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Gendered Social Norms: What do we know and what are we doing to change them?

September 29, 2021




Watch the event replay by clicking on the link above

  • Persistent inequalities pose a significant threat to the achievement of development goals and eradication of poverty in the South Asia region. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities and has opened new divides. The Chief Economist Office of the South Asia region, in cooperation with the global practices and the Development Research Group, is conducting a research program, Social Divides and Norms: Disparities across Gender, Opportunity, and Location in South Asia, to deepen our understanding of long running inequalities.

    This workshop, the second in a series that recently started with an event on Son Preference, focuses on the role of social norms in sustaining gender disparities across domains. Many interventions to address gender gaps have been implemented in the region and important gains have been achieved. However, policies are often blind to social norms and their gender impacts, leading to mixed successes: laws to promote women’s land access via inheritance are being circumvented; active labor market policies have succeeded in training women but have failed to engage them into productive work; and financial support to women-led businesses has been transferred to male spouses, among others. Identifying and measuring more precisely the norms at play can be transformative to eliminate long-standing disparities in the region and can inform programs towards such a goal.

    The workshop features the following four presentations and is organized around three main questions (a) what do we know about the role of norms when it comes to women’s outcomes and gender equity in South Asia? (b) how do norms interact with other barriers to gender equity? (c) can norms be changed and how?

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    Ashwini Deshpande

    Professor of Economics and the Founding Director of Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) at Ashoka University

    Ashwini Deshpande is Professor of Economics and the Founding Director of Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) at Ashoka University. Her Ph.D. and early publications have been on the international debt crisis of the 1980s. Subsequently, she has been working on the economics of discrimination and affirmative action, with a focus on caste and gender in India. She is the author of "Grammar of Caste: economic discrimination in contemporary India", Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011 (Hardcover) and 2017 (Paperback); and "Affirmative Action in India', Oxford University Press, New Delhi, Oxford India Short Introductions series, 2013. She is the editor of "Boundaries of Clan and Color: Transnational Comparisons of Inter-Group Disparity" (along with William Darity, Jr.), Routledge, London, 2003; "Globalization and Development: A Handbook of New Perspectives", Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007 (Hardcover) and 2010 (Paperback); "Capital Without Borders: Challenges to Development", Anthem Press, UK, 2010 (Hardcover) and 2012 (Paperback) and "Global Economic Crisis and the Developing World" (with Keith Nurse), Routledge, London, 2012. She received the EXIM Bank award for outstanding dissertation (now called the IERA Award) in 1994, and the 2007 VKRV Rao Award for Indian economists under 45.


    Caroline Harper

    Principal Research Fellow and Director of ODI’s Gender Equality and Social Inclusion programme

    Dr Caroline Harper is a Principal Research Fellow and Director of ODI’s Gender Equality and Social Inclusion programme. She is an anthropologist with 30 years’ experience in research, qualitative and participatory research methods, research management, policy analysis and advisory work. Caroline leads work on gendered social norms and culture change, and on adolescence and the achievement of critical capabilities. Caroline works on a number of projects including ALIGN, which brings together global research on discriminatory and harmful gender norms, and GAGE, a longitudinal global research and evaluation study on gender and adolescents. Interests also include chronic and inter-generational poverty, childhood, exclusion and empowerment with the aim of building a critical and policy relevant knowledge base and empowering researchers and activists with skills, evidence and capacity to act on findings locally and globally. She lived and worked for 10 years in East Asia and has worked for NGOs, multi-and bi-laterals in East, Central and SE Asia and Africa.


    Diva Dhar

    Senior Program Officer with the Gender Equality team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Diva is a Senior Program Officer with the Gender Equality team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she leads a portfolio of grants on gender data, measurement, and evidence with a focus on East Africa and South Asia. She was previously with the Measurement, Learning and Evaluation team at the Gates Foundation, leading work on health, nutrition, youth, and gender in India. Prior to joining the foundation, Diva worked for over a decade in public policy evaluation research, capacity-building and use for J-PAL, Innovations for Poverty Action, World Bank, Planning Commission of India, and other non-profit organisations. Diva is a doctoral candidate at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. She has a Master’s in International and Development Economics from Yale University.


    Nayantara Sarma

    Economist in Poverty and Equity Global Practice at the World Bank

    Nayantara Sarma is an Economist in the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice. Her research is broadly on development topics such as labour, inequality, gender, immigration and health. She completed her PhD in Development Economics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and master’s degree from the Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research in Mumbai. She has previously worked with the ILO and WHO, and has field experience in India.


    Ana Maria Munoz Boudet

    Senior Social Scientist with the Mind, Behavior and Development unit at the World Bank

    Ana Maria Munoz Boudet is a senior social scientist in the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice with the Mind, Behavior, and Development Unit (eMBeD). Her work focuses on gender, poverty and inequality issues. She has worked in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, Africa, and South Asia. As part of eMBeD Ana Maria’s work has focused on socio-emotional skills development to close gaps in education and labor markets, and in changing behaviors associated with negative human capital outcomes. She has lead analytical research at the country and regional level, impact evaluations of policies and programs, as well as technical assistance to client countries. Ana Maria is also part of the South Asia Gender Innovation Lab (SARGIL). She is a co-author of the World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and Development. A sociologist by training, she holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and doctorate studies from the University College of London.

    • Caroline Harper (Overseas Development Institute) discussed the highlights from the recent Advancing Learning and Innovation on Gender Norms (ALiGN) publications “Gender, power and progress: How norms change” and “The Social Norms Atlas: Understanding global social norms and related concepts”  | Presentation
    • Nayantara Sarma and Ana Maria Munoz Boudet (SARCE and EMBED co-authors) presented initial results from the work: “Social Norms and Gender Equality: A Descriptive Analysis for South Asia”  | Presentation
    • Diva Dhar (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation- BMGF) discussed her research on norms and insights from broader BMGF supported work on social norms and gender  | Presentation
    • Ashwini Deshpande (Ashoka University) presented her views on norms, drawing on her work in the South Asia region, such as the recent papers “Norms that Matter” and “Dropping Out, Being Pushed Out or Can't Get in?"  | Presentation


  • Topic: Gendered Social Norms: What do we know and what are we doing to change them?
  • Date: Wednesday, September 29
  • Time: 8:30 - 10:00 am ET
  • CONTACT: Office of the Chief Economist in South Asia