Prof Naila Kabeer
Lives in; London, UK
Naila Kabeer is Professor in Gender and International Development at the Gender Institute/Department of International Development at the London School of Economics.
She obtained her PhD at LSE and was a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, Professor at SOAS before returning to LSE. Her main research interests are gender, poverty, livelihoods, social protection and citizenship and her work is largely focused on South Asia. She has published extensively on these topics: her recent publications include 'Organizing women in the informal economy: beyond the weapons of the weak' (Zed 2013), 'Paid work and women's empowerment: transforming the structures of constraint' (UN Women, 2013) and 'Can the MDGs provide a pathway to social justice: the challenge of intersecting inequalities' (2010, UN MDG Achievement Fund/IDS Sussex). She has engaged in policy advisory work with various international and national organisations, including the World Bank, UN Women, SIDA, Oxfam, Action Aid, BRAC, PRADAN and DFID. She is associated with a number of journals in her capacity as member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of Feminist Economics, Advisor Editor on Development and Change, on the Editorial Board of Gender and Development, the Editorial Board of Third World Quarterly and the International Advisory Board of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies. She is also on the Advisory Board, Women’s Rights Program, Open Society Foundations, the Advisory Board, International Centre for Research on Women and the Advisory Committee of the Better Works Programme at the ILO.
My work has always focused on those who are marginaliszed within their societies and excluded from processes of development. It has sought to understand and promote their perspectives, often drawing on their own testimonies but also combining this with statistics which help to quantify their unequal position in relation to others. It has therefore often meant challenging dominant views about these groups, who they are, what they value, and what motivates them.
My very first independent piece of research was conducted as part of my dissertation: it sought to use primary data on fertility behaviour from a village in Bangladesh to challenge neo-Malthusian ideas that dominated the population establishment and regarded high fertility in Third World countries as the product of irrational, tradition-bound behaviour of poor and ignorant peasants. My later work has focused on gender inequalities from the perspective of men and women from poor and marginaliszed groups. I have been particularly interested in understanding how change happens in the lives of those who are not only economically marginalizsed but cultural devalued. Any change that is to bring about progress in their lives must begin with changes in how they perceive themselves and are perceived by others because without a strengthened sense of selfhood and social worth, material progress is likely to be ephemeral.
The project that I will be collaborating on with colleagues from PRADAN is very much along these lines. PRADAN works with the poorest women in India’s poorest states. Many of their members are drawn from tribal or Adivasi groups who have historically been consigned to the margins of Indian society. PRADAN helps them to organise into groups in order to promote collective reflection on the injustices that underpin their subordinate position and collective action to assert their rights as citizens. Our research will seek to explore women’s experiences of their membership of self-help groups, the subjective and cognitive changes that it may have brought about for them and for their families and the extent to which they have been able to improve their livelihoods and to equalise the terms on which they engage with the wider society.