ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Women’s role in postcolonial nation state building: Krishnabai Nimbkar and the question of rural development in and beyond India


Framke Maria - University of Erfrt, Erfurt, Germany


03 – Changing Forms of Gendered Participation in Politico-ideological Movements in South Asia: Histories, Networks, (In)Visibilities


My presentation focuses on rural reconstruction work by women for women in the first two decades of postcolonial India. By taking up the example of the Dr Krishnabai Nimbkar (1906–1997), I investigate her social activism/work that aimed to improve the health, education and livelihood conditions for rural Indian women. Nimbkar, trained as a doctor, was a member of the All India Women’s Conference and a staunch nationalist who had participated in Gandhian campaigns. She took up social work in late colonial India and later emerged as an expert on women’s welfare in the 1950s. In this capacity, she not only worked closely with and for the postcolonial state’s community development programme, but also attended conferences of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) in Toronto (1953) and Colombo (1957). In 1955, she took up the post of Honorary Secretary of the newly founded Bharatiya Grameen Mahila Sangh, affiliated with the Associated Country Women of the World. A few years later, she joined as Specialist of Women’s Programmes the U.P. government funded Planning Research & Action Institute. At the institute, Nimbkar set up and lead the women’s section during the first five-year pilot project for the development of rural women. Zooming into the work of one activist, my presentation analyses not only the nature and content of rural development initiatives and Nimbkar’s understanding of her role in it, but also asks what and how such schemes contributed to the making of the