Along several dimensions, India stands out globally for its unequal opportunities and outcomes for women relative to men. These gender gaps matter not only from a human rights perspective but also due to the potentially large economic consequences. Restrictive cultural norms prevalent in several parts of India constrain women’s interactions with men, especially those outside the home, resulting in social networks that are both more limited and more likely to be dominated by other women. Understanding the role of social networks and their impacts on the lives of women in India has often focused on self-help groups. Yet this is only one avenue and the potential role of women in influencing and impacting other women’s lives expands well beyond self-help groups.
In this Policy Research Talk, World Bank economist S Anukriti will shed light on women’s social networks in India—and the opportunities or constraints that these networks present. The first part of the presentation will examine the impact of female family members, such as the mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, on young married women’s mobility and ability to form social connections outside the household. Next, Anukriti will present insights from a randomized controlled trial that seeks to improve women’s access to family planning and reproductive health services by enabling women to seek these services with their female peers. She will then describe her ongoing work that delves deeper into the relationship of women to their mother-in-law and a critical review of the evidence on women’s social networks in India and emerging research directions. The talk will conclude with a discussion of the policy implications of these research findings in a context with stubbornly high levels of gender inequality.
The monthly Policy Research Talks showcase the latest findings of the World Bank’s research department, challenge and contribute to the institution’s intellectual climate, and re-examine conventional wisdom in current development theories and practice. These talks facilitate a dialogue between researchers and operational staff and inform World Bank operations both globally and within partner countries. Read More »