Madhu Purnima Kishwar is a Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and Director Indic Studies Project at CSDS. She is also the founder editor of Manushi - a Journal about Women and Society, which was founded in 1978. The print edition of Manushi gave way to online edition in 2008. (See www.manushi.in). The Journal has endeavoured to promote informed activism through research-based writing and critiques on various issues in a manner that integrates women’s rights and concerns in each and every aspect of our national life with larger social and political issues and steadfastly avoided the “ladies compartment” approach to women’s issues.
She is also the Founder President of Manushi Sangathan, an organization working for democratic reforms that promote greater social justice and strengthen human rights for all, especially women. Manushi is managed by a non-profit Trust. Kishwar describes her work with Manushi as a “labour of love” and not a professional engagement. Her work at CSDS covers three broad categories:
- Laws, Liberty and Livelihoods: This is aimed at evolving a pro-poor agenda of economic reforms in India. It involves close investigation of various laws and regulations that trap perfectly legitimate occupations of people working in the unorganized sectors of the economy in a web of illegality. Two major outcomes of this research based policy reform work have been far reaching changes in laws for cycle rickshaw pullers and street vendors. She has also worked closely with farmers movements that seek to dismantle restrictive laws on agriculture.
- Indic Studies Project to promote the study of diverse cultures and faith traditions in the Indic universe. Apart from organizing major international conferences, Kishwar has organized several dialogues with concerned stakeholders on contentious issues with a view to finding consensual solutions. These include “Ethics and Politics of Conversions”, “Solutions of the Kashmir Problem”, “Impact of Hydro projects on our sacred rivers and mountains”, “Honour Killings”, “Religion and Violence” etc.
- Gender Justice: Manushi journal edited by Kishwaris widely acknowledged as having pioneered a new thinking on women’s rights issues in the country. It is also credited for avoiding the “Ladies Compartment” or Zenana Dabba” approach to women’s issues which tends to ghettoize women’s concerns by overlooking the context in which women of diverse communities, regions, castes and class groups are situated.
An important aspect of Kishwar’s work has been to understand why there is such a worrisome gap between governmental laws and the practices of civil society, especially with regard to social legislation meant for the ostensible purpose of strengthening women’s rights in India. Her critiques of these laws and the alternatives she has offered have helped change the terms of debate and perception regarding several of these laws.
She has authored and edited several books that include the following:
- She has authored and edited several books that include the following:
- Deepening Democracy: Challenges of Governance and Globalization in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005.
- Off the Beaten Track: Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999.
- Religion at the Service of Nationalism and Other Essays, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1998. Translated into Hindi under the title Rashtravaad Ki Chaakri Mein Dharma, Vani Prakshan, 2005
- ( Ed) The Dilemma and Other Stories by Vijaydan Detha, Manushi Prakashan, 1997.
- Gandhi and Women, Manushi Prakashan, New Delhi, 1986. (Also published in Telugu).
- In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voices from Manushi. (Co-edited with Ruth Vanita), Zed Books, London, 1984.
- Women Bhakta Poets, Lives and Poetry of Women Mystics in India from 6th to 17th Century (Co-edited with Ruth Vanita), Manushi Prakashan, New Delhi, 1989.