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ICRW Announces Winner of the Inaugural Paula Kantor Award

By Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly is a Communications Specialist at the International Center for Research on Women. This is a re-post of her piece which originally appeared on the News & Commentary section of the ICRW website.

The International Center for Research on Women is proud to announce the winner of the inaugural Paula Kantor Award for Excellence in Field Research.

After careful consideration by a diverse panel of judges, the award will be conferred to Dr. Soumya Gupta.

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Dr. Gupta is a post-doctoral fellow with the Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative at Cornell University. Dr. Gupta’s PhD research examined the extent to which women’s empowerment in rural communities of central India is influenced by agricultural management practices and how these practices, in turn, influence the quality of women’s diet and their vulnerability to iron deficiency.

Dr. Gupta’s research is among the first to systematically and empirically assess the empowerment status of women in India as it relates to agricultural determinants and nutritional outcomes. It recognizes the fact that while women’s empowerment influences choices made in the realm of agriculture, it can also influence their own nutritional outcomes. In her research, she focuses on assessing iron deficiency, which affects approximately half of the women in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, India. Iron deficiency is known to adversely affect cognitive development, immune system response to infections and labor productivity. It is the most prevalent micronutrient deficiency in the world and iron deficiency anemia is a severe public health concern in India.

Her research indicated that while diversification of production systems and diets is an important pathway to improved nutrition, the outcome is conditional on women’s status. She found that empowered women tend to have better access to diet diversity and improved iron status. Dr. Gupta’s research also highlights the importance of a systemic approach to improving nutritional goals and the need for targeted interventions.

“I could not imagine a more deserving researcher upon which to bestow the honor of the inaugural Paula Kantor Award,” said ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou. “Dr. Gupta’s work truly embodies the spirit and passion that Paula brought to her work every day. I see so many parallels between the important work that Paula was doing to better integrate gender into agriculture and rural development and Dr. Gupta’s field research. I look forward to giving this special award to Dr. Gupta and to watching her grow as a researcher focused on filling in critical gaps in knowledge on issues affecting women and girls.”

Dr. Gupta received her PhD in Applied Economics from Cornell University, a master’s degree from the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, and a bachelor’s degree from Hindu College (University of Delhi).

“I am honored to be the first recipient of the Paula Kantor Award for Excellence in Field Research. There is a great need for better data (and metrics) in the field of agriculture, nutrition and women’s empowerment. In light of that, the Paula Kantor award acknowledges the importance of gathering primary data for evidence-based research,” said Dr. Gupta. “At the same time the Award also recognizes the tremendous effort that goes into designing a field-based data collection activity that is methodologically robust, contextually relevant, and ethically sound. I am inspired by Paula’s work and life, and with this award look forward to continuing my research on the linkages between nutrition and agriculture with a focus on women’s empowerment, and contributing to policy reform in a meaningful way.”

This is the first year that ICRW is giving out the Paula Kantor Award for Excellence in Field Research, designed to honor the legacy of former ICRW colleague Paula Kantor, who was killed while working in Afghanistan, while honoring the work of a young, promising researcher.

Dr. Gupta will receive the award at ICRW’s 40th Anniversary celebration in New Delhi, India on January 20th.