Empowering Women Entrepreneurs: Unveiling the Women Economic Empowerment Index

To push towards sustainable development goals, the voice and agency of women are catalysts for change and progress. Recognizing this, Samhita-CGF has taken a bold step towards quantifying and fostering women’s economic empowerment through an initiative: the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Index. This comprehensive tool is designed to measure and monitor the progress of women entrepreneurs in India’s dynamic semi-formal and informal sectors, recognizing their pivotal role in driving economic growth and societal transformation. 

 

Measuring Progress: From UN’s GEM to WEE Index

In 1995, the United Nations introduced the Gender Empowerment Measure, a landmark effort to measure the advancements made by women globally. This was followed by two critical indices—the Gender Development Index and the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law Index – evaluating gender inequalities across health, education, income, and specific economic empowerment indicators. While these global indices provide valuable insights, they often overlook a significant population: women operating in India’s informal sector. It became imperative henceforth, to recognize this gap and develop an index tailored exclusively for women-run microenterprises in India’s semi-formal and informal sector.

 

Unpacking Empowerment: The Six Dimensions of WEE Index

The WEE Index delves into six key dimensions that shape economic empowerment. These dimensions are carefully crafted to provide a comprehensive view of the multifaceted journey towards empowerment. They reflect not only economic progress but also the social and personal factors that influence a woman’s ability to thrive in her entrepreneurial endeavours. By addressing each dimension, the index helps to create a holistic framework that uplifts women not only as economic contributors but as leaders and change-makers within their communities. 

The selection of these six dimensions for the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Index is rooted in the need for a nuanced and comprehensive evaluation of women’s economic progress. Each of these dimensions serves as a broad category, further broken down into specific sub-dimensions and tangible indicators. For instance, within “Enterprise Performance,” aspects such as formalization, including registration under Udyam and GST, as well as the adoption of digital technologies for business growth is scrutinized. Similarly, “Intra-household Decision-Making” recognizes that empowerment extends to a woman’s ability to influence decisions within her household and community. This is evaluated through indicators like her confidence in handling banking transactions independently and active participation in women’s groups for networking and advice. 

 

Thus, these six dimensions, along with their respective sub-dimensions, form the building blocks of the WEE Index, ensuring a robust and inclusive assessment of women’s economic progress. The weightages are also assigned to the dimensions according to the influence they wield on overall women economic empowerment. 

 

Integrating the Women Economic Empowerment Index

The integration of the WEE Index into REVIVE Alliance is a monumental stride towards advancing livelihoods. Over the past three years, REVIVE has empowered over 5,50,000 informal workers and entrepreneurs, of which more than 4,40,000 are women, benefitting 1,76,573 MSMEs. The aim is to reach an ambitious target of impacting and empowering 5 million women beneficiaries in the next 5 years through multiple interventions. Integrating the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Index into REVIVE, is a significant step towards advancing economic empowerment for women. This strategic move allows to continuously assess and track the progress of women entrepreneurs within the chosen cohort. Through a structured panel design survey, one can gain invaluable insights into the economic empowerment journey of these entrepreneurs. This data-driven approach not only refines the multiple interventions under REVIVE Alliance, but also enables targeting resources effectively, ensuring that women receive the support they need to thrive.

 

From Index to Impact: How the WEE Index Drives Change

The true power of the WEE Index lies in its ability to catalyze change on the ground. As an actionable tool, it empowers organizations, policymakers, and stakeholders to make informed decisions and craft targeted interventions. By understanding the nuances of women’s economic empowerment, we can design programs that address specific challenges, provide tailored support, and amplify impact. The WEE Index isn’t just a measurement; it’s a catalyst for meaningful, sustainable change!

 

Through initiatives like the WEE Index and strategic collaborations, we are steadfastly building a future where women entrepreneurs are not just participants but leaders, not just beneficiaries but catalysts of change.

 

Impact Assessments are top priority – What do the new CSR rules say

On January 22, 2021, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs amended the earlier CSR Rules of 2014 and notified the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules 2021, to make impact assessment mandatory for companies undertaking CSR activities and CSR expenditure above a specified threshold. The move aims to create accurate parameters in assessing the impact of CSR activities by shifting the focus from expenditure alone to impact assessment, and improve the quality of CSR projects while enhancing accountability and transparency.

This FAQ is a result of collaboration between Samhita & Centre For Advancement of Philanthropy. It has been written with the guidance of Noshir Dadrawala

Following are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about impact assessment:

Q1. What is the need for impact assessment?

Impact assessments help funders, grant-makers and companies to understand and evaluate the impact of their social investments in programmes and projects on their target beneficiaries or society. The findings of an assessment also help funders and companies to make evidence-based decisions in implementation and identify hurdles, allowing for programme continuity, scale, sustainability, efficiency, etc.

Q2. Do all companies need to conduct impact assessments?

According to the January 2021 amendment, impact assessment is mandatory for companies with a CSR budget of INR 10 crore or more in any fiscal year and all projects with outlays of INR 1 crore or more. These impact assessments must be undertaken by an independent agency.

However, it is suggested as best practise that impact assessment be undertaken for all projects as standard procedure,. Especially long term projects.

Q3. According to the new amendment, when must companies undertake impact assessments?

At least one year after programme implementation is complete.

Q4. If a company has a multi-year project, should the impact assessment be carried out after completion of the project?

Yes. As per Rule No. 8, if companies have multi-year programmes (say 3 years), impact assessment needs to be conducted after completion of three years of the programme. Additionally, a follow up assessment needs to be conducted one year after the completion of the programme to better understand the programme’s after effects.

However, if programmes are renewed or scaled up after each financial year, they would be treated as individual single year programmes, and separate impact assessments should be taken up every year.

Q5. Who can conduct an impact assessment?

Companies or their CSR initiatives cannot conduct impact assessments (selfassessment) on their own. An independent agency must be engaged for the assessment.

Q6. Is there a limit on the expense for undertaking impact assessment?

Yes, impact assessment related expenditure may be booked as a CSR expense as long as it does not exceed 5% of the total CSR spending or INR 50,00,000, whichever is less.

Q7. Is the limit applicable on the entire CSR budget or per project?

The limit is applicable on the total CSR budget of the financial year.

Q8. Will the cost for researchers/consultants/agencies be counted as part of the INR 50 lakh or 5% limit or can the spending be accounted for outside that?

Under the amended rules, “Administrative overheads” will now mean expenses incurred by the company for ‘general management and administration’ of Corporate Social Responsibility functions in the company but shall not include the expenses directly incurred for the designing, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of a particular Corporate Social Responsibility project or programme.

Further, a Company undertaking impact assessment may book the expenditure towards Corporate Social Responsibility for that financial year, which shall not exceed five percent of the total CSR expenditure for that financial year or fifty lakh rupees, whichever is less.

Thus, in our opinion, cost for researchers/consulting is neither part of the INR 50 lakh cap, nor the 5% cap on Admin expenditure

Q9. Can a project conduct impact assessment prior to completion of one year (short duration project) or should it wait for one year? If done earlier, would it be counted as part of the compliance?

The project should have completed at least one year. If it is an on-going project of three years, it would make sense to study impact only on completion of three years.


If you have any queries, want to know how to undertake an impact assessment or connect with the Samhita Impact Assessment team, feel free to reach out to us at csr@dev.samhita.org

To know more about the other 2021 CSR Amendments check out Samhita’s detailed FAQ.

Outcomes vs Impact: Assessing Implementation

“At the end of the day, there is no greater validation of the success of a program, than the impact it has created and managed to sustain.”

Samhita’s post on the Forbes India Business and Strategy blog examines the differences between outcomes and impact in order to help companies and their implementation partners develop a common understanding of impact measurement and what this means for CSR.

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Outcomes vs Impact: Assessing Implementation

What we do

Community needs Assessment
Documenting the gap between the current and desired state of the world for a particular issue

Stakeholder Analysis
Documenting the relative power and interest of the various actors involved in a particular issue.

Baseline Survey
An in-depth needs assessment study to understand on-ground socio-economic conditions; demographic influences; challenges and gaps.

Impact Evaluation
A holistic assessment of the CSR programme on business objectives; NGO partners and beneficiaries. SOCIAL AUDIT Measuring the output of your existing programme.

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How Samhita is conducting social audit for CSR projects of India’s leading Infrastructure company?

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The overall objective of Samhita’s research team is to ‘prove and improve’

Prove The efficiency of processes in terms of processes followed and documented, targets achieved, challenges faced and solutions adopted during implementing the programme The effectiveness of programmes in terms of social outcomes and improvements in lives of end beneficiaries

Improve The efficiency of processes in terms of processes followed and documented, targets achieved, challenges faced and solutions adopted during implementing the programme The effectiveness of programmes in terms of social outcomes and improvements in lives of end beneficiaries.

We adopt this objective of ‘prove and improve’ at the multi-stakeholder level in order to maximise the purpose of a research study

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The research vertical at Samhita comprises of individuals with combined experience of over 20 years working in think tanks, policy firms, market research, consultancies, all committed to undertaking action-oriented social research.

 

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