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.


Women At Work In New India

In India, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the lives and livelihoods of working women compared to working men. To understand the extent of this impact on women workers, Samhita-Collective Good Foundation(CGF), commissioned by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in India, undertook a study that analysed the pandemic experiences of thirty women workers and entrepreneurs across professions in India. The findings and recommendations of the study are presented in this report.

The research study adopted a qualitative approach and exploratory design. Furthermore, it looked at the challenges through an intersectional lens, since the pandemic has affected women differently based on their demographic, geographical and socio-economic backgrounds. While for some women, economic and social recovery has been relatively easier and faster, given their social location, networks, skill sets, nature of their trade, access to digital and other infrastructure, most women continue to struggle to bounce back.

Prior to the primary data collection conducted on field across the ten cohorts and five states the women belonged to, certain themes were identified from a secondary review of existing literature. Thereafter, several of these themes were corroborated through a thematic analysis of the narratives presented by thirty women participants.

Four major themes emerged from this research, which are listed as below:

  • Challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Social and systemic support availed during the crisis
  • Adaptation and transition in livelihood choices during the pandemic
  • Aspirations and ambitions of women workers

This research study advocates using the learnings and evidence from the women’s narratives to inform policy and programme design. With an intended target audience consisting of private sector, development funders and social purpose organizations, this research serves to be a call for action for commitments to support women in the workforce and in business value chains. In aligning its recommendations with the ILO’s Decent Work framework and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), as a way forward, this report also proposes collaborative models such as building large multi-stakeholder and multi-cause alliances to deliver at scale, innovate and integrate core competencies of all development stakeholders, to ensure continuous and sustained support for women to enter, sustain and grow in the workforce. In this report, as a way forward, Samhita-CGF proposes the ‘SACCI model’ – stakeholder Alliance Creation for Collaborative Impact, given the problem’s magnitude, complexity, and urgency. An Alliance will bring together different development stakeholders such as the government, private sector, institutional funders, development experts and social purpose organisations to plug in the gaps in the current system and actively promote and support women in the workforce.

Samhita–CGF partners with AMHSSC to aid 50,000 women to create thriving livelihood pathways

The REVIVE Alliance was set up with the mission of creating economic opportunities for vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the Alliance’s mission, REVIVE Women@Work is to collectively drive economic recovery and resilience for low-income working women (small women-entrepreneurs and workers) through financial and digital inclusion, access to social security, skilling, and market linkages. Through these interventions, we aim to create sustainable and impactful livelihood opportunities for women to enter, sustain, and grow at their workplaces.

As part of this mission, we are happy to announce that Samhita – Collective Good Foundation (Samhita – CGF) has partnered with Apparel Made-Ups and Home Furnishings Sector Skill Council (AMHSSC) to complement the Government of India’s skilling mandate and augment the journey of 50,000 women to grow beyond gainful employment and create thriving livelihood pathways.

“Economically empowered women can be powerful catalysts for change. They tend to invest more of their income into the well-being of their families, have greater control over their reproductive health, and can significantly drive economic growth. Samhita’s partnership with AMHSSC aims to serve as a model to increase meaningful participation of women in the workforce and enhance their journey through skill building, adoption of positive health practices, and eventually become an agent of change in her community”

Priya Naik, Founder & CEO, Samhita Social Ventures.

Through this partnership, Samhita – CGF will enable livelihood linkages of 50,000 women to manufacturing units of large corporate houses, and support AMHSSC in offering customised and relevant services across 4 key areas critical to thrive in the workforce:

  • Worker health & well-being education and services
  • Awareness and Protection from Violence and harassment in the workplace
  • Economic Empowerment and Professional development
  • Encouraging Entrepreneurship

 “In today’s world, one not only needs to be skilled in a Particular sector but must also be aware of his/her rights, especially for women to know their gender related rights. AMHSSC along with CGF is committed to provide such insights to the concerned stake holders, and support their journey into meaningful employment opportunities”

Dr Roopak Vasishtha, CEO, AMHSSC

Through Revive Women@Work, we envisage a better normal where more women are gainfully employed and acquire the necessary skills to take control of their own lives.

A coalition to create a Better Normal for India’s Working Women and Entrepreneurs

Women@Work is a coalition — of businesses, philanthropies, social organisations and other stakeholders — to drive economic recovery and resilience of low-income women workers and micro entrepreneurs, and enable them to grow and thrive. The goals of Women@Work are aligned to Samhita-CGF’s REVIVE Alliance, a $15 million blended finance platform, supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF), Omidyar Network India, British High Commission New Delhi and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Alliance is dedicated to the revival, resilience and growth of India’s informal economy. It is also a part of the U.S.-India Alliance for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Enabling the Recovery, Resilience and Growth of Women Workers and Micro Entrepreneurs

By bridging the gender gap in the workforce and providing more income opportunities for women, India’s GDP can be increased by a whopping $2.9 trillion. There is ample evidence to prove that enabling the growth and productivity of women has a multiplier effect on the socio-economic outcomes of families, communities and economies. We have also witnessed the same through our work over the years.

The challenges to achieving this increase in female labour force participation are immense, especially due to the limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the gains have the potential to push India to the next stage of growth. 

This mission cannot be achieved by any one company or government or stakeholder group. REVIVE Women@Work is a call-to-action for a joint effort to spur the Recovery, Resilience and Growth of Women Workers and Micro Entrepreneurs.

How are we going to create a better normal for working women and microentrepreneurs?

With Women@Work, companies, foundations, social organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies, through business and CSR channels, will:

To impact India’s women by facilitating their:

Range of Interventions

The Women@Work coalition will leverage technology to maximise opportunities for women at two levels:

  1. Creating a tracking system that will provide evidence on the value of the interventions for the beneficiary. This will enable better decision-making and evidence-backed program design.
  2. Creating a digital profile of the woman, to understand the social products and services required to create a continuum of support. This will enable us to maximise the support available through her life cycle.

Alignment with the REVIVE Alliance and U.S.-India Alliance for Women’s Economic Empowerment

We launched REVIVE to create a pathway to prosperity for the restoration of worker and micro entrepreneur livelihoods. Aspects of Women@Work are supported by the USAID-funded REVIVE Alliance, which launched in October 2020 to focus on economic recovery, predominantly for women and youth.

Women@Work is also a part of the U.S.-India Alliance for Women’s Economic Empowerment, a public-private partnership between USAID, the U.S Department of State, USISPF, and George Washington University, launched by USAID Administrator Samantha Power in September 2021.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power launches Women@Work

USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during the launch event of the U.S.-India Alliance for Women’s Economic Empowerment, announced the Alliance’s first initiative: Women@Work.

As a member of the US-India Alliance, Samhita-CGF will develop a coalition of businesses, philanthropies, and other stakeholders to drive the economic recovery and resilience of low-income women workers and small entrepreneurs, and enable them to grow and thrive.

Women@Work is an initiative by the USAID-funded REVIVE Alliance, one of the largest private sector and philanthropy-led alliances in India, which is helping to facilitate a long-term recovery of the informal sector workers whose livelihoods are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UN Women launches Unstereotype Alliance’s India Chapter

Today, the Unstereotype Alliance launches the India national chapter with a coalition formed to tackle harmful stereotypes advertising with support from EU funded WeEmpowerAsia Programme. The Alliance will center its work in India on broadening the representation of women and girls in non-traditional roles in advertising with a focus on women returning to the workforce..

Meet These 5 Women Entrepreneurs Who are Pioneers in the Social Sector

Women are increasingly taking up leadership roles in the social sector with aims to bring about various positive changes in society. Setting aside profit making as key drivers of business, these women entrepreneurs have founded social enterprises that prioritise impact over profits. 

All of us here at Samhita are extremely proud of our Founder & CEO Priya Naik for being featured in Makers India’s list of women entrepreneurs who are pioneers in the social sector. Click below to read more about women who are redefining social impact in India.