Devaki Jain

Devaki Jain (born 1933) is a development economist and activist best known for her work on development, South Asia, and feminist economics. Throughout her career, Jain has bridged academic and policy-oriented work. She and her husband, Lakshmi Chand Jain, are noted Gandhians.

United Nations and International Networking
Jain has traveled extensively as a participant in many networks and forums. As Chair of the Advisory Committee on Gender for the United Nations Center in Asia Pacific, she has visited numerous countries, including most Pacific and Caribbean Island. In Africa, she has visited Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Benin and Senegal, Liberia, Cote D’lvoir, South Africa and Botswana. Along with Dr. Julius Nyerere, she had the privilege of meeting with and discussing the visions and concerns of African leaders. She is also a member of the erstwhile South Commission founded by Dr. Nyerere.

She was also a member of the Advisory Panel set up by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to advise on the preparation of the 1997 Human Development Report on Poverty and for the 2002 Report on Governance.

She was a Peace of the UN as a member of the Eminent Persons Group of the Graca Machel Study Group appointed by the UN to study the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

In Women, Development, and the UN—A Six-Year Quest for Equality and Justice she shows how women’s contributions have changed and shaped developments and practices at the UN. She introduces the term “feminization of poverty” from the feminist economist point of view. “‘Feminization of poverty,’” Jain explains, “was used to describe three distinct elements: that women have a higher incidence of poverty than men, that women’s poverty is more severe than that of men, that a trend toward greater poverty among women is associated with rising rates of female-headed households.”(Jain 2005) According to her, “feminization of work” connotes low-quality, lowly-paid work. Jain argues that “feminization” devalues the increased presence of women.

Personal background
Jain was born in 1933 in the city of Mysore, India in a family of high social standing. Her father M. A. Sreenivasan was a civil servant, and her mother managed the large household. Jain studied at convent schools in her early years. She graduated with a degree in economics from Oxford University. She taught at Delhi University.

Jain married Lakshmi Chand Jain when she was 33 years old, which was late by Indian standards. In 1969 she left the university scene to care for her sons. Through working on her book, Women in India, she involved herself in feminist issues. She took an active part in writing, lecturing, networking, building, leading, and supporting women.

Jain was founder of the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) in New Delhi and served as director until 1994. She has also worked in the field of women’s employment and edited the book Indian Women for India’s International Women’s Year.

Gandhian philosophy has influenced Jain’s work and life. In line with this philosophy, her academic research has focused on issues of equity, democratic decentralization, people-centered development, and women’s rights. She has worked for local, national, and international women’s movements. She currently lives in Bangalore, India.

Academic life
Jain was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (1999) from the University of Durban-Westville, Republic of South Africa. She also received the Bradford Morse Memorial Award (1995) from the UNDP at the Beijing World Conference. She was a visiting Fellow at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex (1993) and a Fulbright Senior Fellow affiliated both with Harvard University and Boston University (1984). She was also a Fellow at the Government of Karnatakas State Planning Board, a member of the UGC’s Standing Committee on Women’s Studies, and a member of the South Commission chaired by the late Dr. Julious Nyerere.

Publications by Jain


1. Women, Development and the UN: A Sixty-year Quest for Equality and Justice (2005)

2. (With Pam Rajput) Narratives from the Women’s Studies Family (2003)

3. The Vocabulary of Women’s Politics (2000)

4. (With Diana L. Eck) Speaking of Faith; Cross Cultural Perspectives on Women, Religion and Social Change (1986)

5. (With Nirmala Banerjee) Tyranny of the Household (1985)

6. For Women To Lead—Ideas And Experiences From Asia: Study On The Legal Political Impediment To Gender Equity In Governance (1997)

7. Minds, Not Bodies - Expanding The Notion Of Gender In Development (1995)

8. Women’s Quest for Power – Five Indian Case Studies (1980)

9. Indian Women (1975)


10. “Feminist Networks, Peoples Movements, and Alliances: Learning From The Ground,” in Feminist Politics, Activism and Vision: Local and Global Challenges, Volume 1 (Ed.) Angela Miles and Luciana Ricciutelli, Inanna Publications and Education Inc., Toronto, 2005

11. “A View from the South: A Story of Intersections” in Arvonne S Fraser and Irene Tinker, Ed., ‘Developing Power – How Women Transformed International Development’, (New York, Feminist Press, 2004)

12. “Finding Strategic Identities in an Unequal World: Feminist Reflections from India” in Faye V. Harrison, ed., Resisting Racism and Xenophobia: Global Perspectives on Race, Gender and Human Rights, AltaMira Press, California, September 2005

13. “Healing the Wounds of Development” Jill Ker Conway and Susan C. Bourque (ed.) The Politics of Women’s Education- Perspectives from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, The University of Michigan, 1993, USA

14. “To Be Or Not To Be? The Location of Women in Public Policy” – a paper presented at the International Conference on Development in Karnataka: A Multidisciplinary Perspective, at Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore, June 2005

15. “Quest for Healing”, in Science and Beyond – Cosmology, Consciousness and Technology in the Indic Traditions, NIAS, Bangalore, 2004

16. “Democratising Culture” in Culture, Democracy and Development in South Asia N.N. Vohra (ed.). Delhi, Shipra, 2001

17. Women and Trade Liberalisation—South Asia’s Opportunities Global Trading Practices and Poverty Alleviation in South Asia: A Gender Perspective. UNIFEM and CIDA 1995

18. Feminism and Feminist Expression: A Dialogue, Culture and the Making of Identity in Contemporary India, Kamala Ganesh and Usha Thakkar (ed.,), Sage Publication, New Delhi, 2005

19. Measuring Women's Work: Some Methodological Issues, in Women and Development: Perspectives from South and South East Asia. Raunaq Jahan and Hanna Pappanek, (ed.,) Bangladesh, Institute of Law and International Affairs, 1979

20. The Culture of the Poor, Karuna M Braganza and Saleem Peeradina (ed.) in Cultural Forces Shaping India, All India Association for Christian Higher Education, 1989, New Delhi

21. For Whom the Bells Toll: Democracy and Development in South Asia, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 15 No. 2, July 2002

22. “Indian Women: Some Reflections On Two Sector Analysis” in Social Change March - June 1975

23. “Valuing Work: Time as a Measure” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XXXI, No. 43, October 26, 1996

Distinguished lectures

1. Nuancing globalisation or Mainstreaming the downstream or Reforming Reform – Nita Barrow Memorial Lecture, University of West Indies, Barbados, November 1999

2. Development as if Women Mattered - Can Women Build a new Paradigm? OECD, Paris, 1983

3. Indian Women; Today and Tomorrow, Padmaja Naidu Memorial Lecture, Published by Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, 1982

4. Gender-apartheid as a hindrance to development: Women and the Global Economy, A public conference convened by Alliance Sud and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) November 15, 2005, Berne (Switzerland)

5. Women’s Rights between the UN Human Rights Regime and Free Trade Agreements, Globalising Women’s Rights: Confronting unequal development between the, UN rights framework and WTO-trade agreements, Bonn, 19–22 May 2004

6. Are We Knowledge Proof? Development as Waste speech delivered at Lovraj Kumar Memorial Lecture, 26 September, New Delhi (Reprinted in Wastelands News, Vol. 19(1), August-October 2003, “Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development”, New Delhi, pp. 19–30

7. Through the looking glass of poverty, Paper presented at New Hall Cambridge, United kingdom, October 19, 2001.

8. Valuing Women- Signals From The Ground (Broad Theme: Cultural Diversity And Universal Norms) Opening Session: June 1, 2001, For The University Of Maryland, USA

9. The Torture of Women: Some Dimensions, paper presented at VII International Symposium on Torture, September 1999,

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