Swashakt: Empowering women through collective-based approaches

Women’s social and economic inclusion and empowerment in India evidence programme

India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in South Asia. Among rural women, less than 30 per cent are engaged in productive work, paid or unpaid. The government has launched several programmes and initiatives, such as the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, to support and enhance women’s livelihoods and their economic and social empowerment.

Under the Swashakt evidence programme, 3ie is funding the implementation of the following nine pilot and at-scale projects that support collectives and group-based models for women-led businesses, including non-farm and service enterprises that are operating in partnership with state rural livelihood missions. We will also fund and publish evaluations that assess the feasibility and effectiveness of these projects.

Testing innovative collective enterprise models in farm, non-farm and services sectors

To understand the enablers and barriers to setting up women’s collective enterprises, 3ie is funding a series of year-long pilot projects with formative and process evaluation in sectors like agro-processing, non-timber farmer produce, and non-farm. Click on the name of the project to learn more.

Partners: Sakhi, Bihar and Centre for Development of Human Initiatives (CDHI), West Bengal
Sector: Agro-processing
State: West Bengal and Bihar

The project will set up two women-led and collectively owned agro-processing enterprises. The first, is a rice bran oil processing enterprise in Cooch Behar, West Bengal which seeks to offer a valuable source of income to farmer collectives by making use of surplus paddy, that does not have high market value. The second is a makhana or prickly water lily seeds processing enterprise in Madhubani, Bihar that leverages a niche high-value crop that grows in ponds in the villages where existing farmer collectives are functioning. The project will firmly anchor the enterprises in existing farmers’ collective associations. The associations will supply agricultural produce to the enterprises and co-own them, sharing costs and profits equally. Women from the farmers’ collectives will also take up technical and administrative roles for the agro-processing enterprises.

Partners: Area Networking and Development Initiatives (ANANDI) and Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad (GIDR) (evaluation)
Sector: Non-Timber Forest Produce
State: Gujarat

This pilot project will set up cooperative women’s enterprises to produce and market organic products using Non-Timber Forest Produce from 50 forested villages in Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat. The project will identify and build capacities of small and marginal women farmers’ and organic producers’ collectives. It will improve and diversify production and streamline the quality control procedures while providing knowledge, training, tool banks, common processing, storage and packaging for organic produce. These interventions intend to help the women’s collectives expand their reach to wholesale and retail markets and realise better prices.

Partner: Institute of Livelihood Research and Training (ILRT)
Sector: Non-farm
State: Bihar

According to a microenterprise survey (JEEViKA, 2017), kirana or small local grocery shops and retail shops that sell medicines, apparel and other goods made up more than a third of all women’s economic enterprises in rural Bihar. To support and enhance the earning potential of kirana shops owned and operated by women’s collectives, JEEViKA developed the Rural Retail Shops programme. This programme establishes block-level nodal gramin bazaars or rural retail shops, which can make bulk purchases, sell products and supply to village kirana shops. In this pilot project, 3ie is funding the implementation and formative evaluation of nine gramin bazaars to serve 360 kirana shops across three districts of Bihar.

Partner: Network for Enterprise Enhancement and Development Support (NEEDS) (implementation) and 3ie, IFMR (evaluation)
Sector: Non-farm
State: Jharkhand

This pilot will develop three women’s economic collectives engaged in the bamboo value chain in Deoghar district of Jharkhand. The project seeks to leverage self-help groups (SHGs) promoted by the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (Aajeevika). It will work with the Bamboo Board, the Jharkhand State Bamboo Mission and the Jharkhand Silk Textile & Handicraft Development Corporation (Jharcraft) to pilot and generate evidence for a comprehensive toolbox to support women’s collective enterprises. The toolbox will include components to:

  • improve the business processes of the women’s collectives through organisation development;
  • incubate and accelerate enterprise development through mentorship and coaching;
  • establish multi-actor partnerships; and
  • promote digitisation and ease of collectivisation

Testing new interventions for women’s collective enterprise projects

To help understand the impacts of innovative value chain development and marketing interventions on women’s collective enterprises in non-farm and agro-processing sectors, 3ie is funding implementation and impact evaluation in Odisha, West Bengal and Rajasthan. Click on the name of the project to learn more.

Partners: Watershed Support Service and Activities Network and Natural Resources Institute, Greenwich (evaluation)
Sector: Agro-processing
State: Odisha

Millets are nutrient rich crops that grow with few inputs in arid and semi-arid areas in India. They are also an important source of nutrition and resilience in tribal areas of Odisha. Imparting skills and training to women to improve post-harvest processing and develop new high value millet-based products can have significant economic and empowerment impacts for women millet farmers in these areas. With 3ie’s support, the Watershed Support Service and Activities Network (WASSAN) is collaborating with the Odisha Livelihoods Mission and the state government’s flagship Odisha Millets Mission to assist collective-based millet producer organisations with:

  • technical support for postharvest processes and processing;
  • value addition through new product development;
  • enterprise development support;
  • gender-responsive training and capacity building; and
  • innovation, nutrition profiling and market linkage

Partner: ACCESS Development Services
Sector: Agro-processing
State: Odisha, West Bengal and Rajasthan
Type: Innovation

Women’s participation in the spice processing sub-sector is constrained by factors like lack of ownership and control over assets, constraints on women’s agency and decision-making, lack of autonomy and mobility, unfavourable work environments, cultural practices and gender norms, low skills, lack of access to credit and markets, and limited information on rights and entitlements.

ACCESS’s Gramyashakti project seeks to scale up an existing women’s producer company engaged in processing spices and establish four new women’s collective spice processing enterprises. The project will establish collective enterprises for spice value chains such as cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, ginger and chilli. It will skill women to manage and govern the facilities; provide packaging and branding solutions; link with the highest value markets, and facilitate credit linkages with formal financial institutions. The project will work with enterprises in Kandhamal, Odisha; Uttar Dinajpur and Alipurduar in West Bengal; and Kota and Ranthambore in Rajasthan, where ACCESS is already working with the state rural livelihoods missions.

Scaling up working models of women’s collective enterprises

To understand the process and impact of scaling up tested working models of women’s collective enterprises, 3ie is funding implementation and evaluation for projects in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Click on the name of the project to learn more.

Partner: Chitrika
Sector: Non-farm
State: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

The Godavari Women Weavers’ Service Producer Company (GWWSPC) is a collective of handloom weavers and artisans in East Godavari district. 3ie is supporting the Chitrika project to scale up the GWWSPC model from 600 to 1,700 women and support collectives of women weavers and artisans to become decision-makers. The project will customise the curriculum and offer micro-MBA training and credentials so that the artists can transform from wage-earners to entrepreneur-leaders.
The project will also provide technology, marketing and quality assurance training. It will also set up an integrated handloom enterprise hub, which will support the weaver collectives to reduce drudgery; add value; use environment-friendly technology; introduce labels and innovation; leverage multi-pronged integrated marketing strategies.

Partner: Urmul Rural Health Research & Development Trust
Sector: Non-farm
State: Rajasthan

Living in remote villages in the desert, women artisans work in marginalised spaces and face systemic discrimination. This project will support the implementation and evaluation of Urmul Trust’s Crafts Incubation Hub. The hub shall support and promote six craft collectives including SHGs, federations or social enterprises— reaching out to 4,000 women artisans in five districts. The project seeks to empower women artisans to make informed decisions about their craft and trade, have social and financial autonomy and agency, and to expand their businesses through resilient and sustainable crafts collectives. The hub will incubate, consolidate and scale collective craft enterprises, through inclusive, multi-disciplinary and cross-sectional support services in the Alwar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Sriganganagar districts of Rajasthan. Services will include training and support to enhance capabilities, improve technology, knowledge and design and improve access to finance and markets.

Partner: IMAGO Global Grassroots and IDinsight (evaluation)
Sector: Agro-processing
State: To be determined

This joint intervention and evaluation project will support the scaling up of RUDI, an innovative agro-processing social enterprise model, through self-help groups (SHGs) promoted by state rural livelihood missions. RUDI, a business model that integrates the whole value chain, has been successfully implemented in Gujarat by the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and IMAGO. The model involves bulk purchases from small and marginal farmers, investment in processing centres, quality control processes and women selling in villages. The RUDI project will scale the Gujarat model to two new states. IDinsight will evaluate the RUDI approach on participating women, looking at both economic and empowerment outcomes.

Related projects

  • Project findings will inform an ongoing 3ie evidence gap map and systematic review on group-based livelihood programmes.
  • 3ie will also extract insights on the feasibility, scalability and cost-effectiveness of these collective-based interventions and publish syntheses drawn from the findings and lessons of the programme.
  • 3ie has also evaluated the impacts of NRLM on livelihood promotion and social mobilisation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports the Swashakt evidence programme. LEAD at Krea University is our grants management partner.

The programme announced project partners and completed an inception exercise in December 2020.

For more information, please write to ep1@3ieimpact.org

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There are no impact evaluations
There are no systematic reviews
There are no evidence gap maps
There are no replication studies
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