Recasting Culture to Undo Gender: A Sociological Analysis of Jeevika in Rural Bihar, India

Sanyal et al. (2015) qualitatively evaluated four villages participating in the JEEViKA program in Bihar, India to answer the question: how do large-scale development interventions induce cultural change? A key component of JEEViKA is the formation of SHGs and it was found that this intervention successfully challenged gender norms in a relatively short period of time. JEEViKA was able to induce large-scale cultural change by providing economically and socially disadvantaged women with new “cultural configurations”: women were given access to social networks and information that allowed them to break down restrictive gendered boundaries. This was not merely at the individual level, but was the equivalent of a mini- social movement that challenged power and patriarchy. Women became more mobile within their communities and more politically involved. They took on the role of arbitrator, speaking up for women when the institutional system did not listen.

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