Meena Razvi

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Roth, Gene L.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Poor women--India--Ahmad{macr}ab{macr}ad; Women--India--Ahmad{macr}ab{macr}ad--Social conditions--21st century; Women--India--Ahmad{macr}ab{macr}ad--Economic conditions--21st century


Western concepts of gender equality and empowerment have not penetrated successfully into Eastern cultures. An Indian woman’s positionality is dependent upon complex social and economic factors that hinder poverty alleviation and empowerment within low-income sectors. The female-to-male ratio in India has declined, largely due to patriarchy and female infanticide, resulting in a ratio of 933 females per 1,000 males. Gender discrimination in India can be traced back to post- Vedic patriarchal attitudes that created strict societal expectations of females upheld more rigidly within lower class, caste, and income sectors. A critical shortage of formal jobs in India combined with gender disparities marginalized the female workforce forced to earn subsistence-level incomes within unregulated informal sectors. This study combines gender, economic, and social development as an epistemological lens to explore the status of Indian women within informal work sectors and their struggle towards the transformation of a hegemonic society. An interdisciplinary conceptual framework influenced the examination of poverty alleviation of marginalized women: Gandhian ideology of community, self-reliance, and nonviolence; feminist theory; and National Human Resource Development. The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a social, economic, and political movement that creates culturally specific pedagogies and strategies to organize women from multiple trades, classes, castes, and ethnic divisions. Grassroots leaders at SEWA challenged dominant social and economic structures to promote the status of low-income women, proving that poor women are capable of banking, union membership, and other privileges previously reserved for the formal and middle-class sectors. Study participants promoted Gandhi’s insistence upon protection of the livelihood of the masses. Findings indicated a non-Westem feminist model that includes four phases: social disequilibrium, jagruti (awakening), social transformation, and emergent leaders. Grassroots leadership in Gujarat is vital if women are to develop and practice their own models of justice. Results suggest implications for research, scholarship, and practice in the larger context of women’s development. Patriarchal traditions in Gujarat continue to deter non-government and legal interventions to eliminate gender, caste, and class discriminations. Conclusions recommend sustained efforts from government, non-government, public, and private sectors are critical for informal workforce development in Gujarat.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [279]-293).


xii, 347 pages, maps




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