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Women for Women? The Influence of Female Friends and Family on Women’s Empowerment in India

September 28, 2021




  • 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.

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    S Anukriti (Speaker)


    S Anukriti is an Economist in the Development Research Group (Human Development Team) of the World Bank. She is an applied micro-economist, with interests in the fields of development economics, economics of gender and the family, and political economy. Her research examines the underlying causes of gender inequalities in developing societies, and explores mechanisms that can bring about gender equity. More broadly, she is interested in the role of social norms, formal and informal institutions, and public policy in affecting social change.


    Carolina Sánchez-Páramo (Discussant)

    Global Director, Poverty and Inequality

    Carolina Sánchez-Páramo, a Spanish national, is currently the Global Director of the Poverty and Equity Global Practice (GP) at the World Bank. Prior to this assignment, she was the Poverty and Equity GP Practice Manager in the Europe and Central Asia region. Carolina has worked on operations, policy advice and analytical activities in Eastern Europe, Latin America and South Asia, and was part of the core team working on the WDR2012, “Gender Equality and Development”.


    Deon Filmer (Chair)

    Director of Research

    Deon Filmer is Director of the Research Group at the World Bank. He has previously served as Acting Research Manager in the Research Group, Co-Director of the World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, and Lead Economist in the Human Development department of the Africa Region of the World Bank. He works on issues of human capital and skills, service delivery, and the impact of policies and programs to improve human development outcomes—with research spanning the areas of education, health, social protection, and poverty and inequality. He has published widely in refereed journals, including studies of the impact of demand-side programs on schooling and learning; the roles of poverty, gender, orphanhood, and disability in explaining education inequalities; and the determinants of effective service delivery.

  • 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 »