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      This gender research and advocacy group is implementing large scale interventions for economic empowerment of women

      “India remains an anomaly for a country where despite economic growth and rise in education of girls, the Female Labour Force Participation Rates (FLFPR) has been showing a worrying decline in the past 30 years or so,” says Soumya Kapoor, head of IWWAGE. Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) is a gender research and advocacy organisation set up by LEAD, an action-oriented research centre of IFMR Society.

      IWWAGE, through its research, not only unpacks the barriers that women face in joining the workforce but emphasises advocacy initiatives to advance economic empowerment of women. It leads large scale interventions embedded in existing government initiatives such as gender trainings for women, setting up gender resource centres within National Rural Livelihoods Mission and piloting digital innovations such as improving women’s access to entitlements via app-based solutions with Haqdarshak. It has also set up a Center of Excellence on Women’s Empowerment Collectives to expand research on the role collectives such as self-help groups of women or SEWA’s union and their role in empowering women at local levels. Leading the organisation is Soumya Kapoor, a development economist who has worked for 18 years in the development sector, spanning research around gender, women’s empowerment, poverty reduction strategies, social inclusion challenges, and policy levers to alleviate them around the world. She has also worked as an independent policy advisor for the World Bank, UNICEF, the Government of India, the Centre for Policy Research and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). 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. 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 has also been a Visiting Fellow to the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Where India stands today 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, with only one out of every five women of working age in the workforce, according to Soumya. Women’s access to 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. IWWAGE was set up to address this challenge,” Soumya tells HerStory. IWWAGE has partnered with government ministries and policy agencies like NITI Aayog, Ministry of Rural Development, and Ministry of Women and Child Welfare and more to help turn research into policy level advocacy. It also boasts a high-profile list of donors that include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UN Women, World Bank among others. According to an International Labour Organisation study, longer term trends suggest that female labour force participation rates (FLFPR) in India have been puzzling. Female participation rates declined from 34.1 percent in 1999-00 to 27.2 percent in 2011-12, and wide gender differences in participation rate also persists. Despite more women taking up regular work over the years, in 2018, 80 percent of the salaried jobs continued to be held by men, while as many as 80 percent of women who worked, did so in the informal sector. There is also a substantial gap in the earnings of men and women.

      This article was published in CNBC 18 and you can access the article here.

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