IIT Bombay Diamond Jubilee Colloquium - 23 August 2018

on ‘Gender issues in urban transformation: Focus on adolescent girl and urbanization’ 



Gender Colloquium: Gender Issues in Urban Transformation

Focus on The Adolescent Girl and Urbanisation

23-24th August, 2018

(Joint initiative of CUSE, IIT Bombay and IPE-Global –CKD)


The Centre for Urban Science and Engineering (C-USE) is privileged to organise a Diamond Jubilee Colloquium on “Gender Issues in Urban Transformation: Focus on the Adolescent Girl and Urbanisation” in this landmark year for the Institute. This colloquium will mark the first in a series of colloquial events envisaged to address various issues related to Urbanisation.

We invite you to be a part of the colloquium and engage with CUSE and its ongoing efforts to “Improve the Quality of Urban Life” on 23-24th August, 2018.

Check below links for more details.

Questions about the Gender Colloquium? Please write to us at: gendercolloquium.iitb[at]gmail.com


Centre for Urban Science and Engineering (CUSE) IIT Bombay and IPE Global- Centre for Knowledge and Development (CKD) have inititated a Gender Collloquim seriesto explore Gender Issues in Urban Transformation.

Population in towns and cities in India are expected to reach 600 million by 2031.  The 2011 Census revealsthat women form almost 80 per cent of urban migration. Yet, there is an invisibilisation of gender in migration, not just as a result of gender–blind data policies, but also in terms of gender sensitive response to women’s needs in terms of social entitlements, financial services, identity documentation,  and their increased vulnerability to the risks and hazards of an urban- peri urban environment.

The gender colloquium series hopes to encourage discussions to identify ways in which urban development processes and investments can be engendered.  While analysis often focuses on male – female relationships alone, an attempt will be made to look broadly at social relationships. The numerous axes of difference apart from gender (class, location, caste, etc) will be factored into the discussions.

A life cycle approach will be used to link the issues that emerge in childhood with those that are more prominent in adolescence and adulthood. For example, it is one of the puzzles of India’s economic growth process that the level of women’s work participation (as measured by official statistics) has remained low relative to that of men and relative to women in other countries. This is so, despite the increase in levels of education and dramatic reduction in the gender gap in education. There has been considerable debate on whether women’s work is correctly measured; on the extent to which lack of economic opportunity explains this situation and what role is played by social / cultural norms and other factors that might be inhibiting women’s entry into the paid labour force.

The objectives of such colloquia are to share existing research evidence, disseminate good practices, and enrich the existing discourse. The colloquium seeks to identify areas where there are gaps in knowledge/ evidence, with particular focus on cross-sectoral issues, towards designing urban systems that support gender equality and women’s empowerment. The colloquium also seeks to mobilise support for greater research and action on the ground.

Focus on the Adolescent Girl and Urbanisation

The first in the Gender Colloquium series is focused on the Adolescent Girl and Urbanisation.The experience of the years of adolescence shapes decisions and trajectories that influence adult behaviors. The proposed colloquium will examine issues surrounding the urban adolescent girl as a perspective through which a range of gender issues can be highlighted. Focusing on the urban adolescent is a way of understanding aspirations, the desired direction of a life trajectory, and will provide the opening context.The numerous challenges faced by urban adolescents requires us to address many dimensions. These include health, nutrition, education, safety/violence, transport/mobility, the legal framework, social norms, work opportunities, migration, training/ skills. In each session, the influences of ‘economic opportunity’ on one hand and ‘culture/ social norms’ on the other will be developed (these are often though not always in conflict).

Colloquium Themes

The colloquium will be structured along a few selected dimensions, as below.

  1. Brief overview- Trajectory of Gender Discourse & Policy in India: This session will provide an introductory overview of the ways in which gender and women’s issues have been articulated in India since Independence, including influences from international discourse, as a backdrop to the more detailed sectoral discussions that follow.
  2. Education and the shaping of gendered identities: The session will examine the role of education in socializing girls (and boys) and shaping gendered identities, and innovative educational strategies through which education can open up new opportunities or reshape gender and social relations.
  3. The health of adolescent girls: This session will position the health of adolescent girls within the broader spectrum of the body and health and encourage discussion on evidence gaps and interventions.
  4. Violence: The session will explore the ways in which violence that is experienced by children and adolescents is not about one-off incidents but is interwoven into their lives, its various causes and impacts, and areas for research and action.
  5. Work and Pathways to a more empowered adulthood: Work, paid or unpaid, is part of the reality of adolescent lives. This session examines the interplay between enhanced individual capabilities and structural constraints, and possible pathways to a more empowered adulthood.
  6. Urban systems and gendered transitions: The design of cities mostly prioritizes needs of business and industry. From the perspective of women, safety in public spaces, access to transport and other infrastructural services influence mobility and choices. Interplay of gender and ecology in urban spaces is also often overlooked.
  7. Multiple Perspectives- Convergence for Empowerment: Sectoral pathways are interdependent. The urban adolescent girl’s journey of empowerment is possible only when sectoral pathways converge. What are the sites of such convergence? Public policy, culture, new technologies generate multiple perspectives that can run counter to each other. How are these negotiated?

Each session will be organized around a set of key issues and will aim at sharing evidence based research, field practices, highlight existing gaps in knowledge and foreground researchable ideas.




Anchor / Speaker

Day 1- 23rd August, 2018

Venue: Conference Room, Ground floor, Jalvihar Guest House, IIT Bombay.

9.30 – 10.10 hrs




Opening Remarks


Prof. Pradipta Banerji, Head, CUSE, IIT Bombay


Prof. Devang Khakhar, Director, IIT Bombay

Ashwajit Singh, CMD IPE Global- CKD

10.10 – 10.30 hrs Trajectory of Gender Discourse & Policy- brief overview Ratna M Sudarshan


(Independent Consultant and former Director ISST)

10.30 – 11.00 hrs Break for High Tea  
11.00 – 13.00 hrs Education Malini Ghosh


(Educational Consultant)

13.00 – 14.00 hrs Lunch  
14.00 – 16.00 hrs Health and nutrition in adolescence Sapna Desai


(Population Council)

16.00 – 16.15 hrs Tea Break  
16.15 – 18.15 hrs Violence Sonali Khan
18.15 – 18.30 hrs “What We’re Learning: A Synthesis of Insights from Research Grant-making on Early and Child Marriage in India” Dr. Manjima Bhattacharjya


(Research Advisor, AJWS)

19.30  hrs Dinner

Day 2- 24th August, 2018

Venue: Conference Room, Ground floor, Jalvihar Guest House, IIT Bombay.

9.00 – 11.00 hrs Work and Pathways to a more empowered adulthood Mubashira Zaidi


(Institute of Social Studies Trust)

11.00 – 11.15 hrs Tea Break  
11.15 – 13.15 hrs Urban systems and gendered transitions Prof. Pradipta Banerji, Head, CUSE, IIT Bombay
13.15 – 14.00  hrs Lunch
14.00 – 16.00 hrs Cross-Sectoral perspectives: Convergence towards Empowerment Amita Sharma


(Visiting Prof, IIT Bombay)

16.00 – 16.15 hrs Thanks Prof. Pradipta Banerji, Head, CUSE, IIT Bombay




Education, as a pathway for the empowerment of girls’ has been an important policy priority since the 1990s. Several encouraging results are evident, like the near universal enrolment of girls in elementary education and the greatly narrowed gap in the Gender Parity Index. Many narratives of girls’ struggles to overcome barriers and continue their education demonstrate a commitment to education as a means to empowerment. Yet, despite such positive developments, the picture is far more complex.

While enrolment may have gone up significantly, disaggregated data shows that marginalized communities persistently lag behind. Drop out rates of girls continue to be high and critically, rates of transition from elementary to secondary levels constitute a huge problem. The chances of adolescent girls continuing with their education are still precarious, even in urban areas. Secondly there is the issue of educational quality. Several studies present a grim picture of extremely poor learning outcomes. Students consistently perform well below what is expected of their grade-level. The issue of access without equity and quality remains a profound conundrum facing the education system.

Important as it is, an exclusive focus on learning outcomes, which is the current focus of discussions around educational quality, deflects policy and research attention from other vital dimensions of education. Learning outcomes, invariably narrowly defined as the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) circumscribe the vision of education. One must ask if education is only about learning the 3Rs.  Feminist research for example has consistently pointed out that education is a contradictory tool, it can both empower and domesticate, by reinforcing rather than challenging unequal gender relations. Thus, the assumption that education is a neutral endeavour that will automatically result in girls and boys adopting progressive stances on gender and social issues must be interrogated.

Another important concern is the lack of connections between school processes and the lives of adolescent girls outside the formal school space. Students often find the school curriculum irrelevant, teaching methods staid, eventually leading to their dropping out. Urban adolescents today lead complicated lives and formal education is no longer the only source of knowledge and information. Nor are the pedagogies of formal education necessarily in sync with new modes of communication, interaction and peer engagement.

Understanding the important role of education, both formal and out-of-school-processes, in socializing girls (and boys) and shaping gendered identities continues to be an important area of enquiry. This is the focus of our panel which will consider three important aspects of education that are critical for gender identity formation – namely, textbooks, teachers and teacher education, and teaching-learning processes outside the school space.

The Textbook is a powerful site through which gender relations are shaped.  In this session we will examine research that critically analyses gender issues in textbooks as well as experiences and challenges related to incorporating gender concerns into textbook writing. Teachers are crucial in communicating ideas about gender through the formal curriculum and other school processes. While policy attention has focused on the female teacher as a means to improving girls’ educational access, in this session we will consider research on the broader dimensions of the figure of the female teacher and her role in promoting an agenda of gender equality beyond access. The session will also examine the experiences of incorporating gender issues in teacher training. Personhoods are fashioned not just through textbook knowledge, but equally through learning outside the formal education space. We will invite selected NGOs to discuss the life worlds of urban adolescent girls and their educational aspirations and challenges. The presenters will identify key strategies that have been effective in empowering young girls through education. We will end the session by asking the panelists to identify what they see as research gaps and possible future research directions.

Session Structure

  • Context Setting-Malini Ghose, (Independent Researcher)
  • Re-reading Gender in textbooks: Dipta Bhog (Founding member Nirantar)
  • Findings from longitudinal studies: Renu Singh (Country Director, Young Lives India.
  • Despite Quick-Fixes: Analysing Gender & Curriculum interventions in Mumbai Municipal schools: Simantini Dhuru (Director, Avehi Abacus Mumbai)
  • Adolescent girls finding new identities through education: Sharmila Bhagat (Director Ankur Society for alternatives in Education)

     Coordinator: Malini Ghose

2. Session on the health of adolescent girls


The health of adolescent girls

Adolescence is a time of incredible growth:  the body is maturing, while the elasticity of the mind opens a young person up to myriad influences and changes.  It is also a time of vulnerability. For many girls across India, precarious living environments and social barriers mean that poor health, untreated morbidity and mental health concerns mark their transitions to adulthood.  Research on adolescent girls’ health has grown in the past ten years, largely due to increased policy attention and a national program on adolescent health. However, evidence remains narrowly focused on reproductive and sexual health, with less priority accorded to the overall health well-being of adolescents across class, geography and social determinants.   This session will position the health of adolescent girls within the broader spectrum of the body and health and encourage discussion on evidence gaps and interventions. We will provide an overview of the state of adolescent girls’ health in India, drawing from existing data and highlighting evidence gaps. Data on health status– defined as state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity—will also include a synthesis of research on how much adolescents know about, and construct, their bodies.

The session  will present a summary of the body of research on:

(i) social determinants of morbidity in urban areas, such as sanitation and nutrition

(ii) treatment-seeking patterns amongst adolescents

(iii) the case of menstrual hygiene and pitfalls of a product-driven framework

Case studies, tracing the journey of adolescent girls from the determinants of poor health to the experience of morbidity and where they seek treatment will be presented.

This session will review and interrogate historical and societal constructs around adolescents as an intervention group. How to deliver information to adolescents, the power and pitfalls of media driven approaches and gatekeepers of adolescent services will be discussed.  This session will also highlight how a multidisciplinary approach to health works in practice. Media clips and stories will be interwoven throughout.

Session Structure

Know your body and mind: What we know about adolescent health in India – Sapna Desai ((Population Council)

  • What makes you ill, and where do adolescents go? – Arundati Muralidaran
  • Constructs around adolescent health – Ragini Pasricha (BBC Media Action)
  • Reaching adolescents: SNEHA’s experience of working with adolescents in Dharavi, Mumbai- Rama  Shyam (SNEHA)
  • Bringing it all together -In conversation with Aparajita Gogoi – TBC)

Coordinator: Sapna Desai

3. Session on Violence


Violence is prevalent through children’s lives starting from the earliest years. As children progress towards adolescence, their exposure to violence is shaped particularly through the operation of gender rules and norms operating in society and informing family, institutional and community relationships. For instance, data and evidence from around the world suggest that girls experience higher rates of sexual violence than boys do, while boys experience higher rates of physical violence than girls, including homicide via participation in gangs and at the hands of peers.

While much of the narrative of violence is shaped by what data is collected (and also what is not), we now know that violence experienced by children and adolescents is not about one-off incidents, but interwoven into their lives.  Violence intersects with children’s relative lack of power and agency; control and restrictions over sexuality (some of which it is of course an appropriate part of guardianship depending on the age of the child); and overall, their evolving capacities which are determined also by their access to (or lack of) opportunity such as education, privilege, nurture and quality of care-giving.

To locate violence as part of the adolescent experience is therefore critical because it reflects both the cumulative (dis)advantages they have faced since birth, as well as the futures they are likely to inhabit.  The impacts of violence, like the experience of violence itself, often linger or have immediate detrimental effects within childhood itself, into adulthood and reproduced inter-generationally when they are not addressed in time. These include negative impacts on mental health, relationship formation, cognitive and educational achievement, substance abuse and alcoholism, and future violence perpetration or victimisation.

The discourse in India has been largely focused on sexual violence and that too, on rape by strangers. Disturbing and widespread as this is (an increasing trend partially – but not necessarily only – rising because of greater levels of awareness and reporting), the discourse is then consumed by a focus on retributive justice alone.  Despite legal advances, the focus on victim-centric justice remains limited. Victim-shaming, re-victimisation, stigmatisation and the withdrawal of girls from the public sphere remain the major consequences of such an approach. Neglect of the violence experienced by boys also reinforces gendered patterns of perpetration.

The Know Violence report Ending Violence in Childhood (Know Violence 2017)† points to the early start of the violence experience in a child’s life, and hence insists on a focus on childhood more broadly, as a period in which violence is used as a tool of socialisation. Gender norms manifest in children’s views as early as age 10 or earlier, as shown by the Global Early Adolescence study‡.  Addressing gender norms during adolescence is a crucial piece in the map of violence prevention strategies.  This includes interconnections with masculinity, with sexuality, social norms, and with the nature of intra-family communication, including the extent to which adolescents are given space to assert their independence.

The session will start with a short overview , contextualising violence during adolescence, with evidence of both the scale and impact of violence experienced by adolescents, as well as of strategies that are making a difference globally. Issues relating to sexuality and consent, and the role of law in constructing the space for adolescent sexuality will be discussed.  Instances of social norms and creating a counter-culture at grassroots level for breaking cycles of violence will be shared. Experience of researching as well as implementing programmes that address masculinities and gendered violence will be presented.

† Know Violence in Childhood (2017) Ending Violence in Childhood: Global Report 2017. Know Violence in Childhood. New Delhi, India
‡ Blum RW, Mmari K, Moreau C.. (2017). It Begins at 10: How Gender Expectations Shape Early Adolescence Around the World. Journal of Adolescent Health. 61(4S):S3-S4

Session Structure

  • Introduction and overview: Sonali Khan (Women’s rights activist and social and behaviour change expert)
  • Sexuality and consent, and the role of law in constructing the space for adolescent sexuality- Madhu Mehra( Executive director, Partners for law in development)
  • Research into implementing programmes addressing masculinities and gendered violence- Ravi Verma (Regional Director, ICRW)
  • Findings from a new study on adolescent smart phone use and the emancipatory possibilites of new technologies- Lakshmi Lingam(Prof. Centre for the Study of Contemporary Culture, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS)

Coordinator- Sonali Khan

4. Session on Work and Pathways to a more empowered adulthood


The period of adolescence is marked by rapid changes at the level of the individual in physical, emotional and intellectual capacities, and is also a stage of life when the individual is constantly negotiating with myriad and varied expectations from her socio-economic environment. Thus, it is a period fraught with uncertainties and dilemmas that could enhance one’s vulnerabilities, but on the other hand it is also a stage that represents scores of opportunities and choices to shape one’s life.

The world of work, including both productive and reproductive work, is part of the reality of adolescent lives. As individual capabilities are enhanced through education, good health, and personal safety, these give rise to new aspirations, especially around work. The persistence of informality and occupational segregation in cities presents a brake to adolescent aspirations, while there are islands of new opportunity made possible by education/ training and technology. Particularly in the case of girls, the gendered role within the household and the uneven sharing of household tasks reduces feasible options for adolescent girls as well as women. Mostly, for a large section of urban adolescents the socio- economic circumstances forcibly shorten their period of adolescence through early marriages, or by taking on responsible economic roles for their household. Yet, understanding the changing nature of aspirations is essential to creating pathways of opportunity and empowerment.

Keeping the above in view, the primary goal of this session is to critically understand the gendered trends in paid and unpaid work, and choices being expressed by adolescents in urban India. Using a gendered lens, the role played by social norms in determining the entry of women and men into work of various kinds can be examined. Additionally, the session will explore the ways by which adolescent experiences and intersection nalities influence the transition of young adults into the labour market. The session will share some voices of adolescents with a focus on their aspirations relating to work and analyze the different factors that give shape to their aspirations in an urban scenario. The inter-generational differences in aspirations and preferences for work will be highlighted. Following from these presentations, systemic changes needed in the urban socio – economic infrastructure and environment will be identified, that would enable the adolescents to make better choices and thereby create pathways to a more empowered adulthood.

The session will start with an overview presentation that will show the work participation rates of men and women disaggregated by age, education and income; the prevalent patterns of occupational segregation and high levels of informality in urban areas; the concentration of women in unpaid and care work; spatial patterns. Research on  how gender affects girls’ and boys’ school, work and marriage trajectories across adolescence and into early adulthood in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India will be presented. It explores when gender inequality begins to open up in childhood; in which domains, how and why gender disparities persist across adolescence and into early adulthood; and, finally, whether and how gendered norms, values and practices impact on children’s trajectories. Film photo presentations will show  intergenerational comparisons in aspirations around work. Identifying Systemic Changes for enabling better work choices and examining in what ways can urban spaces enable adolescents to enhance their capabilities and respond to emerging opportunities this session will provide opportunities to see the linkages between the concerns of previous sessions on health, violence, and education and work preparedness for adolescents

Session Structure

  • Interrogating work– An Overview: Neetha N Pillai (Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi).
  • Aspirations of the Adolescents – Two presentations
  • Photo presentation on intergenerational changes and aspirations of adolescent girls in Uttarakhand- Anuradhe Pande (Uttarakhand Seva Nidhi Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan)
  • A short film and a discussion– Mubashira Zaidi (ISST)
  • Urban spaces and gendered work choices – Shalini Sinha  (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing, WIEGO)

 Coordinator: Mubashira Zaidi (ISST)

5. Session on Urban systems and gendered transitions


Women experience urbanisation differently from men, with the urbanization process forming a masculine rite of passage. While there is considerable research on gender and different dimensions of urbanization, evidence based research on the realities of adolescent girls in a highly differentiated, dynamic context of urbanization is both thin and fractured.  This is because the urban, peri-urban, and rural share complex interactions, links and interdependencies resulting in heterogeneous urban environments. Many issues remain common and cross-cutting among girls and women in rural-urban settings. Urbanization offers opportunities such as education but also poses risks and challenges to adolescent girls: violence, environment hazards, indignity. Do urban planning and infrastructure, do urban planners understand these opportunities and challenges? Does the urban design facilitate girls’ access to education, health, work, public spaces in ways that are safe, efficient, save time for alternative use, allow freedom and expand choices?

Session Structure

The issues identified for discussion will centre around key constituents of urban planning and how their design impacts adolescents in metropolitan and periurban contexts. Starting with a micro-film documentary and case studies, the presentations reflect on planning practices, citizenship and engendering the city.

  1. Urban planning’s blind spot(s)’ , Malini Krishnankutty, Urban planner and Adjunct Associate Professor, CUSE, IIT-Bombay: A look at ‘what constitutes the ‘urban’ and how we plan for it?
  2. ‘When girls play’,  Sabah Khan, Co-founder, Parcham: Drawing on a specific case study based in Mumbra, a far-flung suburb of Mumbai, the presentation will start with a micro-documentary film and will highlight the challenges young girls encounter in accessing public space for recreation.
  3. ‘Gender equality through design in low-income communities’ – A case study of SRA in Mumbai, Ronita Bardhan, Assistant Professor, CUSE, IIT Bombay.
  4. ‘Adolescence, Gender and Citizenship: A view from Low-income Communities’, Sujata Khandekar, Founding Director and Secretary, Board of Trustees, Community of Resource Organisations (CORO): The presentation will draw upon studies by CORO in Mumbai that resonate with experiences from other smaller towns across India.
  5. ‘Engendering the City: An Agenda for planning and governance systems,” Amita Bhide, Dean, School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai: The talk will explore both the cognition of gender as well as initiatives for gendering municipal systems, infrastructure and planning systems.

Coordinator: Prof Pradipta Banerji

6. Multiple Perspectives: Convergence towards Empowerment


Adolescence and urbanisation are signifiers of transition, characterised by their ‘in-betweenness’, fluidity and mutability; their crossing of known borders. Whether such transitions are empowering  or debilitating depends on the capacity to negotiate and make sense of legacies, contexts, beliefs and perceptions. However, policies and programs that aim at building such capacity suffer from not viewing the wholeness and complexity of an adolescent girl’s experience and needs. Public policies tend to create compartmentalised sites of interventions despite the recognition of their dependencies and the search for converging and integrating them. How can  public policy structures become sites of convergence of cross-sectoral perspectives? Besides, complex subtle influences of culture shape subjective identity, publicly constructed roles and the capacity for self-determinism.  A new hyper-reality of needs, desires and identities is created by the inter-net beyond local spheres of influence. How are these contested spheres negotiated?

Further, Disaggregated data  based research on young adolescent girls  is barely available. Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 years old are usually included as either a subset of children under the age of 18 or as a subset of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19. Indeed, sometimes young adolescent girls are grouped with young adults and thrown into a broader category of “youth” aged 10 to 24. Where young adolescents are pulled out in research and programming, the different experiences and needs of girls and boys are rarely addressed. There is a need to examine the ways  in which urbanization issues are constructed as there is a need to disaggregate data on adolescent girls

Session structure

  • Key cross-sectoral issues emerging from preceding sessions:
  • Policy convergence space
    • Gender budget
  • Behavioral issues
    • Gender Audit
    • Insights from the field- Khel project in Rajnandgaon (IDEA supported)
  • The need for disaggregated data

Coordinator: Amita Sharma