If Eija Pehu, Technology adviser in World Bank's Agriculture and Rural Development department had her way, Bollywood's Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan would certainly impact country specific policies.
A die hard Bachchan fan, Pehu has managed to make her World Bank colleagues "listen, consider and debate" Bollywood's impact on Indian minds.
In an informal chat with Hindustan Times, on the sidelines of International Fund for Agricultural Development's (IFAD) Governing Council meeting here, Pehu said that Bollywood movies have a strong influence on Indian minds: "People" Pehu said "are watching these movies and the message they take back impacts society. Bollywood is portraying a value shift. It successfully debates a conflict of choices: Amitabh Bachchan's generation with its value system of placing loyalty on high priority versus individualistic choices of the present generation of steering their own futures without any baggage".
It is in this context, that Pehu thinks it imperative that policy makers of international institutions weave in the Bollywood impact and the social message it disseminates in its policy formulations for India. She has not only been talking about but has trifle managed to bring her colleagues around to assess and debate the Bollywood impact: "The discussion, I hope, will influence policy"Pehu said.
World Bank's current country strategy for India focuses on helping India to fast track the development of infrastructure and supports the poor states to achieve higher standards of living for its people. The Bank provides finance and advice for development projects of the government. Its policies,however,set guidelines to ensure that projects meet their own criteria of social and environmental standards.
Bachchan apart, Pehu is very vocal on issues of gender. She has in the past called for a shift in investment, given that women lack the assets, income and decision making authority to respond to increase in food prices. A team leader for the Gender in Agriculture source book, Pehu said that there is evidence that women are among the worst affected by the current food crisis. Committed to address the funding imbalance, the World Bank's goal is to ensure that by 2010, at least half of the agriculture and rural development projects include investments and activities that benefit women.
Earlier, Annina Lubbock, IFAD's Technical Adviser Gender, called for redefining and recasting the image that a farmer is a man, "A farmer can be a man or a woman even though the word has a male connotation and in that sense excludes rather than includes women". While a conscious effort is being made to ensure that the "correct language" is used, Lubbock's concedes that "slips occur", as she underlined the need for a "perception and a mind set change".
Women, even though they play a major and decisive role in farming, largely goes unnoticed because of under-reporting and the fact that they fail to project themselves: Äsk a woman farmer and even while she is doing most of the work,she will say that she is only helping or assisting". Both Pehu and Lubbock see this as a "setback" or as Lubbock put it, "It is like farming with one hand tied to the back".
Women, both agreed, are doing immense work and in many cases have more knowledge than men on farming methods. Yet they have little or no access to property, extension services or finances. It is in this context that Pehu underlined the need for gender integration, which can only happen if there is support from the leadership, incentives and accountability: "What is measured gets done" Pehu said.
Interestingly, the demand to recognise women in agriculture as farmers has been voiced in a few districts of Uttar Pradesh in India. Reflected in a Women's charter released recently, the demand to recognise women as farmers came from Fatehpur and Banda districts of the state.