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Devaki Jain

Devaki Jain

Devaki Jain is an economist who graduated from St. Anne’s College, Oxford and was elected as the Honorary Fellow of the college in 2016. She was a lecturer in Economics in Delhi University from 1963- 69. She has been a visiting fellow at Harvard University, Boston University, University of Sussex, SIAS and Oxford University. She has an honorary doctorate from the University of Westville, Durban, South Africa. She was a member of the erstwhile South Commission chaired by Dr. Julius Nyerere. She is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 2006. Over the course of her career she founded a wide range of institutions. She was the founder- director of the Institute of Social Studies Trust. She is a founding member of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies as well as Development Alternatives for Women for a New era (DAWN) – a third world network of women social scientists. She has been the author of many books and essays related to women with special reference to their economic growth. Some of the books include Tyranny of the Household: Investigative Essays on Women’s Work, Women’s Quest for Power: Five Indian Case Studies, Women, Development and the UN: A Sixty-Year Quest for Equality and Justice, Journey of a Southern Feminist and Close Encounters of Another Kind. She recently published her memoir, The Brass Notebook.


The Brass Notebook

Devaki Jain in conversation with Malashri Lal

Devaki Jain, one of the foremost economists in India, looks back at the trajectory of feminism through a candid memoir in which her personal story interweaves with the development agenda of a new nation. At the age of 87, Jain has published The Brass Notebook, deliberately invoking Doris Lessing’s classic, The Golden Notebook. The brass stands perhaps for the ordinary lives of women in India amongst whom Jain found her vocation. Growing up in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family, discovering her freedom at Oxford University and moving on to an illustrious career in India and abroad, it’s a story of change, perception and empathy. Jain’s professional life became devoted to the cause of women-workers in the informal economy. Her work brought her in contact with world leaders, amongst them, Gloria Steinem, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Vinoba Bhave and Amartya Sen. In a free ranging conversation with Malashri Lal, she speaks of her ideals and her experiences along with the women’s empowerment agenda of her generation.