Swashakt: Empowering Indian Women’s Collectives

India has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in South Asia. Among rural women, less than 30 per cent are engaged in productive work, paid or unpaid. The government of India has several programs to enhance women’s livelihoods and their economic and social empowerment, several of which emphasize women’s collectives. 3ie’s Swashakt Program is supporting interventions to identify what works to enhance viability, scalability and returns of women’s collective enterprises and promote women’s economic empowerment.

Swashakt: Empowering Indian Women’s Collectives

3ie is funding the implementation of four pilot and five at-scale projects across ten Indian states that support collectives and group-based models for women-led businesses. These include non-farm and service enterprises operating in partnership with the government. We are supporting mixed-methods evaluations that assess the feasibility and effectiveness of these nine projects. While the nine projects are in different stages, their implementation includes some or all of the interventions below.

Formation of Women’s Empowerment Collectives (WECs)
Investments in Assets and Infrastructure
Product Innovation
Market and Institutional Linkages
Capacity Building

Our work is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. LEAD at Krea University is our grant management partner. This program leverages our existing work on understanding the impacts of the National Rural Livelihoods Project (within DAY-NRLM) with India’s rural development ministry. To know more about how the program seeks to work towards women's empowerment, view this presentation.

To learn about the Swashakt projects operating in a state, click on it in the map below.

Swashakt projects: sectors and interventions


The nine Swashakt projects use different approaches to support women’s collective enterprises in farm and non-farm sectors. Broadly, while some are testing innovative enterprise models, others are testing new interventions with existing women’s collective enterprise models. The third category of projects are scaling up successful models.

While some projects are working with government agencies, others are implementing and testing private sector models. Five of the projects focus on women’s collective enterprises in one state each, while the other four are delivering their interventions to collectives across up to three states.

  • Testing innovative enterprise models

    To understand the enablers and barriers to setting up women’s collective enterprises, 3ie is funding four pilots with formative and process evaluation in agro-processing, non-timber forest produce and rural retail sectors in Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Gujarat.
  • Testing new interventions

    To help understand the impacts of innovative value chain development and marketing interventions on women’s collective enterprises, 3ie is funding implementation and impact evaluation of non-farm and agro-processing projects in Odisha, West Bengal and Rajasthan.
  • Scaling up working models

    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, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

To understand how Swashakt projects are progressing towards intended outcomes, we are monitoring key performance indicators. Here are a few illustrative examples:

  • Women’s participation in collectives: the number of entrepreneurs who are part of women’s collective enterprises, and how many of them are women.
  • Performance of the collectives: the monthly revenue generated and monthly wages paid by the collectives.

Click on the infographic below to explore the latest performance metrics from the one-year and three-year projects.  



Swashakt monthly digest

To view updates and monitoring data from previous months, click on the issue below:

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For the one-year long pilot projects, grants fund appropriate formative research examining project feasibility and work as proof of concept. For the three-year established models that are being scaled, grants support impact and process evaluations.

The evaluations use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to address the main research questions of individual projects measuring:

  • Feasibility of pilot interventions  
  • Success of scaled interventions
  • Collectives’ linkages to women's empowerment
  • Equity impacts of interventions

A meta-analysis will be undertaken uniformly across scaled projects and the pilots, respectively, to measure the following outcomes and identify learning to inform decision-making around women’s collective enterprises.

  • The enablers and barriers to setting up women’s collective enterprises.
  • The enablers and barriers to scaling them up.
  • The equity and empowerment impact of innovative value chain development and marketing interventions.

Swashakt: Conversations on women’s empowerment

The Swashakt podcast series aims to explore pathways towards economic empowerment and self-empowerment for women – primarily in India but also beyond. In these conversations, we dig into what we know and where we need more evidence. Hear from experts whose learning and experience can act like beacons on this journey. Click below to listen to the episodes.


Swashakt stories from the field

As the Swashakt partners implement their projects, our learning about the enablers and barriers to supporting and strengthening women’s collective enterprises grows. Click on the stories below to visit our Medium space and dip into these insights.



In the media
Aastha Dang, Divya Pandey, Fatema Patel and Shreya Banerjee authored an article for Ideas for India - an economics and policy portal - based on findings from the Chitrika project process evaluation. Read the piece here: Supporting Women Weavers: Learnings from Producer Companies

gLocal 2023 Webinar | Strengthening evaluation of Swashakt women's empowerment projects

Jane Hammaker and Shreya Banerjee highlighted the value of process evaluation in documenting and understanding implementation processes, challenges, and participants' stories as part of 3ie's Swashakt program. They shared learning on the sociocultural context of participants, project implementation, and similarities and differences among collectivization models used to empower women in five states of India.

View a recording of the event here

gLocal 2022 Webinar | M&E from ground up: Lessons from monitoring the Swashakt program

3ie's Bidisha Barooah and LEAD at Krea University's Morchan Karthick shared insights from setting up monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks for the Swashakt program so they could be more mixed-methods, inclusive and adaptive to ground realities, and balance accountability with implementer ownership. Tara Nair of GIDR, as the evaluator of ANANDI's Swashakt project in Gujarat, India, highlighted a flexible and evolving M&E system that built ownership by being focused on learning rather than accountability. Madhu Khetan (PRADAN) shared that top-down M&E systems may collect a lot of data, such as through tablets, but much effort and changes (in granularity, language, feedback loops) are necessary for these to be useful to implementers. All speakers concluded that co-developed adaptive M&E systems are extremely important. These systems are most useful when owned by the implementers and triangulated by users. Such M&E data is more likely to be ethical, accurate and useful to all concerned. However, recentering M&E frameworks so they are understood and used by capacity-stretched implementers is resource-intensive and may be hamstrung by lack of sufficient investment from program supporters.

View a recording here | Read more about the gLocal event here

Webinar | Helping to build a solutions toolbox for women's collective enterprises

Bidisha Barooah, Leader, Gender and Livelihoods, 3ie, presented the theory of change for 3ie’s Swashakt program at the Women's Collective Enterprises track as part of the Livelihoods India Summit 2021. The theory of change framework links interventions for strengthening collective enterprises with their impact on women’s empowerment and highlights what we know and what we need to know about this linkage. The presentation also covered the different ways in which Swashakt projects are supporting collective enterprises. This was followed by a discussion, where panellists drew on their experiences in working with women’s collective enterprises.

View a recording of the event here | Read more about the women's collective enterprises track here

For more information on the technical aspects of individual projects or the overall program, please write to Chandan Jain (cjain@3ieimpact.org) and Divya Pandey (dpandey@3ieimpact.org). If you have any other queries, please write to Asha Gosain (agosain@3ieimpact.org) and Mansoor Ali Sait (msait@3ieimpact.org).