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Translating MDG 3: Gender, Empowerment and the Adolescent Girl in Maharashtra, India

This thesis is an exploration of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3, tracing its path from a global aspiration to its translation into a developing world context. Adopted in 2001 by the United Nations, the eight MDGs represented a global effort to address issues such as poverty, health, social injustice and environmental degradation. Goal 3 specifically was aimed at gender equality and women’s empowerment. Despite an extensive scholarship on the MDGs in general and on the specific issue of women’s empowerment in the development context, there has been little scholarly attention directed at the place and role of adolescent girls in the context of gender equality and empowerment. Similarly, there is a critical need to examine how policy formulated at the global level is translated into local contexts and with what consequences. This research undertakes a qualitative, in-depth, small-scale case study of a gender empowerment programme located in rural Maharashtra, India, to examine how a broad goal of gender empowerment is translated into a UNICEF-funded local programme for adolescent girls. The absence of adolescent girls in the gender and development and feminist scholarship has meant that existing feminist analytical frameworks are inadequate for this study. Hence, I draw on a range of scholarship on Third World feminism, the women, culture and development paradigm, the social relations framework, as well as on youth and citizenship to develop an adolescent girl and development perspective. Deploying this perspective as an analytical tool serves to provide a fresh insight into how Goals conceptualised at the global level translate to influence policy affecting the lived realities of adolescent girls in rural India. The empirical case study, grounded in feminist qualitative research methodology, employs this perspective to undertake a thematic analysis of primary documents and transcripts of interviews and focus groups to illustrate how themes and ideas about empowerment, responsibility and development play out in the neoliberal context of development in India. In deploying this framework, the thesis seeks to understand how well-intentioned programmes, such as the Deepshikha programme in rural Maharashtra, often become the site of neoliberal development initiatives that maintain rather than challenge power structures. In addition, it explores the implications of excluding adolescent boys from development interventions. The analysis demonstrates that while the Deepshikha programme offers many avenues to political, social, economic, and personal empowerment for adolescent girls, it is not without its contestations. Embedded in narratives of self-responsibilisation, adolescent girls are burdened by multiple pressures in their daily lives. Although often socially perceived as a person of lesser value, the adolescent girl, nonetheless, becomes an object of investment through which she is meant to uplift herself. The thesis examines how, through processes of volunteerism and instrumentalism embedded in notions of the active citizen, the adolescent girl fulfils her duties within family and community while continuing to challenge established hierarchical and structural forms of power. This research is significant as there is a paucity of academic scholarship on adolescent girls in the development context. It demonstrates how the translation of a global policy initiative, MDG 3, into a local empowerment programme affects the dynamics of gender relations, with specific reference to adolescent girls and boys in rural Maharashtra. It also contributes to a critical scholarship in the area of gender and development that explores the structural and hierarchical oppression that adolescent girls face and the implications this has for their communities.
Type of thesis
Nandedkar, L. (2017). Translating MDG 3: Gender, Empowerment and the Adolescent Girl in Maharashtra, India (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11055
University of Waikato
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