Women in South Asia have struggled for many decades to improve their lives within their families, in their communities, for securing their livelihoods and in getting their voices heard as citizens by the state, with women’s movements being critical in advancing their rights. However, contemporary social, economic and political changes have created new and multiple forms of backlash and contestations. How do women defend their rights, and secure their gains against these regressive forces and backlash? This is question behind SuPWR’s research on the strategies and mechanisms that women use to retain power and sustain gains in women’s rights.
Our central research question is:
When, how, and why do women’s power struggles succeed in retaining power and sustaining their gains against backlash?
SuPWR will use a unique approach and methodology to address this question.
South Asia provides a valuable opportunity to investigate women’s struggles. The region has witnessed rapid and large changes over the last decade, including urbanisation, rising employment precarity, new electoral laws and regime changes, shifts in social norms, and the spread of digital technology. We aim to examine how these changes create new and multiple forms of backlash; and how women’s struggles for power are variously challenged, opened up or are closed down by these changes. We are interested in unravelling the similarities and differences in processes and strategies used by different women’s movements to retain power in the face of backlash; and in women’s own experiences and interpretations of their struggles as these evolve and adapt over time.
As part of this, SuPWR will assess what works to defend women’s rights and explain why some struggles are more successful than others in sustaining gains. We think that success of women’s struggles depends on a) the types of strategies they use to counter different types of backlash; b) the ways in which struggles include voices and perspectives of different groups of women; and c) the ways in which struggles connect to other movements and groups across local, regional and national levels.
Ultimately, we hope that the learnings from SuPWR that will be shared across cases and across countries, will give hope and strength, as well as share practical ideas for strategies and mechanisms for women’s struggles across the region.