Marching Ahead: Talking Gender and Development in India

Fieldscope
Mar 16, 2020 · 4 min read

Women’s Day Conversation 02| Anand Kothari

To celebrate Women’s History Month during the month of March, we decided to ask some important questions around gender and development to reformers in the Indian social sector whose projects we have supported through our platform. After kicking off the series with gender researcher and activist Gauthami Penakalapati, we’re excited to move to a program lens.

For our second interview, we had the pleasure of chatting with Anand Kothari from Oxford Policy Management.

Anand works at Oxford Policy Management’s India office and is part of a team operating an embedded monitoring and evaluation cell within a large government project focussed on rural livelihoods in Jharkhand. Anand has extensive experience working on impact evaluations and program management in health, nutrition and livelihoods projects in Bihar and Jharkhand. His training is in development economics and he has degrees from the Universities of Manchester and Mumbai.

Let’s begin with a general introduction of yourself; particularly if you could describe in brief your path in the social sector.
I grew up in Bombay and lived there for about the first quarter of my life, after which I briefly studied in the U.K. Post that, I lived and worked in different parts of the country, being involved in development research and implementation of projects focused on designing, implementing and evaluating social policy. My current role is at a consulting firm head quartered in Oxford and I am a part of their India office, operating an embedded monitoring and evaluation cell within a large rural livelihoods project implemented by the government.

As you know, March 8th is celebrated as Women’s day around the globe and we wanted to focus on what this means for development practice. There has been an emphasis on including the “Gender Lens” in the sector over the recent past. What does this really mean according to you?
To me, using or including a gender lens, means ensuring that we see things for what they are and without a bias. However, often these biases are so deep rooted that it is difficult for us to ensure that they do not act out, and for this, including a gender lens means that we need to take conscious steps to ensure that gender balance is maintained.

Fieldwork usually comes with a lot of its own challenges from ensuring ethical data collection, logistics, reaching a desired response rate etc. What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced when it comes to women’s participation in community surveys?
Women are often care givers for infants/children and long duration surveys affect their ability to care for their families. To mitigate this, we orient interviewers to be considerate of the time and needs of their respondents. On the other hand, we are also careful not to incentivize interviewers to complete interviews faster which may compromise quality.

What does sustainable impact mean according to you especially when it comes to women-empowerment or gender-focused programs?
Sustainable impact in this regard, to me, means lasting change in attitudes and practices that will remain after an intervention is completed or withdrawn.

In your experience of working in India in the development sector, how inclusive do you think the sector is in and of itself for women?
In its current state, to be honest, I feel that it is terrible. A lot more can be done to hire and promote more women in positions of influence, power and autonomy.

How important do you think it is to have men on a team especially while working on gender related programs? Why or why not?
I think that every team should have the right person and fit for the role, with a conscious effort to make and keep teams balanced.

Managing field studies is an important part of Anand’s work. Picture credit: Anand Kothari

Which project did Fieldscope help you with and how?
Fieldscope helped me with the current rural livelihoods project that I work on: we required our research instruments to be translated into the local dialect, preferably by those who had worked with survey instruments before.

We want to leave on a note of inspiration. Anything else you want to say on how the sector can Do Good Better when it comes to inclusion and diversity in general?
Society in general and the sector in India are bad when it comes to being inclusive and diverse. People are too complacent and happy with the status quo to change it. We need to speak more about the seemingly unusual cases and shock people into being better about inclusion and diversity of all kinds; gender, caste, religion, region, colour, background, education, sexual orientation, and body type.

Thank you! That was very honest and insightful. We hope that these responses can trigger professionals to reflect more on their gender perspectives and responsibilities while working on the field.

Views expressed are those of the interviewee and not Fieldscope. If you want to share a question or reaction to this conversation, please use the comments section or reach us at community@fieldscope.in.

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On a mission to transform social sector operations in India using technology. Follow our journey of building India’s first remote-work platform exclusively for social impact collaboration.