Women’s studies come to the fore
In an effort to increast women’s participation in education, the UGC has started 70 centres for women studies.
Photo: T. Singaravelou
Gender studies: Efforts to generate awareness on women’s issues is a recent trend in country.
A discipline with a clear-cut purpose. Set up to understand and integrate education from women-centric point of view by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Centre for Women’s Studies has come as an effort to mainstream women’s issues, an effort to increase women’s participation in education.
Going in line with the objective, the UGC has started about 70 centres for Women’s Studies in various institutions across India. Recognised as a separate discipline, the centres have been involved in analysing women’s issues through non-conventional means of learning and teaching.
Established in 1999, the Centre for Women’s Studies at Pondicherry University offers M.Phil in women studies and Ph.D programme. “This is a very recent discipline and was started by the UGC as the number of women in education was less. Though the Government of India was encouraging women in education, the number was low primarily due to societal constraints. The centres were started to study the problems and try to mainstream women’s issues,” V.T. Usha, Reader and Head of the centre said.
The centre plans to start a M.A. programme in women’s studies next year, she said, adding, “We look at various disciplines for women-centric point of view and try to find the reason for gender disparity and how to reduce. The students study the local issues and come up with ideas to solve the problems. Almost all M.Phil projects are based in Puducherry.”
A combination of theory and action research, the course studies the community through actual exposure and field work. “We provide the theoretical background and research methodologies in women’s studies for the students. We do not use the conventional structures of domination and our classes are interactive,” she said.
Admission for the courses was open to both men and women interested in learning and conducting research in women’s studies. The M.Phil and PhD programmes involve primary research into region specific women’s issues. While M.Phil has 15 seats, Ph.D has around five to six seats.
In fact, extension activities such as seminars, open forums, discussions, poster exhibitions and film screenings are part of the centre’s efforts to generate awareness on women’s issues. “We need to conduct teaching, training, research and advocacy. We are trying to conduct an intervention programme to help women in the villages to become self-sufficient,” Ms. Usha said. The centre also offers a one-year PG Diploma in Women’s Studies with an intake of 20 students.
She said the course had high scope but was in need of increased awareness among the students. “There is more scope for the subject. Apart from teaching options, research has several avenues for students who study women’s studies. They need to get the methodology, know-how and field experience and the discipline has good career opportunities,” she stressed.
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