Dr Shoba Arun completed her PhD from the University of Manchester (1999), after which she joined as Lecturer in International Development, at the University of Ulster. She has many years of experience in teaching in sociology and international development. As a Senior Fellow of the HEA, Shoba Arun is an active and enthusiastic academic with substantial teaching and research interests. Her research goals are to better understand processes of global social change, as these processes are expressed in particular social and spatial contexts and differently, among diverse social constituencies. Her scholarship on sociology of development is seen in her overall research, teaching, and outreach activities, particularly on the causes, dynamics, and consequences of social and economic change, and engages this approach to undertake a number of parallel but distinct research interests. Foremost, her research publications and expertise concern gender matters in the global society and the knowledge economy. This includes research in the areas of neo-liberal policies and impact on digital technologies, and its impact on gender and the labour market. In doing so, she has an international standing in this field of gender research in a sociological analysis of development informatics. Her publications have informed policy reports and scholarly debates on the impact of IT based services within the gendered labour market, thus building such knowledge through engaged research with a wide range of constituencies. In addition her research focussing on how societal contexts respond to policies, and identify constraints in development pathways through the intersecting axis of social divisions of gender, ethnicity and class, illustrate the scope and meaning of development in a globalising world and can be seen in her work on assets, social networks among diverse households in India. Her research into global mobilities among skilled migrants also exposes gendered and racialised processes of global change.
Gender equality is a prime, but persistent concern of international development policies and programmes. Globally, women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty and deprivation, but are also victims of neoliberal policies, crises and violence. Many governmental initiatives are in place to encourage women into micro-enterprises as a route to economic empowerment and welfare.
‘My placement will be with the Department of Industries at the State Government of Bihar, in Northern India. Bihar is one of the economically most backward regions in a rapidly changing India, with one of the lowest per capita incomes and highest incidence of poverty in the country. Gender inequality is a major concern in the state. In particular, I plan to work on the governmental policy on Starts ups (2016) that encourages enterprise development and women’s inclusion in development policy. By working with the research centres on Microfinance, social enterprises at the Chandragupt Institute of Management, Patna, Bihar (http://www.cimp.ac.in/researchcentres.aspx) in my capacity as Visiting Fellow, I will be able to effectively link both research and practice, working with stakeholders to enhance my ‘engaged scholarship’.
As to date, there is mixed evidence on the benefits of Self-Help Groups on gender equality and empowerment, my research shows that such SHGs act as physical networks- focussing on women as actors, rather than incorporating nuanced understanding of gender as capital bearing subjects. Further women are treated as a homogenous groups, in relation to social grouping (e.g caste), age or religion. Thus while some women may be able to gain some level of economic benefits from these initiatives, issues of gender inequality, and diversity are not fully addressed.
It is expected that the Fellowship will lead to changes to the way in which policies such as Start ups are designed and implemented in the state. This impact will be achieved by mobilising my research on gender equality in development policy on micro-enterprises and self-help groups, in relation to Start Up Policy (2016-19) that aims at inclusive development of marginalised groups.