Swashakt: Empowering Women through Collective-based Approaches

LEAD is the grants management partner for 3ie’s Swashakt evidence programme, which is supporting interventions to strengthen women’s collectives and group-based models for women-led businesses.


India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in South Asia. Women in rural India face additional barriers such as conventional social and gender norms, and poor mobility. The Government of India 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, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is funding the implementation of a portfolio of nine pilot and at-scale projects that support women’s 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.


As the grants management partner, LEAD is closely collaborating with 3ie on the following aspects:

  1. Monitoring the implementation and progress of the 9 grants, to assess their feasibility and effectiveness. 
  2. Undertaking formative research to examine the models of the three pilot  projects and assessing their viability.
  3. Developing an outreach and uptake strategy to support evidence uptake and facilitate peer learning.

For the one-year (pilot) projects, LEAD is undertaking formative research to examine the feasibility of three pilot projects being implemented in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar, with the business models including a mix of production (farm-based inputs, farm-based value-added products, non-farm products) and retail services. Using mixed methods, the research will seek to understand the models of the collective enterprises developed in the pilot stage, where it will focus on assessing the viability of the collectives and the feasibility, acceptability and relevance of the interventions through them. The research will inform the potential of the projects to scale-up and generate improved and sustainable incomes for participating women. 

  • What are the enablers and barriers to setting up women’s collective enterprises?
  • What is the model of the collective and whether the tested model is scalable/replicable?

To understand the progress of each individual project, we are monitoring key performance indicators. Here are a few 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.

As of August 2021, the 9 projects have reached more than 4,500 women engaged in producers’ organizations, retail shops, artisanal crafts and weaving.

Thematic Area

Small, Growing Businesses and Employment

Project Leads

Mridulya Narasimhan, Sujatha Srinivasan