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Martha Chen, Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, has been awarded a Padma Shri by the Government of India in recognition of her work around issues of employment, poverty and gender in India.
Padma Awards, the country’s highest civilian awards, are awarded in several disciplines including visual arts, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, and civil service. “Padma Vibhushan” is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service; “Padma Bhushan” for distinguished service of high order and “Padma Shri” for distinguished service in any field. The awards are announced on the occasion of Republic Day, January 26, every year. The awards are conferred by the President of India at a function held at Rashtrapati Bhawan in March or April.
Raised as a third-generation American in India and earning a PhD in South Asian studies, Dr. Chen spent many years as a development scholar and practitioner in India. Two of her books are based on in-depth field studies in India – a study of household livelihood strategies in a village in Gujarat state and a study of widows in 14 villages in 7 states of India – entitled, respectively, Coping with Seasonality and Drought in Western India and Perpetual Mourning: Widowhood in Rural India. She continues to work on issues relating to the working poor, especially women, in India in partnership with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India whose founder, Ela Bhatt, received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 2001 and was the Harvard Kennedy School Class Day speaker in 2006.