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Unheard voices: The challenge of inducing women’s civic speech

Nethra Palaniswamy, Ramya Parthasarathy and Vijayendra Rao

World Development, 2019, vol. 115, issue C, 64-77

Abstract: Deliberative institutions have gained popularity in the developing world as a means by which to make governance more inclusive and responsive to local needs. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that persistent gender inequality may limit women’s ability to participate actively and influence outcomes in these forums. In response, policy makers have tried to induce women’s participation by leveraging the group-based format of self-help groups, which can build women’s social capital and develop their sense of political efficacy and identity. This paper evaluates the impact of one such intervention, known as the Pudhu Vaazhvu Project, on women’s civic participation in rural Tamil Nadu. Using text-as-data methods on a matched sample of transcripts from village assembly meetings, the analysis finds that the Pudhu Vaazhvu Project significantly increases women’s participation in the gram sabha along several dimensions—meeting attendance, propensity to speak, and the length of floor time they enjoy. Although women in the Pudhu Vaazhvu Project villages enjoy greater voice, the findings suggest that this intervention may shift discourse away from the organic topics raised by citizens and towards project-specific activities. Given the finite amount of time to conduct local assemblies, this may have the perverse effect of crowding out discussion of issues that are broadly relevant to the community.

Keywords: India; Gender; Deliberation; Village democracy; Text-as-data; Participation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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