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Engendering Early Childhood Development in India


Over the past decade, there has been a growing global focus on early childhood development. Quality childcare can provide children with lifelong health, education, and social development benefits. Women have traditionally been responsible for childcare, with little help managing it alongside their work, paid or unpaid. The responsibility of unpaid care work disproportionately impacts women’s access to education, employment, leisure, health, and well-being. It also reduces the availability of opportunities for remunerative employment.  Women are frequently compelled to work in informal, unstable environments or quit entirely due to caregiving responsibilities. This unequal burden impacts women from all walks of life but disproportionately affects impoverished and underprivileged women. Policymakers in India need to address the unpaid care work women are obligated to perform. Establishing childcare centres, or creches, is a crucial policy tool for achieving this objective. This blog will look at state-sponsored creche policies and programmes and assess how well they work to help women find and retain jobs. 

In India, care policies and legislation have long been influenced by the concept of “Gendered Familialism,” which places the responsibility of care work on women based on familial relationships (Neeta and Palriwala, 2011). Unfortunately, this strategy limits the pool of potential carers and care recipients, fails to acknowledge care as a shared public responsibility, and does not take into account the fact that women frequently require assistance managing both their paid work and care obligations, particularly with regard to childcare. Over the years, many legislative and policy initiatives have sought to address this mindset by attempting to redistribute care provision to employers and the government. These include early statutory provision of childcare in the formal sector, crèches provided at worksite in the informal sector under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the universalization of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and the PALNA scheme, which mandates making crèches accessible for both employed and unemployed mothers (Chigateri, 2017). Although these government programmes and legal frameworks have touched on the need for childcare benefits to increase women’s labour force participation by providing daycare centres and maternity benefits, the execution of such mandates can be improved.

Tracing the History of Child Care Services 

Childcare services have been recommended for working women in many government and non – government policy documents (Chigateri, 2017).  For working mothers, ‘crèches, nurseries, and labor-saving devices’ were recommended in the 1974 report “Towards Equality” by the Committee on the Status of Women.  The “Shramshakti” report from 1988 was another significant report, which acknowledged the right of working women to have access to child care. It also suggested childcare facilities for women working in the informal sector. Childcare services for women in both the formal and informal sectors were also advised in other policy documents.  The 1988 National Perspective Plan for Women suggested that laws requiring companies to provide crèches for a certain percentage of female employees be changed to gender-neutral policies. Additionally, the 2001 National Policy for the Empowerment of Women recommended that childcare facilities be available in workplaces, educational institutions, and residences for the elderly and disabled.

Despite the strong emphasis on centre-based childcare services in several policy documents, progress towards implementing these recommendations has been slow in reality. Most legislation on the subject has only applied to women employed in the organized sector, leaving out a significant portion of the female workforce. Legislations such as the Factories Act 1948, Plantation Labour Act 1951, Mines Act 1952, Beedi and Cigar Workers’ Act 1966, Contract Labour Act 1970, Inter-state Migrant Workers Act 1980, and Building and Construction Workers Act 1996 mandate crèche facilities in the organized sector and workplaces with a relatively large number of women employees. Efforts to expand childcare options for women workers have been made in both organized and unorganized sectors through the Maternity Benefits Act (2017) and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2008). The Maternity Benefits Act 1961, amended in March 2017, presents a mixed picture of state involvement in childcare provision (Chigateri, 2017)[1]. Although the Maternity Benefit Amendment Act extends the duration of wage replacement during maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, it also mandates establishments with 50 or more employees to provide creche facilities within a prescribed distance. The high threshold and the exclusion of women workers outside the organised sector drew criticism from women’s organisations.

In the Draft Rules on Social Security Code (SSC), which the Ministry of Labour and Employment published in November 2020, the condition of more than fifty employees in the Maternity Benefit Act (Amended), 2017, was changed to an eligibility condition of fifty “women employees.”, disregarding the needs of young children of all employees, both men and women workers (Mishra and Sachdeva, 2021)[2].

MGNREGA is the only act in the country that gives legislative support for childcare provisioning in the unorganized sector, recognizing both the work-related rights of women and their right to provide adequate nutrition and care for their infants. However, creches under MGNREGA have performed unsatisfactorily.

Another modality through which childcare provision was introduced in India was the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), launched by the Government of India in the 1970s. The programme was designed to promote early childhood development (ECD) in children under the age of six. It was the first government initiative to address young children’s nutritional, health, and early learning needs while also enhancing mothers’ capacity to meet those needs (Mishra and Sachdeva, 2021)  [3]. The program focused on six comprehensive services: supplementary nutrition and growth monitoring, immunization, health check-ups, health and nutrition education, referral services, and non-formal pre-school education. This program was to be coordinated through Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) by Anganwadi workers and helpers. Over time, the program expanded to cover all blocks in the country.  Children under the age of six now have a universal right to these services due to the Supreme Court’s order for the quality universalization of the ICDS. The ICDS has played a significant role in tackling malnutrition amongst children and mothers in the country. However, implementation of the programme has largely been reliant on mothers of children, perpetuating the notion that childcare is solely their responsibility and creating difficulties for employed women accessing services.

Furthermore, the pick-up and drop timings of AWCs frequently conflict with the mothers’ employment hours, necessitating the need for dependable childcare services. Also, the AWCs are only open for four hours, which is unhelpful for working women who put in much longer hours. In 2012, the Restructured ICDS document did recommend the conversion of 5 percent of AWCs in the country to Anganwadi-cum-crèches (AWCCs) but this has only been implemented in a limited number of AWCs.

The Scheme of Assistance Crèches for Working/Ailing Mothers was another way the government introduced childcare services for women. It was initiated in 1974 to offer creche services to the young children of female labourers living below the poverty line. The Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme (RGNCS) for Children of Working Mothers was created in 2006 as a merger of two previous crèche schemes: the aforementioned scheme and the National Crèche Fund Scheme established in 1995. The government runs the scheme in partnership with private sector and non-government organizations to target remote and underprivileged areas. It was later renamed the National Creche Scheme (NCS). Though important, this scheme restricted Creche facilities’ provision to working or ailing mothers.

Status of current schemes

As part of the recently approved Mission Shakti, the National Creche Scheme has been updated and renamed as Palna Scheme to provide creche services for children (6 months to 6 years old) of working mothers as well as to enhance the nutritional and physical well-being of kids.  The scheme will offer working women’s children a safe and secure environment for their nutritional, physical, and cognitive development and inspire women to pursue their career opportunities.  The Scheme provides Creche facilities for children of all women, whether employed or not. This denotes a progressive shift in the government’s perspective. This programme addresses the urgent need for high-quality childcare facilities. During the 15th Finance Commission, the government intends to establish an additional 17,000 Anganwadi cum creches under Palna.  Despite its carefully considered formulation, the secret to its success will be in how well it is put into practice.  The programme’s effectiveness will be ensured by increasing the network of childcare facilities and allocating sufficient financial resources in that direction. It is critical that the planning, designing, execution and monitoring of these schemes and programmes actively adopt gender intentionality in their approach to ensure that care work ceases to pose a challenge to women’s social and economic well-being.

Author: This blog is authored by Divya Singh, Research Manager at IWWAGE

[1] Palriwala, R. and Neetha, N., 2011. Stratified familialism: the care regime in India through the lens of childcare. Development and Change, 42(4), pp.1049-1078.

[2] Chigateri, S., 2017. ”Pathways to Accessible, Affordable and Gender-Responsive Childcare Provision for Children Under Six-India Case Studies.

[3] ibid

[4] Committee on the Status of Women. 1974. ‘Towards Equality’. New Delhi: Ministry of Education and Social Welfare, Government of India

[5] Government of India, 1988. Shramshakti: Report of the National Commission on Self-Employed Women and Women in the Informal Sector

[6] ibid

[7] Mishra, S and Shubhika Sachdeva in Agrawal, N., 2021. Her Right To Equality: From Promise to Power. Penguin Random House India Private Limited.

[8] ibid

Sayak Sinha
Sayak Sinha

Policy Manager

Sayak holds a masters in Public Policy and Governance from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru. He has worked on a range of policy issues and provided advisory to the Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. His hobbies include football, reading and cinema.

Why do women depend less on informal sources for job search than men?

The latest PLFS round reveals that job search methods differ between men and women with women relying more on formal sources of job searches than men. The formal job search methods include applying to prospective employers/places, answering job advertisements, checking at factories, and work sites, registering with employment exchanges, and registering with private employment centres. In contrast, informal sources comprise personal networks, including relatives and friends. According to PLFS 2021-22, 76% of unemployed men are looking for a job through formal channels, whereas 87% of unemployed women, a much higher share, are resorting to formal sources for the job search. 20% of unemployed men are using their informal networks to find a job, and the share comes down to a much lower 12% in case of women. The rest of the unemployed are either seeking finance for starting a business or applying for a permit to start a business. This blog explores the reasons behind women’s preference for formal sources for job search over informal ones.  

Informal networks, as a social resource in job search, provide access to more valuable information which are unavailable through formal means. As a result, informal networks are often more efficient to navigate individuals into better job matches with higher job satisfaction and earnings more quickly. PLFS data corroborates this view of network efficacy as it is observed that women searching for a job through informal sources face a shorter duration of unemployment than those depending on formal sources. Among the unemployed women currently looking for a job through a formal source, more than 30% women face a spell of unemployment of more than 2 years and for 18% women, the duration of the spell of unemployment has been more than 3 years at that time of survey. On the other hand, only 15% of the unemployed women who use the informal sources for job search, had a duration of a spell of unemployment of more than two years, and only 8% of them faced a spell of unemployment of more than three years.

Despite informal networks being more effective, women depending more on formal job search methods as compared to men, have several causes and implications. Informal networks are powerful for job-hunting when they can grant access to a more heterogeneous set of people, located in various sectoral and occupational positions. With the diversity of people in network, the non-redundancy of job information and the effectiveness of one’s network rises. Also, with higher socio-economic status of one’s informal contacts, the chances of receiving information about highly paid jobs, jobs in higher social stature, increase. However, the composition of women’s informal network is often found to differ from men. With a much higher share of family responsibilities and less participation in the workforce, women have limited exposure to diverse group of contacts. Marriage further limits their informal connections due to the cultural restrictions preventing freedom of interactions with outsiders. Also, with gender homophily i.e. the preference of interactions with persons of their own gender, the informal networks are often gender-segregated with women’s network being predominantly consisting of women only. Additionally, due to the existing gender-based segregation in the labour market, women’s presence is low in high-wage, high-skill sectors and occupations. Thus, in a gender-segregated network, women get limited access to information about the high-skill, highly-paid jobs. These factors together explain why fewer women in comparison to men, find their informal network to be effective for job search and majority follows the formal search methods. However, women who had worked previously tend to depend on their informal network more than those who never worked as often due to the exposure associated with their work experience they tend to have more diverse informal contacts and an effective source of information for job opportunities.


 As placements through informal routes often tend to reinforce the existing gender-based occupational and industrial segregation, women with higher education depend more on formal sources in an attempt to escape the trap of female ghettoization in low-paid jobs. The PLFS data reveal that among women without any literacy, 48% depended on informal sources, with the dependence coming down to 17% for women with primary and below primary level of education, 22% for women with middle to higher-secondary level of education, and only 8% for women with graduation and post-graduation level of education. For the urban areas, women with basic and intermediate level of education depends relatively more on informal networks as compared to their rural counterparts. This indicates that for the semi-skill occupations, women’s informal network is relatively more effective in urban areas than rural areas. But again, for women with education level of graduation, post-graduation and above, the dependence is very less on their informal network in both rural and urban areas. Although for men too, the reliance on the informal network gets reduced with increase in education level, the decline is starker for women. This diminishing dependence on informal network for more educated women aspiring for better paid white-collar jobs appropriate to their education levels, points towards their gender-segregated informal network as a less effective source of information. 

However, as revealed by the PLFS data, even among the highly educated women, expectedly looking for high-skill, highly-paid jobs, those who have dependable informal network and thus explore that, face a shorter spell of unemployment as compared to those who depend on formal sources. Among women with education level of graduation, post-graduation and above, around 30% women faced a spell of unemployment of more than two years and 17% are looking for a job for more than three years, as they depended on formal sources of job-hunting. On the other hand, only 16% faced a spell of unemployment for more two years and only 5% for more than three years when these highly qualified women looked for jobs though informal sources. This indicates that informal networks when can be depended on for high-skill jobs too, can be more effective as compared to formal sources.

The findings from PLFS indicate the need of recognition of the lack of social capital for women and their exclusion from male-dominated influential informal ties and networks. Women are not a homogeneous group and there exist many other cross-cutting socio-economic factors among them determining their reach to the informal contacts instrumental to gender-balanced jobs. Even after considering these factors, women across all sections are in a disadvantageous position. This is majorly due to the gendered nature of social network and women’s poorer structural location in the jobs market ladder. With the job search method often playing a crucial role in reinforcing the existing gender-based occupational and industrial segregation by leading to women’s concentration in women-dominated jobs, few measures on part of the government and Civil Society Organisations might prove helpful. For example, developing strategies to form networking groups that will help women establish the right connections by making ‘women in powerful positions’ a part of these groups; sensitisation about the often consciously created resistance to women’s integration to the influential network, might be undertaken to address these concerns at least partially.


Author: Bidisha Mondal is a Research Fellow at IWWAGE. 

IWWAGE celebrates 5 years of Evidence to Policy
IWWAGE celebrates 5 years of Evidence to Policy

Global evidence shows that women make a significant contribution to the economy, yet they continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Despite economic growth, decline in fertility rates of women, and rise in schooling and improved learning outcomes for girls, Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) levels in India remain alarmingly low. Resources, assets and other rights and entitlements also continue to remain low, leading to limited to no impacts on other social development outcomes. Economic empowerment of women is fundamental to achieving gender equality and inclusive growth.

The Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) was set up in 2018 to address this challenge. The initiative aims to build on existing research and generate new evidence to inform and facilitate the agenda of women’s economic empowerment. IWWAGE is hosted by LEAD, an action-oriented research centre of IFMR Society and has strategic oversight and brand support from Krea University (sponsored by IFMR Society) to enable synergies between academia and the research centre. Since its inception, IWWAGE has partnered with renowned institutions, scholars and academicians, experts in the area in order to generate new evidence for developing deeper understanding of the issues around women’s labour force participation. It has also encouraged young scholars to come forward and work in newer areas of research on these issues. The initiative has also nurtured young talent, built their capacity in secondary data analysis, gain experience of field-based studies and develop writing skills to produce a body of work from IWWAGE that adds to the existing debates and discourse around measuring women’s work, identifying challenges and barriers faced by women in accessing labour markets, improving labour market outcomes for women as well as find mechanisms for improving and increasing opportunities for women in all sectors of the economy.

IWWAGE through partner organisations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha is testing innovative solutions on the ground to understand what works to build women’s agencies. The initiative SWAYAM (Strengthening Women’s institutions for Agency and Empowerment) provides technical assistance to DAY-NRLM under the Ministry of Rural Development on raising awareness and capacity building to integrate gender perspectives across different verticals of the NRLM and state cadres, establishing gender resource centers that respond to women’s needs and support the optimization of existing resources. Additionally, IWWAGE through SWAYAM is also engaged in the evaluation of programmes that measure the strength of women’s institutions as well as the efficacy of these programmes that endeavour to drive women’s empowerment.

IWWAGE has engaged with a range of stakeholders in its journey over the last 5 years carrying forward its mandate of improving women’s economic empowerment not only through evidence generation but also moving a step further and attempting to integrate its findings into policies for women – working with the government, helping with developing policy interventions with the private sector and raising awareness on critical issues by engaging with media and designing large scale campaigns.


A day-long convening was held in New Delhi to mark the 5 years, showcase some of its milestones and discuss potential focus areas for a way forward. The convening began with opening remarks by Sona Mitra, Principal Economist, IWWAGE leading to the keynote plenary.

The keynote plenary was delivered by the Hon’ble Chief Economic Adviser, Shri Anantha Nageswaran, followed by a discussion with eminent panelists Shri Kapil Viswanathan, President, Krea University and Ms Archna Vyas, Depuy Director, Communications, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The next session was focused on ‘Learnings around women’s labour force participation’. The panelists comprised of Ms. Farzana Afridi, Professor of Economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Ms. Sabina Dewan, President & Executive Director, JustJobs Network, Ms. Soumya Kapoor Mehta, Senior Social Development Specialist, The World Bank, and Ms. Yamini Atmavilas, President, Strategy, Data & Research, The Udaiti Foundation, followed by a discussion with Ms. Shamika Ravi, Member, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India.

They shared their views around the low Female Labour Force participation (FLFP) in India. It is a matter of concern that FLFP is lower in India as compared to other low and middle-income countries. The very low FLFP makes India an outlier among countries with similar levels of education and income. The panellists highlighted the reasons behind the low level of FLFP and its persistence over time which include both supply-side and demand side factors.


The next session focused on partnerships with Government on women’s economic empowerment. The speakers for this panel were Dr. Sakshi Khurana, NITI Aayog, Ms Nita Kejrewal, Jt. Secy,DAY-NRLM, MoRD and this session was moderated by Madhu Krishna, Deputy Director and India Gender Lead, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The last session of the day was on partnerships with organisations/ institutions. The panelists comprised of, Ms. Madhura Karnik, Chief Growth Officer, Haqdarshak Empowerment Solutions, Ms. Sumitra Mishra, Executive Director, Mobile Creches, Ms. Suneeta Dhar, Co-Convenor, Feminist Policy Collective, chaired by Ms. Sunaina Kumar T20 Coordinator and Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation.  They shared collectives view on building partnerships, civil society organisations as part of the solution and how crucial it is for the organizations to hold equity in the community.


The program ended with a closing address by Sharon Buteau, Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University. Ms. Buteau reminisced about the humble beginnings of IWWAGE five years back and how crucial it is to bring the right people into the correct positions. IWWAGE as an institution is critical to creating knowledge and evidence around women’s economic empowerment and engaging in constructive discourses around the issue; an institution like IWWAGE is a spark creator. Partnerships and connections bring effective solutions, and IWWAGE has been acting as a platform to bring people together and bring knowledge-based solutions that are embedded in the Indian context while also drawing from global evidence.


The world is changing, and it is pertinent to think of ways in which women can be equipped to deal with changes. We must persevere when we work with issues of such complexity. IWWAGE has pioneered and persisted in the last five years, and we look forward to many years.

IWWAGE also launched a compendium capturing our journey over the last five years, “From evidence to action, shaping the future of women at work”. You can access the flipbook here:


You can find the whole recording of the session here:


Arpita Paul
Arpita Paul

Senior Research Associate

Arpita Paul is a statistician cum demographer with over 10 years of quantitative research experience in public health, market research, survey implementation around RMNCH issues in different contextual settings. Her research activities mainly focused on social determinants of health and wellbeing, understanding various aspects of maternal & child health, factors determining the health, wellbeing and living arrangement of the elderly.

Before joining IWWAGE, she was working with Public Health Foundation of India, Gurugram where she was the lead analyst. She has substantial experiences in survey design, large scale data handling, and advanced statistical analysis along with expertise in various statistical software. She has a PhD in Demography from International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai and a post graduate degree in Statistics from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading and dancing.

Need for Evidence on Skilling in India

In recent years, India’s demographic dividend has sparked scrupulous policy actions to increase its labour force participation. With India having the largest youth population in the world, the government aims to empower the youth using the ‘4E approach’ (Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship, and Excellence). The strengthened emphasis on the aforementioned pillars is inclusive of skill development and has therefore generated a renewed buzz around it. Skill development is increasingly considered a key stepping stone not just towards enhancing India’s overall labour force participation, but especially for the economic upliftment of a pertinent group of beneficiaries, women.

ILO’s Global Employment Trends (2013) rank India 120th out of 131 countries in female labour force participation. The Periodic Labour Force Survey 2020-21 reports that only 34 per cent of females within the working age group are employed. Skilling is looked upon as one of the solutions to the problem. This blog argues that good quality data is a prerequisite to assess the effectiveness and gendered outcomes of skilling programs running across the country.

If we were to google the terms “skill”, “India” and “women” today, approximately all search results would point towards and encourage the importance of skill development for women’s economic empowerment. Even though skill development programmes have existed for decades, they have found a recent push to generate and ensure improved work opportunities for the heightened employable population of the country.  Budget 2023-24 also prioritized funding for the launch of the national flagship programme on skill development: Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) 4.0, which, in lieu of the rising technological advancements, aims to promote skilling in new-age courses like 3D printing, robotics, AI etc.

Several skill development programmes are running across the country, which are differentiated on the basis of their funding sources, policy-making, and implementation bodies, etc. Guided by the National Policy on Skill Development (2015), various schemes are run by the state such as the aforementioned PMKVY, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Kaushal Yojana (DDUGKY), Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS), and National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS). The central body that coordinates all possible skill development efforts across the country is the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), accompanied by its various facilitating bodies. The Ministry was launched in 2015 to improve the link between the demand and supply of skilled workforce and further build the vocational and technical training framework.

Among various facilitators for skilling schemes, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was set up to help generate funding through Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP). Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds have also driven towards skill development for women.

With such a range of policy intentions and the subsequent programmatic actions towards skilling for women, it is important to gauge how they have impacted women’s engagement in the labour market. The cardinal focus could be to understand how far the extensive skilling ecosystem has upskilled and led women towards being sustained labour force participants, what works for them within these skilling programmes, and what challenges continue to exist that require redevelopment.

According to the Skill India Reporting Hub, the administrative data on the overall implementation of PMKVY portrays that out of more than 60 lakh women enrolled for the scheme, less than one-fifth ended up getting placed. This stark difference between enrollment and placement highlights the need to understand and inspect the skilling process in India. Just like any other social development program, gender sensitivity is also pertinent to the skilling process- wherein, challenges specific to women exist, in addition to overall hurdles with respect to the existing labour supply and market demand.

Gender sensitivity in skilling programs goes on to but is not limited to, recognizing differential needs, building improved support systems, generating disaggregated information, and taking further action based on continued reflection and feedback. Setting up of 5000 new Skill Hubs all across India to further the efforts of Skill India, and “provide comprehensive vocational and skilling training” was highlighted during Budget 2023-24. However, how these hubs will undertake efforts to increase enrolment and retention of women candidates is yet to be seen.

The state-led skilling schemes do undertake measures for increasing women’s participation through reservation, running women-only Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), and providing stipends for travel and residence. However, the statistics suggest the need to go beyond them. There is a need to reflect, regroup and renew our actions to make the continued efforts towards skilling more effective.

It is arduous to delve deeper into the challenges that surround the skilling of women in India due to limited data availability. Administrative data on state-led skilling programs is available through the following portals: Skill India Reporting Hub, NCVT MIS, PMKVY Dashboard, NRLM (on DDUGKY), MSDE dashboard, and NSDC. The data shared through these portals vary with respect to the indicators they contain, and are often not consistently updated or are sparsely filled. The most desolating fact within these available portals is that only a few provide sex-disaggregated information. Even when examined at the state level, only a  few states (Assam and Bihar) provide sex-disaggregated information on their MIS administrative portals on skilling. This is accompanied by a lack of information on process indicators – where ‘enrolment of candidates’ is the consistent measurable indicator, with information lacking on other process indicators such as completion of training, certification, placement, etc. Therefore, the need of the hour is to first build information systems that would help monitor the track we are on before we pace up our actions.

Further, the data on post-placement bifurcation, including employment type, retention rates, etc., is also publicly unavailable. Information on PPP and the role of the private sector in the skilling ecosystem are also not amalgamated within these portals. Data on efforts added by such non-state actors to skill the present population are also almost completely lacking.

The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) is one of the nationally representative surveys that collect primary data on India’s labour force participation, which also happens to include some indicators on the state of skilling in India. Apart from the sparse information obtained through PLFS on skilling, the assessment of the effectiveness of the skilling ecosystem in India is predominantly seen in micro studies. Though it is found that skilling enables women to join the labour force, many studies report challenges that vary depending on the different stages of the skilling process – from the generation of policies, and release of programs or schemes to their uptake, operation, and finally, their contribution to the existing labour force.

The literature further reports that the participation and uptake of women within these programs are deeply affected by societal norms which control their educational status, decision-making, mobility, and access to information and technology.  Importantly, these barriers also encompass how skilling programs are rolled out. For example, the introduction of courses under PMKVY for a ‘digital India’ in lieu of technological advancements would also require taking cognizance of the existing gender differential access to technology.

Therefore, robust evidence generation is pertinent for the skilling programs to identify challenges, improve and run effectively. Such an effort may help track changes in female labour force participation through skilling. However, to further help improve women’s overall well-being and standard of living, access to quality jobs with improved working conditions is necessary. It is essential therefore to track where the women tend to get employed, the sectors they are employed in, and the working conditions they are exposed to by uniting the broad skilling ecosystem in India. Developing such a system would require a holistic approach towards skilling which ensures synergy between policy-making, funding, and implementing bodies. The MSDE could act as a body that oversees these processes and puts into place an accountability mechanism.

Though skilling may prove to be an essential factor in helping more women join the Indian workforce, a meaningful policy dialogue on the subject will only be  possible with the support of enhanced quality of data. This will not only be possible through  cogent data collection, but also making existing data more accessible to development practitioners and policymakers. Such intersectional data can lead to meticulous future actions to address gender inequality and can act as an essential driver of economic growth and prosperity. But most importantly, aid in uplifting individual rights and empowerment.

Prakriti Sharma is a Senior Research Associate at IWWAGE, and has previously worked in the intersection of migration and feminist economics. She is currently engaged in visiblizing women’s work through its improved measurement.

Launch of annual campaign Nayi Chetna with the Ministry of Rural Development

Launch of annual campaign ‘Nayi Chetna’ with the Ministry of Rural Development
A step against gender based discrimination

Gender-based discrimination, often seen in the form of violence against women, girls and gender-diverse individuals, continues to be one of the biggest deterrents to achieving self-growth, well-being and a life of dignity. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 data reveals that 30% of women between the age of 18 and 49 have experienced violence (physical, sexual, or emotional) since 15 years of age. It also reveals that as many as 77% women never sought help from anyone about the violence inflicted on them. Figures from the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) ‘Crime in India 2021’ report show that India registered 31,677 cases of rape in 2021 – an average 86 daily – while nearly 49 cases of crime against women were lodged every single hour. With a global rate of 1 in 3 women being a victim of violence, and given its physiological and psychological impacts, this human rights violation deters individuals from achieving their full potential and living a life of their choice. Individuals from socially marginalized groups are more acutely affected as gender-based violence is an added layer of vulnerability.
IWWAGE in partnership with Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), UNICEF and Roshni recognize this social evil as a hindrance towards achieving individual and social development and aims to take necessary actions advance the rights of women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals. Strategic efforts have been made towards gender-mainstreaming by integrating gender approaches into its policies and programming to address gender inequality. These include building capacities of rural community-based institutions to identify and take action against issues of gender-based discrimination and setting up institutional mechanisms to make this process sustainable. The staff on ground and in the field were also given training and sensitization to integrate gender approaches into operations to create an enabling environment for multi-sectoral gender-responsive and transformative interventions in rural communities.

To add momentum and build on these ongoing efforts against gender-based discrimination, an annual national-level Gender Campaign against Gender-based discrimination, ‘Nayi Chetna’ was initiated. This month-long campaign was flagged off on the 25th of November marking the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, ending on the 23rd of December. The campaign was graced and launched by Hon’ble Sh. Giriraj Singh, Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of India and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Minister of State for Rural Development, Government of India, along with other senior officials from MoRD. IWWAGE also showcased an animated movie called ‘Kamli Ki Kahaani’ translating as ‘The story of Kamli’, a case study-based story following the lead ‘Kamli’, a victim of domestic violence. Through the medium of the video our aim was to educate the audience on various forms of violence and on redressal mechanisms provided by the government for anyone who may be a victim of violence.

The goal of the campaign is to advance the agency and rights of women and gender diverse individuals, by addressing structural barriers for dignified living with no fear and discrimination and violence based on their gender and intersectional identities. This marks the first campaign as the campaign will be observed annually for the next five years, with a focus on specific themes responding to gender equity each year. Importantly, this is envisioned in the spirit of a ‘Jan Andolan’ or People’s movement with follow-up actions planned for the rest of the year beyond the month-long campaign. It will thus gradually work towards deepening an intersectional approach to address multiple vulnerabilities, enhanced convergence and deepening the understanding of gender and generating relevant and ownership for multisectoral action.
The campaign ran in all 34 states and union territories of India. This campaign was implemented by all states in collaboration with CSO partners, and actively executed by all levels including the State, District, Block engaging the Community Institutions along with the extended community. It also marked the inauguration of 160 Gender Resource Centres (GRCs) in 13 states. GRCs are intended to act as a catalyst to support women through social, legal & economic empowerment in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace. There are 1,251 gender resource centres set up across the country from where women facing gender violence can seek help. The Campaign also brought together all line departments and stakeholders to create a concerted effort in acknowledging, identifying, and addressing issues of violence. There was an array of activities which were conducted during the campaign, some of which were night walk, rallies, street plays, wall paintings, hosting of legal and gender camps and women leadership workshops.

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Surabhi Awasthi
Surabhi Awasthi

Senior Research Associate

Surabhi Awasthi is a Senior Research Associate at IWWAGE, and is currently working with the Strengthening Women’s Institutions for Agency and Empowerment (SWAYAM) for the National Rural Livelihood Mission. She has previously worked with the National Human RightsCommission as a consultant providing research support in the policy and research division on theissues related to women and children. Before joining Iwwage, she led the research team for theGeography of Philosophy Project based at IIT, Delhi, and headquartered at the University ofPittsburgh (USA). She is a trained qualitative researcher with experience in narrative inquiry andethnography; her research interests include gender, labor, and changing family institutions.Surabhi holds an M.Phil. in Social Work from the University of Delhi, where she was awarded aJunior Research Fellowship from the University Grants Commission, India. Through her work,she aims to bridge the gap between academia and practical policy goals, particularly related tofurthering women’s equality in India through education and welfare policy.In her free time Surabhi enjoys cooking and researching about food history and food science, andspend time with her cats.

Suchika Gupta
Suchika Gupta

Research Associate

Suchika is working as a Research Associate at IWWAGE. She has completed her Bachelors in Arts from Sri Venkateswara college, Delhi University and MSc in Economics from Symbiosis School of Economics, Pune. She is a research enthusiast and loves gardening, making crafts, doing yoga and is a big linguaphile in her free time. Her research interests include poverty, inequality, trade, gender, and other developmental areas.

Shreya Ghosh
Shreya Ghosh

Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager

Shreya Ghosh is Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager at IWWAGE. She is responsible for the execution of IWWAGE’s policy advocacy strategy and is the primary point of contact for various policymakers and policy influencers to engage in a constructive dialogue to advance women’s economic empowerment in India.

She has nearly thirteen years of experience across sectors including livelihoods, education and child protection, with gender and disability as cross cutting themes. She began her career with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), GoI, and has thereafter worked with reputed organisations including Tata Trusts and Child Rights and You (CRY). Prior to joining IWWAGE, Shreya was the lead for policy and advocacy at CRY, where she was responsible for the development of evidence-based policy briefs, providing policy inputs into research reports, strategic engagement with policy stakeholders at national level and supporting the programme teams on advocacy for system strengthening.

Shreya holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai