Resource for a women’s think tank
Dr Nita Mukherjee 02 March 2013

Dr Nita Mukherjee finds a rich collection that provides published and unpublished materials relating to Indian women

On a recent visit to Delhi, I had the opportunity to personally explore the rich resource that the library of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) provides on all aspects of gender research.

CWDS has been functioning as a think tank on women’s issues since it was set up in 1980 by a group of people involved in writing ‘Towards Equality’, the first comprehensive government report on the status of women in India. It was registered under the Societies’ Registration Act, 1860, in New Delhi, in response to a felt need for an autonomous institute that would build on the knowledge generated, but with a wider mandate and resources to expand its activities in research and action. It began operations with a grant from the Vikram Sarabhai Foundation. In 1985, CWDS was recognised by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, which now gives the Centre an annual grant. It also receives funds raised from various national and international donor agencies for specific research projects.

Crucial to the functioning of any think tank is a source for information and documents. The CWDS library has been playing this role remarkably, with its comprehensive collection of published and unpublished materials relating to Indian women. More commendable is its effort to ensure that the needs of those who work on gender issues are fulfilled. To keep its users abreast with current information, it publishes a “Current Awareness Bulletin”. Since January 2008, the Bulletin is available in PDF format and is sent by email, on request.

Anju Vyas, the librarian at CWDS, has been proactive in marrying technology with information. She says that “most people get immersed in the technology aspects of the IT revolution and forget its information part. It is here, that we librarians play a vital role.” To this end, she has prepared various databases that can be searched through OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue) on the Centre’s Intranet and are also searchable online.

Among the important searchable databases are: a) Articles Index Database comprising news items and articles from selected periodicals and journals received in the Library since 1994; b) Mahila Database of books and analytical entries from edited volumes, monographs, government documents/ policy papers, institutional publications, reports and conference proceedings; c) Periodical Database about the journals/ newsletters/ bulletins being received in the Library; d) Women’s Studies Articles Database which contains some 3,000 full text articles on women’s studies from various journals; and e) Chitra—An Audio-visual Database on over 1,000 posters, films and videos relating to women from South Asia from secondary sources.

Among the many initiatives of the Library—applying the latest developments in information technology—has been providing electronic platforms for discussions on women and health, to begin with. One of these is called ‘Bol’ (Hindi for talk), which is a moderated e-discussion group about issues pertaining to women from South Asia that was started in 2000, much before social media became a rage. Currently, ‘Bol’ has nearly 1,000 subscribers from 25 countries.

Anju, and her team, has also brought out several bibliographies on subjects like “Voices of Resistance, Silence of Pain: An Annotated Bibliography on Violence against Women” and “Gender Dimensions of Employment and Wages in Selected Asian Countries”.

Anju says that she has noticed a surge in publication of women’s memoirs and biographies. These provide insights into the status of women over the past century. Maybe a bibliographic compilation of these publications would enable scholars to do a content analysis to study these as cases of social change.

A membership-based research institute, currently, CWDS has 93 life members and four institutional members. Members are drawn from among scholars, activists and intellectuals with the expectation that they would actively participate in fulfilling the Centre’s aims and objectives.

Centre for Women’s
Development Studies
25, Bhai Vir Singh Marg (Gole Market)
New Delhi 110001 India Phone: 91-11-23365541;
+91-11-23366930 Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

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