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There Has Been No Silent Revolution: A Decade of Empowerment for Women in Rural Tamil Nadu

—I. Guérin, S. Michiels, C. J. Nordman, E. Reboul, G. Venkatasubramanian.

In M. Ochman & A. Ortega-Díaz (Eds.), Advances in Women’s Empowerment: Critical Insights from Asia, Africa and Latin America (pp. 183–200). Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited. (2020).
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In 2003, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in southern India, Jayaram Jayalalithaa, gave a speech about the “silent revolution” of the empowerment of Indian women. But 15 years on, regrettably, the promises of that revolution do not seem to have been fulfilled. Thanks to the various programs set up to champion women’s empowerment (involving local NGOs, public programs, and international support), women are now more prominent in certain public spaces and are able to play a genuine advocacy role with regard to the public authorities. Girls education has also significantly improved. But it has not brought about improved employment opportunities. Women are in fact losing out on paid employment (as is the case in India as a whole). They are also heavily indebted (not only from microcredit, but also informal lending and lending from private financial companies). Their indebtedness is disproportionate to their income, and compared to men. Moreover, women almost exclusively put debt toward the social reproduction of families. Reduced opportunities for paid employment and massive debt have hit Dalit women particularly hard. The analyses of this chapter use data collected over more than a decade in a rural area of Tamil Nadu, drawing together ethnography and quantitative data, including panel data (2010–2016). They shed light on the complexity of social change, intertwining forms of domination (here, caste, and gender), and the ambiguous qualities of so-called empowerment programs, whose impacts have been various and unexpected.

Cite as:
Guérin, I., Michiels, S., Nordman, C. J., Reboul, E., & Venkatasubramania, G. (2020). There Has Been No Silent Revolution: A Decade of Empowerment for Women in Rural Tamil Nadu. In M. Ochman & A. Ortega-Díaz (Eds.), Advances in women’s empowerment: Critical insights from Asia, Africa and Latin America (pp. 183–200, Vol. 29). Emerald Publishing Limited.

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