Essay: Feminist approach (Bhumika) (notes)

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The socialist feminist research has been stimulating and challenging of established notions and ideologies. ‘Feminist’ social policy has done an important job in developing new concepts for studying welfare state variation. The idea of children as just dependents versus the idea of children been understood as individuals with their own set of rights began to be explored.

“The feminist perspective has enormously enriched the study of social policy and our understanding of those institutions which we call … ‘the welfare state”. This wasn’t the scenario in the 1950s and 1960s where the social policy experts and research focused on income and class inequalities. Focus was on wider aggregated themes and little effort was made to discover how resources were distributed within the family. (Blackburn, 1995)

Reference – Sheila Blackburn (1995) How useful are feminist theories of the welfare state?, Women’s History Review, Volume 4, Number 3, 369-394

There is ample amount of research available about the inherent nature of traditional societies where owning a property was equated to the concept of being ‘independent’. Only in the modern era, where wage labour became the norm for men and voting rights were extended to all men, did employed men begin to be ‘independent.’ Women, for whom wage labour was not the majority experience until recently, and whose earnings are on average much less than men’s, continued to be considered as dependent.

Gordon (1990) points out how much of the US welfare expenditure goes to Aid to Families with Dependent Children, a programme founded on the principle that the norm is for mothers and children to be supported by men; that norm is, of course, the product of our particular sex-gender system – it is not a biological or divine given.

Reference – Gordon, Linda (1990), The Welfare State: Towards a socialist-feminist perspective, The socialist Register

Tracing this trajectory brings us to the feminist adaptations of welfare.

As Renate Kränzl-Nagl et al. (2003) note, and convincingly demonstrate, children and childhood have been, and largely remain, neglected issues in welfare (state) research, both in its theorisation and in the actual subjects researched. Children were rarely the focus; literature exhibits that attention has tended to be on a single issue, for instance child poverty. Childhood is basically a preparatory stage for adulthood, and that because of this feature, children are a reasonable object of economic, social and cultural investments, in the firm expectation that in the future gains will be reaped from these investments. (Alanen L and et al, 2004)

Leena further explores the nature of welfare states in her article by taking the example of Finland, whose welfare is, compared internationally, very comprehensive, and says until the late 1980s, in Finland as well as elsewhere, social issues pertaining to children were not taken up exclusively in public discourse but covertly under other titles, such as family policy, educational policy or health policy.

Reference – Leena Alanen, Hannele Sauli and Harriet Strandell (2004) Children and Childhood in a Welfare State: The Case of Finland

Historically, children have been conceptualised as belonging, and limited to an extent, to the private world of the family and thus to their parents, and policymakers have been preoccupied with the question : in what circumstances can, or should, the state intervene to protect children or to ensure that opportunities exist for their development? (Lewis, 2006)

Agreed that many governments have been concerned that state intervention on behalf of children will serve to relieve parents of their responsibilities, but it has often proved difficult to establish a relationship that is not adversarial. The book gives an interesting insight as to how far have the policymakers been successful in taking into account the viewpoints of children when framing a policy or an intervention specifically designed for them? More recently, there has been increased emphasis on the idea that collective investment in children is crucial to the welfare of society, leaving open the extent to which the welfare of the child qua child is a central consideration.

Reference – Children, Changing Families and Welfare States edited by Jane Lewis (2006)

How then do the welfare states approach children? Children are normally invisible in social policy debates, because often the family is seen as the relevant unit and parents the ultimate decision-makers.

It is useful here to explore the comparative study of the UK and Norway carried out by Anne Skevik (2003) titled “Children of the Welfare State: Individuals with Entitlements, or Hidden in the Family?” The UK traditionally has been closer to an ‘organic’ view of the family, while Norway has been closer to an ‘individual’ view. Organic view is treating a family as a unit, an idea widely opposed by feminists, whereas, individual view is a deconstructed idea of treating a family not as a unit with a head of household and his dependants; rather, it relates to a man, a woman and a child who are linked to each other by biological and legal ties. In other words, Norway has a policy towards parents and children; the UK has a policy towards families.

The recent emergence of ‘child policy’ in public discourse and in state level policy-making may be taken to signal a new kind of awareness of children’s place in modern society – an awareness of children as a social group who have a place in welfare policy ‘in its own right’.

The promotion of the social uniqueness of children was one of the achievements of the social movement advocating human rights for children.

The ultimate international victory thus far was the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989), which also helped to bring ‘child policy’.

Children and who decides for them?

– Monika Pareek

A welfare state functions on the core ideology that the services it provides must reach the most needy sections of its population. The success of the modern nation state is determined through this very idea. However, the conception of childhood and child rights which is incorporated in much of social planning while making welfare policies needs to be questioned, for in a growing capitalist world, there are multiple factors which are influencing the sociology of childhood, and therefore it becomes important to look at child rights and welfare schemes for children in a new light.

For the longest time, childhood has been looked at as a time in the the human life cycle when the body has not acquired mental and biological maturity. A idea of a pathological derangement in the adult self because of certain events that occurred in one’s childhood finds it root in Freudian theories of psycho-analysis which took the 19th century academia by storm and continued to dominate most of the discourses around childhood for most of 20th century as well.

With time, the, researches within the field the sociology began to look at childhood through the various lenses and not just psychology. To quote Jenks (1996:32), the child is “a status of a person which is comprised through a series of, often heterogenous images, representations, codes and constructs.” In fact, now ‘childhoods’ were being looked at and not just one, singular kind of ‘childhood’.

As the discourses around childhood shifted from being purely psychological to sociological, the idea that ‘childhood’ cannot be a homogenous concept and therefore a uniform set of welfare practices cannot be applied to children across the world began to be discussed. Children in an ever-changing, globalized world were experiencing different kinds of childhoods depending on the part of the world they inhabited. Therefore, there has always been felt this pressing need to view child rights from a relativist approach rather than a universalist approach.

The implementation on the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN has undoubtedly fostered some very significant measures in welfare policies for children, the greatest of them being that it makes the states directly responsible for children. Raising the rights of children on political and social platforms, both local and international has also proved to become a powerful weapon for the child rights activists across the world. However, developments in child rights at the local, national and international level are both numerous and varied. For instance, the childhood that a middle-class, ten-year old experiences in the North America may be entirely different from the childhood that a lower class ten-year experiences in south-east Asia. Thus, the ‘best interests’ of the child that the UNCRC mentions become problematic for a universalist approach to child welfare and rights may lead to adverse consequences. For instance, the International Labour Organisation, with the support of UNICEF, conducted a study of children involved in the production of of garments for export in Bangladesh (Boyden and Myers, 1995). This industry financially supported the families of many of these children, of whose father were unemployed or not contributing financially to the household due to marital breakdown. A lot of Muslim women and girls were also employed in this factory. This becomes significant for the females because in a community where women are already so marginalized, it was difficult to find legitimate paid work in the public domain. The children here mostly did light finishing work. A mere threat of the US Bill led to many thousands children being removed from the garment sector. Eventual research proved that these children went to do hazardous work like brick chipping and rickshaw pulling, ate terrible food, and suffered from chronic illnesses. The study compared their situation with the children still employed in the factory and found that the ones still employed enjoyed a better standard of living. Here, it becomes interesting to note that the best interests of the children in the garment factory in Bangladesh were not served by an intervention was developed on a set of assumptions that were far removed from the children’s reality. These children never really had a choice between going to school and being employed because they had to work because of economic reasons. Significantly, the children’s views about their employment were not even considered by those who devised the Bill.

Therefore, returning to the idea of a global construction of childhood, it becomes problematic to scrutinize or understand child rights and welfare assuming that there is a level-playing field for all children of the world and therefore they all require the same basic rights. Children need to play a participatory role in decision making, especially if the policies are directly impacting them. Quoting Theis, “children…..are social actors in their own social, economic and cultural contributions to the society.” (Theis, 1996: 70-1). It is necessary for social planners and policy makers to listen to and learn from children directly. It is true that children may not always be right in taking decisions for themselves, but that does not justify the fact that they do not have much say in the policies being implemented on or for them. When policy makers ignore the reasons why parents and children make certain choices, they risk undermining the welfare of both the children and their families. Attempts by the certain NGOs and governments to involve children and their opinions when deciding on certain policies are to be welcomed. The globalized idea of childhood must aim towards incorporating children’s voices in understanding their realities instead of bringing about ready-made solutions to age-old cultural problems in different parts of the world.


Boyden, J. and Myers, W. (1995) Exploring Alternative Approaches to Combating Child Labour: Case Studies from Developing Countries Innocenti Ocasional Papers Child Rights Series, Number 8, Florence UNICEF International Child Development Centre.

Jenks, C. (1982) The Sociology of Childhood: Essential Readings, London, Batsford.

Theis, J. (1996) Children and Participatory Appraisals: Experiences from Vietnam, PLA Notes 25, London.

Prout, A. and James, A. (1990) ‘A new paradigm for the sociology of childhood?: Provenance, promise and problems’, in James, A. and Prout, A (Eds) Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Issues of Childhood, Basingstoke, Falmer Press.

Krishna – india- a welfare state


When India was under colonialism, it did not take up responsibility for the welfare of the citizens. Their priority was capturing of the country’s wealth. After independence, our country had innumerable problems. India faced a lot of challenges in social and economic aspects. India faced social and economic equality. There were many categories of vulnerable sections of people like women, children, homeless and elderly. The social reformers and constitution makers were focused on these problems. And henceforth, India was decided to be welfare state. In welfare state, the state plays a key role in safeguarding the well- being of the citizens. The welfare state is constructed on the morale of availability of equal opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and government’s duty to make these services accessible to those who are unable to avail these provisions for a better life.

A welfare state is one in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. A welfare state is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life.

Directive principles have been included in the Constitution of India for the socio economic development of the people. Directive principals are non-justiciable and cannot be enforced by any court of law. But these principles are considered fundamental in the governance of the country, making it the duty of the central and state governments to apply these principles in making laws to establish a just society in the country. Directive Principles are distinct from Fundamental Rights; but both are complementary to each other. Both Central and State governments are establishing the directive principles, but much focus are to be done to realize the goals of a welfare state. These principles are enclosed in the India constitution.

The Directive Principles of State Policy can be categorized as

(a) Principles promoting socio-economic equality

(b) Principles related to Gandhian thought

(c) Principles related to International Peace and Security

(d) Miscellaneous Principles.

Children in India are vulnerable to many social problems like victims of poverty, malnutrition, broken homes, lack of education, child labour, sexual abuse and other types of abuses. So, our Indian government has taken more initiatives in order to protect and make the lives of the children secure. Also, these schemes focus on the development of children in a better dignified manner. Some of the schemes are

v Integrated Child Development Scheme

v Kishori Shakthi Yojana

v Integrated Child Protection Scheme

v Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls (NPAG)

v Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) – ‘SABLA’

v Mid- Day Meal Scheme (MDMS)

Integrated Child Development Scheme

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is a centrally sponsored Scheme implemented by States/UTs across the country. ICDS has a decentralised process and it is monitored in five tier system. Their levels of monitoring are National, State, District, Block and Anganwadi level. It was established in 2nd October 1975 and it is one of the largest community projects undertaken by the government of India. (SACHDEV, Y., DASGUPTA, S. 2001)

a) Nutrition

The children who come to the anganwadi centres are provided with more than one meal. A morning snack (banana, milk, egg, seasonal fruit) and a hot cooked meal is given as lunch. Pregnant or lactating mothers or children below 3 years are given take home ration (THR).

b) Growth Monitoring and Promotion:

Weight check-up is done by the anganwadi worker. Once in a month, children below 3 years are checked once in a month and 3-6 age group children are checked quarterly. Weight-for-age growth charts and Mother and Child Protection Cards are maintained for all children below six years, as per WHO Child Growth Standards.

c) Nutrition and Health Education:

This aims to increase the expertise and abilities of mother and community. This focuses on bringing a continuous improvement in maternal and child nutrition. Knowledge on basic health, nutrition, child care and development is provided through group counselling and one to one counselling.

d) Pre-school Education / Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE):

The kids age between 3 to 6 years are given learning activities through joyful play- way method. One basic aim is to prepare the children for basic schooling and stimulation for children below three years.

e) Fixed Health and Nutrition Day: A “Village Health Nutrition Day” is articulated once a month at the Anganwadi Centre. Health functionaries, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) and Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) visit the anganwadi centre on this day, a basket of services are provided on this day like immunization, micronutrient supplementation, Vitamin A & Folic Acid, deworming, registration of pregnant women, antenatal care, health check-up of sick and undernourished children etc. In addition counselling of pregnant women and care givers is conducted ANM and AWW.

f) Home Visit: home visits are done by the Anganwadi worker.AW visits children under three, pregnant and lactating mothers. Home based guidance is provided to mothers on infant and young child feeding; early childhood stimulation and care during illness. This is also an opportunity to follow up on children who have dropout from routine immunization and growth monitoring sessions.

g) Referral: Children who are sick or severely undernourished are referred by the Anganwadi worker to ANM or to health facilities. The anganwadi worker assists and arranges these referrals.

This scheme has its advantages like very low honorarium for the workers and it acts only as a centre for the supply of the services. (Lodhiya K,2013)

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