Devaki Jain is a development economist and activist. She graduated in Economics from Oxford in 1963 and taught at Delhi University for 6 years. Since then, her academic research and advocacy, influenced largely by Gandhian Philosophy, have focussed on issues of equity, democratic decentralisation, people centred development and women's rights.

She was one of the founders of a wide range of institutions such as Development Alternatives for Women for a new Era (DAWN) - a third world network of women social scientists who provided an alternative framework for understanding the location of advancing the cause of poor women of the South. Indian Association of Women's Studies (IAWS), Kali, Feminist Publishing House and Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) - a research centre in Delhi where she was Director until 1994. She was a member of the erstwhile South Commission, established in 1987 chaired by Dr. Julius Nyerere and various other committees/agencies such as the Advisory Committee for UNDP Human Development Report on Poverty, 1997; the Eminent Persons group associated with the Graca Machel Committee (UN) on the Impact on children of Armed Conflict etc.

She is one of the two women awarded the Bradford Morse Memorial Award by the United Nations at the World Conference at Beijing for outstanding achievements through professional and voluntary activities in promoting the advancement of women and gender equality for 20 years. 
She has been an active member of the Women's Movement - local, national and worldwide through women's organisations and networks. She studied and enabled many grassroot women's organisations such as SEWA Ahmedabad, to articulate their voices to be visible in the broader landscapes. She is also involved with alliances and coalitions of community movements such as Nationals Alliance of People's Movements" (NAPM); the National Centre for Labour (NCL) a coalition of unions of unorganised labour. She is a founder member of the International Network for Engineers and Scientists-INES -an outcome of the Scientists for Peace Initiatives of Bertrand Russell. 
She has also served on the National Preparatory Committee set up by the Government of India to prepare for the UN World Conferences, notably, Nairobi (women),1985; Cairo (population)1995 ; and Beijing(women) 1995. She has been a member of many policy and programme designing task forces and working groups set up, with special reference to women' s economic empowerment, by the Government of India such as the Ministry of Rural Development to design credit programmes for Rural Women; Member of the Core Committee to set up the National Women's Resource Centre (Ministry of Human Resource Development). At the Central Planning Commission, she has been a member of the group set up to draft the Women's Development Chapter. She was an Adviser and Convenor of Expert group on Economic Affairs at the National Commission for Women.