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Women and Unpaid Work

The methodology involves assessing the causal effect of switching to LPG on women’s outcomes by construction of a comparison group of households that are not eligible for or did not participate in PMUY. The study uses self-reported health status, and a time-use survey of women to measure the effect of LPG usage on time released for other activities. The results from this exercise would be used to design an experiment wherein information on long-term health benefits of LPG usage and the financial incentive under PMUY would be disseminated in randomly selected villages. This would be conducted by Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers by visiting randomly sampled households in ‘treatment’ villages on a monthly basis, and responses of women in targeted villages would be compared with those of other women at the end of a year. The study is being conducted in Indore region of Madhya Pradesh.

Women and Unpaid Work

This study builds and tests a structural model that explains observed changes in FLFP using data on urban, married women from the Time Use Survey (1998) and various rounds of the National Sample Survey (NSS). The model focuses on women’s work participation, educational attainment, other characteristics, and time spent in the labour market, home production, and leisure.

Women’s Employment Within an Entrepreneurship Model

The recently released strategy document by NITI Aayog, ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’, recognises the declining female labour force participation rates in India in the last decade as one of the major constraints facing Indian economy. The document recognises the importance of increasing women’s labourforce participation rates for a sustained process of economic growth and proposes to increase women’s employment by encouraging entrepreneurship among women. The strategy proposes to increase women’s engagement in small businesses, micro, small and medium enterprises by facilitating easy access to skill training and credits at lower rates of interest and also touches upon the need for capacity building for women in SHGs in order to successfully implement the proposed business model. It is in this context, the Initiative for What Works to advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) and the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) hosted a half-day roundtable on 21 January, 2019 at the Willow, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The event was intended to be a starting point for a platform which would bring together individuals from different sections of the development sector in India, including academicians, researchers, practitioners and corporations to encourage deliberations, collaborations and device future strategies for making entrepreneurship model work towards improving women’s employment opportunities.


Note on IWWAGE Findings

IWWAGE promotes, synthesises and generates evidence on ‘What Works’ for women’s economic empowerment in India. The initiative focuses on moving from ‘How’ to ‘What Works’ to improve women’s participation in economic activities through access to decent work and economic resources, strengthen social protection networks, and facilitate gender transformative policies. To take the agenda of evidence generation forward, in the last one year, three studies have been undertaken by IWWAGE in India. This document summarises the findings from the three studies and lists the key policy concerns and recommendations that emerge across each of them. These include:

  1. Study on Centre based Child Care as a solution for Maternal Employment and Early Childhood Development: Recognising the complex and synergetic relationship between access to childcare facilities and women’s economic empowerment, a secondary review of global practices was undertaken to put together evidence on how accessible, affordable and quality center-based childcare can support women by reducing and redistributing the unpaid care work, and how it impacts maternal employment as well as early childhood development for children under 6 years
  2. Study on SHG digitisation: The study highlights that the majority of focus has been on MIS digitisation, followed by monitoring of SHGs. Linking of facilitators and group members to digital tools is in early stages of piloting and digitisation of livelihoods data is a distant goal.
  3. A rapid assessment of 181 Helpline scheme: IWWAGE was commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to undertake a rapid assessment of the implementation of the helpline scheme across different states in the country. The study was carried out across 11 states and aimed to understand the current status of implementation of the scheme along – i. Functionality of the 181 helpline; ii. State level MIS/databases; iii. Responsiveness of Centre staff, and iv. Integration between 181 Women’s helpline (WHL) and One Stop Centre (OSC).
Social Safety Net for Maternity Protection and Early Childhood Development in India

This paper analyses the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) system (its historical evolution and current form) and other policies that are intended to provide maternity support and early childhood development. In light of the learnings from the second paper, this paper attempts a gap analysis of the ICDS system – capacity and design – to reach the intended beneficiary. It highlights the fact that in an effort to provide integrated services, vertical programmes attempt to deliver their interventions using the common platform of ICDS, without accurately assessing the capacity or design of these platforms. Often the layering of additional inputs onto these platforms causes the system to overload, resulting in diminishing returns or exacerbating the negative feedback loops.

Moreover, human resources for childcare is one of the key features that influences the quality of the childcare centres. This paper includes findings from a qualitative field study on insights on human resources’ motivations and non-monetary incentives that influence their performance and productivity. This is accompanied by articulation of potential research questions and some next steps to further the agenda of early childhood development and maternity support.

Public Provision of Centre-based Childcare in High, Middle & Low-Income Countries

This paper “Public provision of centre-based childcare in high-, middle- and low-income countries: What are the systemic features that aided the effective scale up of these programmes?” highlights that the provision of public childcare sits in a large complex adaptive system made of building blocks, such as governance/accountability, financing, scope of the programme, human resources for childcare, data systems, evaluation, costing and impact, and social norms, that need to work in cohesion to ensure a positive impact on two outcomes: maternal employment and early childhood development in large-scale programmes.

The main contribution of this paper is to focus, in a comparative study format, on the systemic features that have allowed low- and middle-income countries to implement and iteratively scale up centre-based childcare programmes. This is supported by examples from countries which were cognizant of this complex adaptive systemic thinking, and iteratively scaled up programmes, achieving a positive impact on the two outcomes mentioned above. This paper also documents examples of small-scale, alternate/non-government models of affordable, quality centre-based childcare in India that support working mothers. The intention is to show the feasibility of adoption of the systemic thinking to deliver quality service in India.

Impact of Centre-based Quality Childcare on Maternal Employment & Early Childhood Development Outcomes

India has low Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) and this has ramifications on women’s economic empowerment and India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The issue is compounded by time-poverty endured by women, masking the burden of unpaid work, a part of which is unpaid care for the children and the elderly. Often, social protection and child development programmes in India, and globally, target a certain population in isolation, ignoring unintended consequences – for example, child nutrition programmes often prescribe interventions without considering the demands these impose on a woman’s time. At a household level, this translates into exacerbating time poverty for women and deprives children of direct care in early childhood. At the state level, this results in disjointed or siloed social protection policies and diluted programmes for women’s empowerment and child development. “Centre-based Quality Childcare: A Case for Public Investment for Improved Maternal Employment and Early Childhood Development” is a three-part series of papers.

The series is a commentary that emphasises the inter-connectedness of labour, women’s empowerment, and child development policies and programmes. It elaborates on this inter-connectedness’s criticality in planning and implementation to actualise the additive effects (positive feedback loops) and alleviate exposure to risk factors and unintended consequences (negative feedback loops), especially at the critical points in the life cycle of a woman (childhood to adulthood). More specifically, this first paper in the series maps the pathway on how accessible, affordable and quality centre-based childcare can support women by reducing and redistributing the unpaid care work, thereby alleviating time poverty to a certain extent and improving the quality of care for children. It brings together evidence of how public provision of centre-based childcare has had positive impact on the two outcomes of interest – maternal employment as well as various aspects of early childhood development for children under six years of age.

Impact of COVID-19 on Rural SHG Women in Odisha

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns to curb the virus have had far-reaching impacts globally. The situation in India has been particularly difficult, with the country recording over 8.9 million cases as of November 2020. The nation-wide lockdown announced on 24 March 2020 had devastating effects on millions of people, their livelihoods and income generating activities. Given the scale of the crisis, it becomes imperative to focus on the impacts on already disadvantaged groups, and more specifically, on women and girls. Experiences from past disease outbreaks globally, demonstrate the need for a gendered analysis for preparedness and response.

This report presents findings from the study, ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Rural SHG Women in Odisha’, conducted by the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) and Project Concern International (PCI). The main objectives of this study were to (i) study the overall impacts on women’s well-being during and post the lockdown period, and (ii) understand SHG participation in COVID-19 response activities. Overall, the study demonstrates that rural women in Odisha have had to contend with rising stress and anxiety, loss of income, and an increased load of household work. Concomitantly, the SHG movement has proved to be an immense source of strength and support for women. The report concludes with a set of recommendations to strengthen the SHG platforms and state- run gender initiatives, and to invest in digital tools as these have proved to be a means through which women have kept in touch with family and friends in difficult times.

Digitisation of Self-Help Groups in India

Self Help Groups (SHGs) have progressively become a key focal point for empowerment of women by mobilising them and bringing about a change in their condition in India. Digitisation and the use of technology in the processes followed by SHGs can have significant streamlining effects, particularly in addressing pain points. Digitisation can deliver extensive benefits by, for instance, reducing complexities in monitoring and evaluation of SHGs, minimising inefficiencies and inaccuracies in resource allocation, mitigating information fragmentation among stakeholders, bridging capacity constraints through training and literacy-based initiatives, and so on. The National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) and its state chapters, prominent stakeholders in the ecosystem, have made significant headway in digitising processes for SHGs.

The landscaping assessment aims to serve as a roadmap for State Rural Livelihoods Mission (SRLM)-backed programmes in successful digitisation of all processes associated with SHGs. This report highlights the current initiatives undertaken within the technology space and maps the trajectory of digitisation that various promoting agencies have followed. It seeks to inform the key gaps that exist within the current NRLM/ SRLM-backed digitisation initiatives. The report further identifies programmes within the ecosystem that have successfully bridged these gaps; it also highlights key focus areas that remain to be addressed within the ecosystem. In terms of mapping the readiness of SRLM programmes to carry out successful digitisation, findings suggest that most programmes face the ‘phase’ issue, that is, they have a clear trajectory of the digitisation phases to adopt but are faced by a limitation of resources and ability to embrace a multi-focus approach to digitisation. The SHG ecosystem’s approach to addressing these focus areas will determine the success of digitisation initiatives and ensure their self-sustenance in the long run.

Women in Agriculture

This section draws from an ongoing Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) and Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) study that aims to understand the impact of structural transformation in agriculture on female employment over time, by assessing the role of women farm managers. This study uses data from the India Human Development Survey (2004-05, 2011-12) to understand the rise in female farm management, its variation along demographic dimensions, and the differences between cultivator households managed by men and those managed by women.