Madhu Deshmukh

Chief Operating Officer, Asia Regional Office

As Chief Operating Officer of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office, Madhu Deshmukh oversees day-to-day operations for the regional office, implements systems to ensure ARO’s growth, provides programmatic leadership and support, and ensures effective implementation of projects. She has more than 23 years of experience and has managed programs globally in over 40 countries in the areas of social development, gender, women's empowerment and public health.

Madhu’s background in leadership, strategy, project design and management, working with vulnerable population, and policy advocacy make her well qualified to lead operations for ICRW’s Asia Regional Office. What she enjoys most about working at ICRW is having the opportunity to explore and work on cutting edge issues related to gender, violence against women and girls, and empowerment of women and girls. Madhu is passionate about grounding her work in maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and HIV, in a broader framework that takes into account gender disparities and women’s empowerment.

Madhu has extensive experience working at senior management level in various nongovernmental organizations, bilateral and multilateral donors, including: the Government of India, the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID); the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS);

Prior to joining ICRW in 2014, Madhu was the president of Tenth Planet LLC where she provided advice on strategy and innovation around social development, gender and public health related issues to various organizations, some of which include: CARE USA; the United Nations Foundation; and Lebara Foundation UK. In previous roles at CARE and the United Nations Foundation, Madhu served as the director leading their global work on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH), mobile health (mHealth) and gender. In 2012, she worked as a Global Director for HIV/AIDS for CARE, and in 2010, she worked as a Senior Advisor  – Maternal Health, Governance and Women’s Empowerment. Madhu was also the Chief of Party for CARE in 2011, for a project on maternal, child health and nutrition issues in the state of Bihar, India, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Follow her on Twitter at @MadhuDeshmukh or connect with her via email


HIV/AIDS, Sexual Reproductive and maternal health (SRMH), Policy analysis and Advocacy

Languages Spoken: 

English and Hindi


Madhu holds a Master’s degree in social work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), India. 

Mixed Views in India on Whether to Criminalise Marital Rape

Channel News Asia

ICRW's research on the prevalence of intimate partner violence across India is featured in this Channel News Asia article on the government of India's decision not to criminalize marital rape.

ICRW's research on the prevalence of intimate partner violence across India is featured in this Channel News Asia article on the government of India's decision not to criminalize marital rape.

PRESS RELEASE: New Report Highlights Gaps in Quality of Female Sterilization Services in Bihar, India

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Given the increased demand for reproductive health services in India, more attention is needed to assess the quality of care for these services. To assess the current state of care and patient satisfaction, The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Government of Bihar conducted research in Bihar, auditing 79 facilities (including district hospitals, sub-divisional hospitals, primary health centers, and private hospitals), and conducting interviews with around 800 providers, female sterilization and IUD clients from 2013 to early to mid-2014.

Today, ICRW released a new report with findings from that assessment, which sheds light on the quality of these services, as well as patient satisfaction, finding that while there have been some improvementsto infrastructure, there is much more to be done in the provisioning of female sterilization services to ensure that clients are satisfied with the sanitary conditions, as well as privacy and dignity that they expect while receiving these services.

ICRW’s research found that the overall quality of care received by many women was substantially low, with a lack of a focus on women’s needs and their right to high-quality health services that fit their needs and lifestyle.

In only one in ten primary health centers were all women provided a bed post-surgery, leaving the vast majority of women who recently underwent sterilization procedures to recover on mattresses or thin cotton mats on the floor, a breeding ground for infection. In nearly one out of three facilities, hospital waste, including used syringes, cotton and bandages were found scattered around, further compounding the risk of infection for female patients.

“Safe, sanitary conditions are absolutely non-negotiable and can be achieved with very little or no heavy additional costs but will surely yield long-term dividends to establishing the credibility of these programs,” said Pranita Achyut, lead researcher on the report.

The findings highlight that very few private and public hospitals had all the drugs identified by the Government of India as necessary to have on hand while performing sterilization procedures; many women after the procedure were discharged without ensuring that they received check-ups or counselling and advice; the infrastructural facilities at the sub-divisional hospitals and primary health centres were very poor, including within the operation theatres themselves; and fewer than half of all the facilities surveyed had separate functional toilets for women.

“The evidence generated by our research reinforces the oft-repeated reality of poor quality health services for women who seek sterilization procedures,” said Dr. Ravi Verma, head of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office. “The plight of poor women denied of the dignity and respect they deserve, coupled with the high risk of exposure to infections and post-surgery complications, are clearly highlighted by our research. It is hard to overemphasize the clear, demonstrated need for women-oriented and sensitive family planning services.”

RECOMMENDATIONS: Based on our findings, ICRW puts forth a host of recommendations to improve the safety and sanitary state of health facilities so no woman’s life is at risk. These recommendations include designating safe, clean waiting and recovery areas for women; equipping facilities with necessary, sanitary equipment, drugs, and supplies to effectively perform sterilization and IUD procedures; ensuring health facilities have qualified health providers who ensure they respect the rights of women undergoing procedures; and educating women on their right to safe health care procedures.

Overall, our research indicates that while the government is taking many steps to improve provider and clinical quality, without addressing clients’ understanding and demand for quality, we will not be able to fully address the issue.

Pranita Achyut, lead researcher and Dr. Ravi Verma, head of ICRW’s Asia Regional Office are available for interviews and commentary.

Press Contacts:

Washington DC – Erin Kelly,, 011. 571.265.1110

New Delhi– Ruchika Kumar,, 91.11.46643333

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Mission Statement: 

About ICRW: For nearly 40 years, ICRW has been the premier applied research institute focused on women and girls. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in South Asia and Africa, ICRW provides evidence-based research to inform programs and policies that help alleviate poverty, promote gender equality and protect the rights of women and girls. Learn more at

2015 Open Square Summit

Ravi Verma, head of the ICRW's Asia Regional Office, will present on the groundbreaking GEMS program at the 2015 Open Square Summit.

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 8:30am - 5:00pm
The Carnegie Library
801 K Street NW
Washington, DC
United States
Futures Without Violence

Promoting ‘safe spaces’, delaying marriages and improving sexual and reproductive health

Adolescent girls in rural Rajasthan continue to experience early marriage, early and repeated pregnancy and discontinuation from secondary schools, all despite legislation against child marriages and government programs designed to both delay marriages and encourage girls to continue with their education, and promote reproductive health. Data shows that in nearly half of the Rajasthan districts, the proportion of girls marrying before age 18 ranges from 61 to 75 per cent, whereas in the remaining districts it ranges from 30 to 60 per cent. Further, modern contraceptive use is only 7% among 15-19 year and 20% among 20-24. The proportion of girls using modern contraceptive is even less in rural areas. Additionally, school drop-out rates are very high in Rajasthan, particularly in secondary school. According to DLHS-3 (2007-08), 41% of 14-17 year girls are out of school, compared to 14 per cent among 11-13 years.

While there are many programs focused on adolescent girls, most programs focus one issue at a time –education, health, livelihood, or life skills. The proposed program is an effort to find opportunities and an approach that can combine various platforms in ways that would provide greater options to girls through shifts in norms and beliefs about girls and young women and will help create safe spaces for women and girls.

In this project, ICRW will work with around 2,500 unmarried and married adolescent girls between the ages of 12-19, as well as their parents, in-laws, community, schools, local health systems and other key stakeholders through an integrated safe-space model program designed to improve safe spaces and the sexual and reproductive health of the adolescent girls, specifically with a focus on the right to comprehensive maternal health care. The concept of safe spaces on a continuum of home, community and schools will provide girls a sense of safety and esteem, and opportunities to remain mobile, form network and access mentors for guidance and help. These spaces will help them gain wider knowledge and skills to face challenges and feel motivated to raise voices to resist pressures against marriage at an early age; to adopt positive sexual and reproductive health related knowledge and attitudes and negotiate access and utilization of SRH services and  continue in schools.

The project will specifically work to enhance community support to keep girls in schools and promote higher education, through delayed marriages, and work to create public spaces free from violence. The program will improve girls’ knowledge about sexual and reproductive health services, and improve their access to services.

The objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Improved use of sexual and reproductive health services, including more girls using contraceptives;
  • Increased support from the parents and community to delay marriage and help girls gain increased access to reproductive health services; and
  • Increased support from parents and other community members to end violence against women and girls.

UNFPA Press Release: UNFPA-ICRW Study Deconstructs The Mind Of The ‘Masculine’ Indian Male

Tue, 11/11/2014

 UNFPA Press Release

A new study, ‘Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India’, by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) explores how the average Indian male interprets the idea of ‘masculinity’ and how that shapes his interactions with women and increases his desire for sons.

The study explores two areas that are particularly important in the Indian context: intimate partner violence and son preference. It is well-established that Indian women face social and familial pressures to produce sons, and the failure to do so increases the threat of violence and abandonment in marriage.

Indeed, not all men think, feel or respond in the same way, which is why the study uses a masculinity index to measure the degree of behavioural rigidity, based on the levels of control men practice in intimate relationship and their attitudes towards gender equality.

According to Frederika Meijer, UNFPA India Representative, “Gendered ideas of masculinity and childhood experiences are significant contributing factors behind men using violence. This research identifies alternative expressions of masculinity that offer pointers to effectively engage men and boys in achieving gender equality. It identifies triggers that could enable them to become change agents in addressing gender discrimination.”

Results from the 9,205 men interviewed show that the average India man is convinced that masculinity is about acting tough, freely exercising his privilege to lay down the rules in personal relationships, and, above all, controlling women.

Take a look:

  • One-in-three men surveyed didn’t allow their wives to the wear clothes of their choice.
  • Sixty-six per cent men believed that they had “a greater say than their wife/partner in the important decisions that affect us”.
  • 75 per cent men expected their partners to agree to sex. Moreover, over 50 per cent men didn’t expect their partners to use contraceptives without their permission.

Clearly, “being a real man” is characterised by authority, while a woman has to prove her femininity with qualities of “tolerance and acceptance”. The study shows that often a departure from these mannerisms could provoke a violent reaction from men.

Sure enough, the study shows a very high prevalence of intimate partner violence in India. Around two-out-of-five men from the seven study states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya

Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Punjab and Haryana were found to be ‘rigidly masculine’ in their attitude and behaviour, as they firmly stated that women should neither be seen nor heard.

What’s more, 60 per cent admitted to using violence to assert their dominance over their partner if she wanted to step out of her traditional roles or was unable to meet the expectation of bearing a son. In fact, more than half - 52 per cent - of the 3,158 women surveyed talked about experiencing some form of violence during their lifetime, with 38 per cent suffering physical violence, including being kicked, beaten, slapped, choked and burned, and 35 per cent were subjected to emotional violence, including insults, intimidation and threats. While Odisha and Uttar Pradesh emerged as the states with the highest incidence of intimate partner violence at 75 per cent, Punjab and Haryana followed at 43 per cent and Maharashtra at 37 per cent.

“The study reaffirms and demonstrates that addressing inequitable gender norms and masculinity issues are at the heart of tackling root causes of intimate partner violence and son preference,” states Luis Mora, Chief, Gender-Human Rights and Culture, UNFPA.

If men with discriminatory gender views are more inclined to physically abusing their partner, then they are also the ones more likely to want sons, affirms the study. Boys are preferred in many Indian families as they stand to inherit property, carry forward the family lineage and participate in specific religious rituals. Census 2011 data reveals the child sex ratio in the country has dropped from 927 girls per 1,000 boys to an all-time low of 918. Examining the extent of son preference, the study measured daughter discrimination and finds that over a third of the men and women show both high daughter discriminatory and son preferring attitudes.

Undoubtedly, the traditional construct of masculinity increases the tendency for violence and son preference among men. In order to be able to enlist them to become a part of the solution and not the problem, a couple of factors need to be taken into account. Firstly, the study catalogues economic stress as a major trigger for both violence against women and the desire for sons. A crisis that threatens their position as the primary providers at times prompts them to use violence to gain control. Simultaneously, it reiterates their belief that more male children can guarantee better financial security.

The other aspect that plays an essential part in intensifying conventional masculine attitudes is childhood experiences. The more men witness their father exercising greater control at home in their formative years, the less likely they are to develop gender equitable attitudes. Says Ravi Verma, Regional Director, ICRW-Asia, “The findings of the study are extremely clear on lasting impact of the childhood experiences. It is high time we begin to seriously think how we wish to bring up our boys and also present ourselves as adults to younger ones within the families.”

The Masculinity study makes an urgent call for developing policies that build men’s confidence to behave differently. Two solutions that offer promise of real transformation are: breaking the cycle of discrimination by reaching out to young boys with alternative ideas of masculinity, that are not based on power or authority; and ensuring quality education for both sexes along with ensuring women’s access to income.

Mission Statement: 

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA expands the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives. UNFPA started working in 1969, the number – and rate – of women dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth has been halved. Families are smaller and healthier. Young people are more connected and empowered than ever before.

Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India

Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India

Priya Nanda, Abhishek Gautam, RaviVerma, Aarushi Khanna, Nizamuddin Khan, Dhanashri Brahme, Shobhana Boyle & Sanjay Kumar

In-depth research on gender, power and masculinity and various programmatic efforts to engage men have made it abundantly clear that men and boys must be an integral part of efforts to promote gender equality. This is especially relevant in India, where caste, class and linguistic ethnicity have tremendous influence on how men construct their sense of masculinity and define what it means to be a “real man” or what is expected of them. Recent research suggests that men’s attitudes and more broadly, masculinity, perpetuate son preference and to some extent, intimate partner violence in India.
With this in mind, ICRW conducted research, surveying a total of 9,205 men and 3,158 women, aged 18-49 in the following seven states across India: Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
The study findings emphasize that in India, masculinity, i.e., men’s controlling behavior and gender inequitable attitudes, strongly determines men’s preference for sons over daughters as well as their proclivity for violence towards an intimate partner – both of which are manifestations of gender inequality. Masculine control in women’s lives affects their own experiences of intimate partner violence and preference for sons. The study finds that ultimately eliminate son preference and intimate partner violence in India, it is critical to develop and implement national policies and programs that involve men in promoting gender equity and diminishing socio-cultural and religious practices thatreinforce gender discrimination.
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Expanding Effective Contraceptive Options (EECO)

Around the world, more than 220 million women have an unmet need for modern family planning. Nearly half of these women cite method-related reasons for non-use. In order to address the need for new and improved contraceptive methods, ICRW is working with Women Care Global, Evofem Population Services International (PSI), and Everyone Mobile (E1M) to provide women with new women-initiated methods of contraceptives so they can prevent unplanned pregnancy and protect their health.

ICRW will serve as the research partner and will conduct research with potential users of these new methods, initially in Malawi, India, and Zambia. ICRW will then provide partners, and health care providers with research findings in order to better understand decision-making around contraceptive use, product accessibility, and potential barriers to using these new products.


How Empowering Girls Can Help End Child Marriage

Mon, 09/15/2014
Trust Women

In a piece for the Trust Women website, ICRW's Ann Warner, Senior Youth and Gender Specialist, writes about a new ICRW report exhibiting how empowering girls can help end child marriage, highlighting case studies from four countries.

In a piece for the Trust Women website, ICRW's Ann Warner, Senior Youth and Gender Specialist, writes about a new ICRW report exhibiting how empowering girls can help end child marriage, highlighting case studies from four countries.

Prevention of HIV/STI Risk/Vulnerability Among Married Women Through Integration Within Primary Health Care in India

Prevention of HIV/STI Risk/Vulnerability Among Married Women Through Integration Within Primary Health Care in India


Worldwide, India ranks third in terms of the number of people live with HIV, affecting 2.1 million people according to recent estimates. Programming efforts aimed at vulnerable populations, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, injecting drugs users, and truckers, have resulted in a decline in the HIV incidence rate. Building off of that success, the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) is working to further accelerate progress in decreasing the transmission of HIV, by targeting increases in low prevalence states, including through spousal transmission.

The RISHTA project, which means “relationship” in Hindi and Urdu, was conducted in a typical low-income urban community of around 600,000 people in the northeast quadrant of Mumbai City, India and was built on relevant, culturally-based attitudes and behaviors related to sexual health. The project targeted married women who, around the world and in India, are at high risk for contracting HIV by being married to men who participate in high-risk sexual behaviors.

The RISHTA project looks at the following questions:

  1. How can we identify the women are most vulnerable to HIV/STI transmission within marriage?
  2. What approaches can help to reduce married women’s risk?
  3. What outcomes indicators should we use to measure the program’s success?

The following project brief outlines a model for HIV/STI risk/vulnerability reduction for married women by addressing a wide range of psychosocial, marital, and sexual risk factors by integrating counseling and education with primary care through community intervention and education programs.

A video highlighting program participants and benefits of the RISHTA project can be found here.

(2.64 MB)

We encourage the use and dissemination of our publications for non-commercial, educational purposes. Portions may be reproduced with acknowledgment to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). For questions, please contact; or (202) 797-0007.

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