Sustainable Development for Pastoralist Women in India: Heritage, Dignity and Adaptations in Times of Rapid Change

This project builds understanding of human and cultural contexts to inform discussion of sustainable development for some of the world’s most ‘left behind’ people: women in mobile pastoralist communities in India.
Project status

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are framed by a global pledge to ‘leave no-one behind’: this project supports this intention for India by investigating the religious-cultural dimensions of human development for women in mobile pastoralist communities. The research team aims to illuminate the diversity of subjective ways in which women relate to the intersections between gender, nature, culture and religion in contexts of rapid agrarian change and uneven economic growth in India.

Global development studies, policy and practice have recently paid greater attention to the roles of religion and culture in shaping people’s understandings of development in the Global South, and the contributions faith actors make to development effort. However, this has tended to focus on the role of formal faith-based organisations in achieving global development goals and paid much less attention to local faith actors and communities, and the intersecting role of religion and culture on livelihood strategies and people’s relationship to the land. Although the SDGs are articulated in secular language, the realisation of each goal and associated targets must necessarily involve ‘building our understanding of human and cultural contexts and how this can help to inform practices and policies which contribute to sustainable development outcomes’.

This project focuses on one of the most socially, political and economically marginalised groups in India: pastoralist women. India’s pastoralist communities have attracted some academic interest and support from regional NGOs, but neither have adequately considered the role that pastoralists’ religious-cultural traditions play in their relationship to land and animals, how they employ this heritage to adapt to change, and its relevance to achieving sustainable development.

Principal Investigator: Professor Caroline Dyer, University of Leeds 

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