Meet the Staff: Rekha Panigrahi

In honor of International Woman’s Day (March 8, 2014), this edition of “Meet the Staff” features Rekha Panigrahi, one of the many inspirational women working towards global women’s empowerment in Pathways. Rekha has been the Institution Building Expert at CARE India since she joined CARE in May 2012, and has been key to making Pathways successful both within India and on a global level.

Rekha comes from a multidisciplinary background that fostered her expertise in sustainable livelihoods and policy and gender issues surrounding natural resources, such as land and forests. She graduated with a degree in animal science, and then focused her post-graduate studies in Rural Development and Interdisciplinary Research and Women’s Studies. With this background, Rekha has been engaged in the development sector for the past 16 years, and has worked on a variety of projects specifically related to research and advocacy based around empowerment of forest and land resource dependent communities (with an exclusive focus on women) around India.

Prior to joining CARE, Rekha worked at the Centre for World Solidarity (CWS), whose vision is to “make agriculture productive, environmentally/ecologically sensitive, and capable of preserving the social fabric of rural communities.”[1]  While at CWS, she worked on project design and monitoring – including on the System of Rice Intensification for small and marginalized farmers, some of whom were women – at a strategic level. Before CWS, Rekha had worked extensively on research and advocacy programs, and used her academic background to engage with polices related to the forestry sector. However, Rekha wanted to explore the sustainable agriculture, gender, and human rights issues that arose through this work on a larger scale, which brought her to Pathways.

Rekha was inspired to join CARE based on its underlying focus on women, as it would allow her to focus on her passion for women’s empowerment, as well as women’s intersection in the agricultural sector. She is inspired by the fact that CARE is a global organization; there are many learning platforms that are applied everywhere from local to international levels, and she can use CARE’s global learnings to inform practices within India. Rekha feels that the uniqueness of the Pathways program isn’t just about income, economic assets, or productivity enhancement – it’s about empowerment. She says that people often wrongly think that increases in income are the only factor in empowerment, but it’s much more complex than that, and she enjoys exploring the multifaceted factors of empowerment through her work on Pathways.

As Institution Building Expert in Pathways, Rekha leads the Institution Building component of the program with a distinct gender focus. She is responsible for developing and implementing an institution building strategy for varied Collectives through assessing capacity needs and developing capacity building plans and materials for them in synchronization with sustainable agriculture and market engagement components of the Pathways program.

Outside of Pathways, Rekha is a member of a variety of forums covering the topics of violence against women, gender equality, natural resources, and advocacy. She also enjoys analytical research and has published many papers surrounding these issues, making a powerful impact on rural development and women’s studies academia. Rekha also loves to travel, and beyond exploring different areas of India, she really enjoys spending times in varied climates, particularly in the Netherlands.

We are very fortunate to have Rekha as one of our leaders on Pathways. Her continued dedication to empowering women through work with natural resources both in and outside of her formal work with CARE India highlights the powerful impact that she has on women’s status, not only in the Pathways impact countries but also around the globe. We are proud to highlight her for International Women’s Day!