Devaki Jain Lecture

This series of lectures has been endowed in honour of Devaki Jain, an alumna and Honorary Fellow of St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, and a distinguished Indian public figure who has been closely involved at the UN in Human Rights issues for many years. Each annual lecture is on the theme of women’s rights in the developing world and recognises St Anne’s historical commitment to female emancipation. 

Devaki is an Indian economist and writer, who has worked mainly in the field of feminist economics. Following graduation after reading PPE Hons at St Anne’s, she returned to India and taught economics at Delhi University. In 2006 she was awarded the Padma Bhusan, the third highest civilian award from the government of India, for her contribution to social justice and the empowerment of women. She has written more than 20 books and 100 learned papers in the field of gender. She has given more than 60 global and national lectures, and travelled to more than 90 countries in pursuit of her goals – to emancipate the South from the legacy of colonialism and to enable women of the south to define their own paths to progress.

When Devaki returned to Oxford in 2014 as a Plumer Visiting Fellow, she found a dramatic change in the character of students and their culture. She was struck by the focus of their energies on feminism, with most colleges seeming to have a feminist group who met regularly and took their discourse seriously. The Principal of St Anne’s, who knew about her deep engagement with the women’s movement in India and that she was described as a ‘feminist’ as distinct from being in the women’s movement, was keen for Devaki to meet the feminist group at St Anne’s and give a lecture on feminism in India. When she discussed this topic with St Anne’s students, Devaki noted a sense of surprise if not shock among the students. Like many others, they had assumed that it was only in the western democracies that feminism was a political force – and that what is called the Third World was a wretched place for women. Yet having lived and worked throughout the southern continents for almost 40 years now, and been engaged with women scholars and women’s movement members in these countries, Devaki knew that feminism and feminist expression were not only vivid but also strong actors in these countries. It struck her then that the best gift she could give to St Anne’s for initially giving her the opportunity to study and later to return and participate, was a lecture in perpetuity where Oxford students and Fellows can hear from strong feminist voices from southern continents who are writing, shifting sands, and leading.

St Anne’s College is very grateful to Devaki Jain for enabling the College to establish this event which will form an integral part of the academic year, and captures the vision and values of St Anne’s. 

On Thursday 25 November 2015, Graça Machel spoke at the Inaugural Lecture in the presence of the Chancellor of the University of Oxford on the topic of ‘Leadership in Modern Africa: a feminist perspective’ discussing how women are re-defining and reshaping the continent. Graça Machel DBE is a Mozambican politician and humanitarian. She is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and in 1997 was made a British dame for her humanitarian work. 


At the second lecture on Monday 17 October 2016 chaired by Professor Sally Shuttleworth (Professorial Fellow in English) and Winnie Byanyima (Executive Director fo Oxfam International), Noeleen Heyzer, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, spoke on the topic of ‘At the Frontlines of Change: Feminist Leadership Transforming Lives’. Dr Heyzer was an active member of the women’s movement in her region and later carried that passion into the UN. She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees of international organizations including, the UNDP Human Development Report, the Commission on Globalization of the State of the World’s Forum, the UNDP Eminent Persons Group on Trade and Sustainable Development. She was a founding member of numerous international women’s networks and has published extensively on gender and development issues. Listen to the lecture on the University of Oxford podcasts site: