Centre for Social Research (CSR) is hosting the very first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event in India. In this two-part interview, The Pixel Project spoke with CSR about its history, current projects, and what they hope to achieve with the Global ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’® Day event.

Centre for Social Research (CSR), which is based in New Delhi, India, celebrated its 27th Birthday on 8th December 2010. Please tell us the central aims of CSR, how it came about and what it has been campaigning for over the last three decades.

Established in 1983 in New Delhi, India, Centre for Social Research (CSR) is dedicated to creating a violence-free, gender-just society through social research, capacity building and advocacy. CSR was founded by a group of social scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru University who were inspired by the dream of a truly democratic society, the ideologies and strategies of individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakesh Narayan, and the perspectives of feminist thinkers such as Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir.

Over the years, gender gradually emerged as a crosscutting phenomenon shaping social relations within and between sectors and groups in India. Since shifting our core focus to issues related to gender, CSR has emerged as one of the most influential and leading institutions working in the field of informed social action and action-oriented research. Each and every Centre for Social Research project and program is carefully targeted to our vision of a humane, equitable and gender-just Indian society. Our mission is to facilitate this goal of gender equality in India by addressing two broadly defined aims: eliminating violence against women, and promoting gender and development. For nearly three decades, we’ve worked with four interdependent methods: direct intervention and grassroots mobilization; knowledge, awareness and capacity building; policy-level intervention; and action-oriented research.

We at Centre for Social Research believe that people of all genders deserve equal rights, privileges and opportunities. We believe that women can be catalysts for and agents of social change. And we recognize that restructuring gender relations requires the participation and support of all sectors of society: women and men, young and old, grassroots to national levels, private and public institutions alike. All people, regardless of their gender or status, are decision-makers—and therefore also change-makers.

CSR has been doing some incredible work with the education of underprivileged children, in particular girls, throughout India. You’ve had great success. Please tell us about a few of your projects.

At the moment, many of our grassroots educational and training-related efforts take place as part of our Crisis Intervention Centres (CICs) program. Our CICs operate according to a holistic, three-tiered intervention strategy at individual, group and community levels. In each centre, we facilitate free-of-cost programs that directly assist women who experience violence in their homes or elsewhere, generate awareness amongst groups vulnerable to violence, and mobilize entire communities in the fight against gender-based violence.

As part of these three-tiered, integrated approach, we provide direct training in some of our communities while maintaining densely networked referral systems with local community-based and non-governmental organisations that facilitate educational and skills training initiatives. For victims of violence, rehabilitation is a gradual and often arduous process: Our CICs incorporate education and skills training as an integral component of the rehabilitation process. At the same time, increased education levels and skills acquisition can help individuals who may have once been vulnerable to violence create positive change in their own lives and the lives of those closest to them.

More generally speaking, we are actively engaged in facilitating educational and training opportunities for all members of society. We believe that knowledge, awareness and understanding are crucial for catalysing gender justice, and that education and training open a world of opportunities to all social actors.

The Gender Training Institute (GTI) is an important part of CSR, training young professionals in social justice through capacity building and awareness. Please tell us about your training courses. Why are they so important, and what would a young professional gain on completing one of your courses?

Our entire organisation is very excited about the future of our Gender Training Institute, especially as it continues to expand and reach even more groups and individuals in Delhi and across India.

We train individuals and groups to contribute toward a gender-just society through a range of training programmes, including: gender sensitization, tackling sexual harassment in the workplace, capacity building for women political leaders, gender sensitivity and law enforcement, and synergizing gender in education. More specifically, over the last few months, GTI has conducted trainings and workshops on a wide range of topics targeted to particular audiences. Some of our most recent activities include capacity building and gender mainstreaming workshops for NGOs; sexual harassment and workplace gender sensitization trainings for corporate actors; gender sensitization and police procedure trainings for the Delhi Police; and anti-human trafficking workshops for some of India’s most senior law enforcement officials.

Grounded in the realities of the existing social fabric of India, gender trainings reflect on gendered interactions and power differentials in culture, economy, politics, media and other aspects of society. The Gender Training Institute is a logical and cohesive step towards an equitable society that ensures empowerment of women and restructured relationships towards gender justice.

We at CSR believe that the pursuit of knowledge should be a socially relevant activity.” Please tell us a bit about your research centre. We understand that in recent years it has widened its breadth of study and has looked at issues such as violence against women. Please tell us about any recent findings from research undertaken, and, if appropriate, any policy change that has resulted from this.

We believe in an action-based approach to research, grounded in the conviction that research should constantly function as a means to enhance practical work on the ground. Social institutions in civil society are increasingly becoming agents of social change, and it’s vital for such actors to base their work on empirical research in order to guarantee profound results. Therefore, Centre for Social Research is dedicated to promoting the interdependence of research and action in order to work towards sustainable development.

During our earlier years, we concentrated research on localised problems among the underprivileged: Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women and the urban poor. More recently, the scope of our research has widened to include national and regional (South Asia) issues. Our research and enquiries address topics of and related to gender, health, violence against women, environment, education, governance, political participation, labour, industry and trade. Issues we’ve recently worked on include child marriage in India, the impact of trade and globalization on gender, the participation of women in Panchayat Raj institutions, women managers in India and surrogate motherhood.

Part two of our interview will be published on June 2, 2011.

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