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NEERA DESAI (1925-2009)


Neera Desai was born in 1925 to a middle class Gujarati family that ardently supported the freedom movement. She completed her post graduation studies immediately after India gained independence Her interdisciplinary work was published in a book called Woman in Modern India.

Desai joined the SNDT Women’s University in the late 1950s and served on several decision making bodies as professor and head of the postgraduate department of sociology, as founder director of the Post Graduate Studies and Research Centre for Women’s Studies and the Centre for Rural Development till she retired in 1984. She also offered her valuable services several times as officiating vice chancellor during 1970-84. At SNDT, Desai played a crucial role in the Towards Equality Report of 1974; the Shram Shakti Report of 1988 and the National Perspective Plan for Women, 1988-2000.. She collaborated with Usha Thakkar to bring out another popular book Women in Indian Society published by the National Book Trust, India, New Delhi on the occasion of Women’s Empowerment Year, 2001.

The Research Unit on Women’s Studies (that she set up in 1974) became the model and inspiration for other such centres and the University Grants Commission considered it a model to be emulated. In 1990, she supported the efforts to establish SPARROW and was one of the mainstays of the India Centre for Human Rights and Law in Mumbai, and the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS, Delhi). She was closely associated with feminist groups such as Vacha (Mumbai), Astitva (Valsad) and Sahiyar (Vadodara). During the 1990s, she was on the advisory board of the Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (Mumbai) in its formative years.

Desai was one of the founding members of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies, the Gujarat Association of W omen’s Studies and the Maharashtra Association of Women’s Studies. Neera Desai was among those nominated for the “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize”.
 
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