Research Profiles


Bipasha Baruah: Canada Research Chair in Global Women's Issues

Current Research: Women and Property Ownership in Cities of the Global South: A Case Study of India (SSHRC Funded)

Women make up half of the world's population, perform two-thirds of the world's working hours, receive one-tenth of the world's income and own only one-hundredth of the world's property.

Research on gender and development has mostly focused on inequalities between men and women of wages, educational opportunities, schooling outcomes, mortality and morbidity, and more recently, political participation and representation. While the gap between women's and men's education and income levels are narrowing gradually almost everywhere in the Global South, the disparity in property ownership remains stark and persistent. Informative research on gender and property ownership could be conducted in many settings of the Global South since women are severely disadvantaged in property ownership everywhere in the developing world.

Research conducted in India promises to be particularly valuable because private ownership of landed property is the single most important indicator of social status in the country and women have been severely and persistently disadvantaged in their attempts to own and control landed assets despite their growing contribution to the country's burgeoning economy. The proposed three-year research project will identify the specific social, economic, legal, cultural, political and institutional factors that impede low-income women's ability to secure access to landed property (defined for the purposes of this study as land and housing) in one Tier-1 (large) and one Tier-2 (medium-sized) city in India, namely, New Delhi and Jaipur. The research will be conducted in both cities in collaboration with the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) - an organization founded in India in 1972 to organize informal sector women for better working conditions and social security provisions. The study will focus specifically on urban women because their land and housing needs have received even less attention in academic scholarship, development practice and policy formulation than those of rural women. Case study methodology is suitable for this project because of the need to collect quantitative and qualitative data to meet its objectives, the importance of accessing interdisciplinary literature to construct theoretical frameworks, and PI suitability in terms of language abilities and cultural skills. Focus groups, semi-structured interviews, participant observation, archival research, annual reports, audits, baseline surveys and other locally produced research will be employed as means of data collection and verification in both cities. Research on women and property is hampered globally by lack of gender-disaggregated data and conceptual frameworks.

This project will contribute to scholarly knowledge by developing theoretical anchors and analytical frameworks for conducting interdisciplinary research on gender and property ownership. Findings from this research will also enable governments, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to better understand the land and housing needs, priorities and constraints of urban low-income women and to formulate responsive policies.

The project will enable 1 PhD student and 1 postdoc to acquire international research and publishing experience. Two master's students and two undergraduate students will be employed to assist with secondary data collection and collation. Six junior SEWA staff members -- typically young Indian women without university degrees -- will acquire training in policy-focused empirical research and analysis. The proposed research will provide Canadian aid agencies and research organizations with specific strategies and policy instruments to use property ownership as a means to promote gender equality in international development programming. 


Erica Lawson, Associate Professor

Current Research: 

The first objective of this SSHRC-funded research is to conduct an evaluation of the drop-in centre program for Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre in London, Ontario. The second objective is to explore how this drop-in program influences the motherhood experiences of the women who use the service. The significance of this study lies in evaluating a drop-in centre program designed for young mothers and the implications for informing best practices in the program as well as in similar services for young women in Canada. While the findings from on drop-in centre program are not generalizable, utilizing the lived experiences of the women in the program to examine its efficacy has the potential to result in new theoretical and conceptual tools for evaluating drop-in programs. There are a number of studies focussed on discussing and evaluating drop-in programs, particularly in the areas of health, drug use, and homelessness. However, few studies examine drop-in centre use from the point of view of young mothers to discern how, and if, these programs help the women to achieve their goals and how they shape the women's mothering practices in the process. With this in mind, the study has the potential to make contributions to thinking differently about how to evaluate drop-in programs for youth, and to feminist scholarship in the social sciences that take up the production of mothering practices and motherhood identities with respect to young women.