Social movements unite diverse actors in a process of needs-interpretation and claims-making to advocate for social justice and equity and thereby, challenge discriminatory norms and practices. In this context, feminist women's movements emerge as transformative forces, contesting the subjugation of women within intersecting social divisions such as caste, religion, ethnicity, and class.
Therefore, social movements engage in oppositional discourse representing an alternative vision of a social issue that challenges the hitherto hegemonic and established ways of identifying needs and practices. Further, while a particular issue is framed by the actors involved, the national contexts in terms of state capacity, political legacies, degree of democracy, international discourse, and pressure also shape the strategies, priorities, and effectiveness of social movements towards gender-egalitarian policies. On the other hand, diversity within these movements - including actors representing different castes, religions, disabilities, and demographics - ensures representational equity, particularly in a socially stratified nation like India. Thus, social movements can be understood both in terms of internal processes of representation and in terms of their impact on a democratic state.
South Asian women's movements have a rich history of anti-colonial actions, advocating for eradicating violence against women and pursuing social, economic, political, and civil rights. The dynamic Indian women's movement, once a beacon for nationalism, its claims-making now incorporates a rights-based and egalitarian approach to advocate change. It encompasses political movements, grassroots initiatives for legal reforms, and NGO-led efforts to address diverse aspects of women's lives. These different strands of the women’s movement, reflecting the voices of marginalized women, are important allies in research and programs for gender-transformative social and policy change.
ISST has historically studied and collaborated with social movements, particularly women’s movements, to generate a theoretical and empirical understanding of the perennial struggle for gender-transformative social and policy change, especially in the area of gender and work. The organization brings an innovative mix of methodologies and interdisciplinary expertise to directly engage with grassroots women's struggles in diverse contexts to understand and leverage the claims-making processes, the needs interpreted, and the impact of women’s struggles. ISST plans to continue its tradition of engaging and understanding contemporary women’s struggles under its programmatic theme, ‘Movement Building and Claims Making’.