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Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) aims to build on existing research and generate new evidence to inform and facilitate the agenda of women’s economic empowerment.

IWWAGE is an initiative of LEAD, an action-oriented research centre of IFMR Society (a not for profit society registered under the Societies Act). LEAD has strategic oversight and brand support from Krea University (sponsored by IFMR Society) to enable synergies between academia and the research centre. IWWAGE is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Experts at IWWAGE are available to provide analysis, commentary, data, and unique expertise on the issues focussed on gender and women’s economic empowerment that are driving the news cycle. You can find out more about our experts here.


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 levels in India remain alarmingly low, with only one out of every five women of working age in the work force. Women’s access to resources, assets and other rights and entitlements also continues to remain low, leading to limited to no impacts on other social development outcomes. Economic empowerment of women is critical to achieving gender equality and inclusive growth.

IWWAGE was set up to address this challenge. It attempts to shift the evidence base from “How” to “What Works” to improve women’s participation in economic activities by addressing barriers to women’s work, facilitating women’s access to decent work and economic resources, and leveraging the transformative potential of women’s empowerment collectives (WECs).

For more information, please visit our website.

Soumya Kapoor Mehta

As the Head of IWWAGE, New Delhi, India, Ms. Soumya Kapoor Mehta leads IWWAGE’s efforts to generate, leverage, and synthesize evidence on women’s economicempowerment. Soumya has an experience of nearly 18 years in the development sector, spanning research around gender, women’s empowerment, povertyreduction strategies, social inclusion challenges and policy levers to alleviate them around the world.

Prior to joining IWWAGE, she was working as an independent policy advisor for the World Bank, UNICEF, the Government of India, the Centre for Policy Researchand the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), helping these institutions mainstream inclusion and gender issues in their research and projects ranging from investments in women’s collectives (NRLM), to sectors such as water, agriculture, infrastructure, urban development and environment and climate change.She has co-authored several World Bank and UNICEF research outputs, including some of their flagship reports and has two widely acclaimed books to her credit.Between 2003 and 2009, she worked as full-time staff for the World Bank anchoring a large cross-country study on poverty and strategies to reduce it.

Soumya has a Tripos Degree from the University of Cambridge in Economics and a B.A. (Hons.) in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. She hasalso been a Visiting Fellow to the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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IWWAGE is developing proof-of concepts by testing gender transformative interventions that are policy-relevant and have the potential to be scaled up and replicated in other contexts, with a focus on WECs, and women’s digital capacity for information sharing, skilling, and communication.

IWWAGE generates, synthesises and promotes rigorous evidence on its three thematic areas, namely, Barriers to Work, Quality of Work, and Women’s Agency, using three approaches. These include deepening of the evidence base, testing solutions, and advocating, communicating and developing capacity of policymakers and influencers involved in accelerating Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE).

We work with national and state governments, NGOs, research institutions and think tanks, bilateral and multilateral donors, collectives, and private sector organisations. For further details visit our partners page on the IWWAGE website.  IWWAGE is working closely with Ministry of Rural Development under the SWAYAM project.

Under the SWAYAM project, IWWAGE is partnering with State Rural Livelihoods Missions in four states including, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha, and several implementing partners to pilot and scale institutional models for self-help group (SHG) federations to serve as gender resource centres.

IWWAGE is also working with Chhattisgarh’s State Rural Livelihoods Mission (Bihan) and other key stakeholders in the ecosystem to generate evidence and test how digital solutions can enable SHGs to strengthen women’s social and economic empowerment.

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