• Gender and Neoliberalism: The All India Democratic Women’s Association and its Strategies of Resistance

Gender and Neoliberalism: The All India Democratic Women’s Association and its Strategies of Resistance

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by Elisabeth Armstrong

Foreword by Brinda Karat

“An important book . . . undoubtedly a valuable addition to the large and varied corpus of literature on the women’s movement in India.” – The Book Review

This book describes the changing landscape of women’s politics for equality and liberation during the rise of neoliberalism in India. Between 1991 and 2006, the doctrine of liberalization guided Indian politics and economic policy. These neoliberal measures vastly reduced poverty alleviation schemes, price supports for poor farmers, and opened India’s economy to the unpredictability of global financial fluctuations.

During this same period, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), which directly opposed the ascendance of neoliberal economics and policies, as well as the simultaneous rise of violent casteism and anti-Muslim communalism, grew from roughly three million members to over ten million.

Beginning in the late 1980s, AIDWA turned its attention to women’s lives in rural India. Using a method that began with activist research, the organization developed a sectoral analysis of groups of women who were hardest hit in the new neoliberal order, including Muslim women and Dalit women. AIDWA developed what its leaders called inter-sectoral organizing, that centred the demands of the most vulnerable women in the heart of its campaigns and its ideology for social change.


Brinda Karat is a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). She was the General Secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) (1993-2004), and a member of the Rajya Sabha (2005-2011). She is the author of Survival and Emancipation: Notes from Indian Women's Struggles (New Delhi 2005).


Elisabeth Armstrong is a Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA. She is the author of The Retreat from Organization: U.S. Feminism Reconceptualized (2002).

344 pages, LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2021