Jhabvala to speak on structural inequalities and poverty in India

Structural inequalities are among the main reasons widespread poverty persists in India, despite continuous economic growth, says Renana Jhabvala, the 2015 J. Jobe Soffa and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Distinguished International Visitor.

Jhabvala, who has been extensively involved in policy issues regarding poor women and the informal economy in India, will discuss “Structural Inequalities and Poverty: Organizing for Economic Rights in India,” on September 30, at 4 p.m. in the AT&T Lounge at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., on the UW–Madison campus.

The lecture, free and open to the public, is sponsored by The International Division and the Human Rights Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Renana Jhabvala
Renana Jhabvala

Jhabvala, chancellor of Gandhigram Rural University, is best known for her long association with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a movement of 2 million women who have organized for economic rights and in the process are changing economic and social structures. She represents SEWA at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other international settings.

In her lecture, she will talk about the structural economic injustices faced by the poorest working women and the experiences of SEWA.

“Centuries-old inequalities due to caste, class, and gender are deepened by new processes thrown up by globalization,” she explains. “However, the changes due to globalization have also brought people together through new ways of organizing and have led to new directions in society.”

Jhabvala has served on numerous government committees and task forces that have formulated measures ranging from a national policy for street vendors to the law for social security of unorganized workers. She has written extensively on women in the informal economy and on Gandhian ways of struggle. She is a co-founder and current chair of Women in Informal Employment and Organizing (WIEGO), based at Harvard University.

The J. Jobe Soffa and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Distinguished International Visitor Fund supports regular lectures on contemporary issues of global significance. Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa (BA ’46 in L&S) established this fund to bring renowned women from around the globe to lecture. Speakers have included well-known leaders in the struggle for human rights and understanding.

The Human Rights Program is supported by a UW–Madison Mellon Foundation grant for the advancement of area and international studies and coordinated by the Global Legal Studies Center.

– by Kerry G. Hill