Professor Naila Kabeer awarded honorary degree

Published on 27 January 2020

Professor Naila Kabeer, Emeritus Fellow, IDS was awarded an honorary degree from Sussex University at the recent winter graduation.

Naila Kabeer
Image: Gary Edwards/IDS

Naila is a feminist economist who has spent her career focusing on individuals and groups in South Asia who are on the margins of their societies and trying to understand social change from their perspective.

For 25 years Naila was a Professorial Fellow at IDS, collaborating with anthropologists and others in Sussex to rethink economics and development along feminist lines. She was a founding leader of the MA Gender and Development course at IDS, the first in the UK, and still thriving. She enjoyed and helped shape the intersection between theory, research and policy engagement that is a defining feature of IDS work. In 2009 she returned to a London base as a Professor at SOAS and since 2013 at LSE. Her book The Power to Choose: Bangladeshi women and labour supply decision-making in London and Dhaka, was the inspiration behind the Booker-shortlisted novel Brick Lane.

In 2019 she was named in Key Thinkers on Development, and by Apolitical as one of the 100 most influential people working for gender equality. She was President of the International Association of Feminist Economics in 2018-19 and has held numerous prestigious international fellowships.

Melissa Leach, Director, IDS ,says, ‘Naila Kabeer is an inspiring role model who exemplifies the creative power of inter-disciplinary, engaged research, and Sussex and IDS’ commitments to knowledge, that makes the world a better place for all’.

Interview with Naila

Before the graduation ceremony we sat down with Naila and asked her about the award, learning at IDS and what her hopes are for the future for development studies.

Naila Kabeer
Image: Gary Edwards/IDS

How does it feel to receive this honorary degree?

Well, I think it is absolutely wonderful, it is an acknowledgement of what one has tried to achieve from one’s peers, from people that know your work. And I guess for me it has been really nice talking to students here, and what they have got from my work, so yes, I am very happy.

As our development studies students embark on the next stage of their career, what advice would you give them?

I think the world has become a more difficult place and my advice would be to stay strong and to stay in touch with each other and to find allies that believe in the same things they do. I think there are a lot of challenges ahead, but I think they have been well equipped, you know learning here (at IDS), and strengthening the values that we need to try and makes things get better.

What does it mean to be part of the IDS staff and student alumni network?

I am very happy that I have emeritus status here which gives you a continued connection. I try and participate in events every now and again – this is of course a wonderful way of being a part of it – but what I think is very special about it is that all around the world there are people that have been through the IDS culture and the IDS set of values and I meet them in different parts of the world, so you connect up. So I think it is about staying connected.

What do you think are the greatest development trends of our time? And what are your hopes for the future?

Well the greatest development trends of our time have been in globalisation and waves of democracy and so on. But I think now we are going through a whole new set of waves and I think the whole climate disaster is something we have all become aware off.

Technology, the technological change, what it holds for the future. As the phrase goes ‘there are a lot of opportunities and a lot of risks’ and we do not know what it is going to mean.

I think the rise of populism and autocratic forms of government and the devaluation of a commitment to being honest and truthful and so on in a lot of governments.

So I think there has been a lot of positive things, one of the most positive things of our time is the young people have become mobilised around issues of sexual harassment, around issues of climate justice, so I think that bodes well for the future.

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