How Universities Shape Students? Experiences with Gender-Based Violence in India: An Intersectional Feminist Narrative Inquiry
Ruchi Saini

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Maryland, College Park

Primary Discipline

Comparative Education
Gender-based violence (GBV) in universities is a widely recognized detriment to students? physical and mental well-being. However, contemporary research on the topic overwhelmingly conflates GBV with sexual violence, and centers the voices of students from universities in the global north. The lived experiences of female students from countries such as India are often relegated to the margins of international educational policy discourse, forestalling the promise of global gender equity and sustainable development. My dissertation is a narrative inquiry that employs an intersectional feminist framework to address this research gap. Using a broad definition of violence that includes physical, sexual, psychological, and economic manifestations, I investigate how female students? experiences with GBV at a large public university in India are shaped by the structural and cultural characteristics of the institution. The notions of ?structure? and ?culture? are used as heuristic tools to separate the formal limitations (=structure) on institutional stakeholders from the largely unspoken collective assumptions and values (=culture) that guide their actions. The research design involves three interdependent levels of investigation undertaken over fifteen months: 1) focus group discussions with bystanders (n=60) of GBV, 2) art-based narrative interviews with self-identified victim-survivors (n=20) of GBV, and 3) key informant interviews with student leaders (n=10) of college societies advocating for victim-survivors. By providing female students with a platform to own and control their narratives, the study has the potential to disrupt the essentializing image of Indian women as passive victims and will be helpful in building more inclusive universities.
About Ruchi Saini
Ruchi Saini is a doctoral candidate in International Education Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research investigates the structural and cultural determinants of gender-based violence in formal education spaces, especially within the post-colonial contexts of India and Africa. Ruchi comes from the north Indian state of Haryana, and her scholarship is deeply rooted in her lived experience as an educator and administrator across India?s K-12 schools. In the US, she has worked as a research analyst with the Brookings Institution and as an academic counselor with the University of Maryland?s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program At the University of Maryland, Ruchi was a recipient of the 2019-20 Dean?s fellowship and the 2022-23 Ann Wylie Dissertation Fellowship. Her dissertation field work was supported by ICRW?s Mariam Chamberlain Dissertation Award 2023. Ruchi?s scholarship has been published in peer reviewed journals such as Current Issues in Comparative Education and the Journal of Comparative and International Education. Before pursuing her doctorate, Ruchi earned an MA in English literature from the University of Delhi (India), where she was a gold medalist, and a master?s in Education from the University of Glasgow (Scotland), where she was a Chevening fellow. In addition to her dissertation, Ruchi is currently working on two collaborative projects: on school teachers? perceptions of gender-based violence in Burkina Faso, and on the structural violence of racism and white supremacy within global education circles.

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