin, content and impact of gender and liberalization policies within the region of Telangana in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. My analysis is based upon a year of fieldwork in the region as well as data from the National Sample Surveys. I argue that making women favored ‘clients of the development process’ gave the state in Andhra Pradesh legitimacy within local politics as well as with external funding agencies, smoothing the transition to a liberalization regime. However, the policy context of liberalization has meant that the state has reduced its share of expenditure on ‘social reproduction’ in recent years and the substantive content of its ‘women's empowerment’ policy is a highly publicized thrift and micro-credit program for women. While this program does address women as autonomous economic agents, it fails to account for the fact that hierarchies of gender are cross-cut by class and caste. In claiming to empower women through a program that lacks fiscal support and relies upon the expenditure of time and resources by participants themselves, the program serves to re-emphasize these hierarchies and tends to exclude the poorest, lowest caste women.
Meanwhile there has been an increase in female labor force participation in the postliberalization period. This increase is best explained as the result of a ‘supply push’, reflecting the agrarian distress in this region. There is little improvement in the conditions under which women and men labor. As a result employment may not be translating into increased empowerment for women. Furthermore, the cultural context that shapes gender inequality in this region is also changing as denoted by an expansion of the practice and amounts of dowry. Dowry in Telangana may indicate a shift away from egalitarian marriage practices and a reduction in the level of material and emotional support a woman can claim from her natal kin. While this change predates liberalization policies, it increases overall economic insecurity for women in the region. It must thus be taken into account by policy makers if they do not wish to exacerbate the economic vulnerabilities of women.
0453: Womens studies