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Together We Can: Assessing the Impact of Women's Action Groups on Social Change in India


This project will evaluate the impact of India's Mahila Samakhya (MS), the world's largest government program to empower women. The program, which focuses on education for women's equality, works with more than 1.2 million poor women from 40,000 villages in 10 Indian states. The premise of the program is that social norms deprive Indian women of social and economic power. For these norms to change, women need to lead the change. The program's approach to education focuses on experiential learning. Groups of women work together and are encouraged to engage in activities relevant to the group's needs. They learn to challenge current social norms and break gender stereotypes. The research will shed light on the role of women's action groups in catalyzing social and economic change. The goal is to provide empirical evidence that can inform practitioners and policymakers. The project team will evaluate the program's impact on indicators of rural women's economic empowerment in two Indian states: Bihar and Karnataka. The project team will randomly assign half of the villages to implement the program (treatment group) and half to receive it later (control group). Researchers will collect data from almost 4,000 households in three different waves. The data will include variables related to labour market outcomes, gender inequality, and awareness of entitlement programs. The proposed research will assess the extent to which the MS program has been successful, if at all, in reducing barriers to women's economic empowerment. It will identify areas where the program needs to improve to influence policy effectively. Finally, it will raise awareness and influence policy-making through a wide range of activities. The Centre for Budget and Policy Studies in Bangalore will run this impact evaluation with support from the Institute for Financial Management and Research, which is specialized in randomized controlled trials. These institutions will work closely with the Mahila Samakhya administration. This research is supported under the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) program. GrOW is a five-year, multi-funder partnership of the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and IDRC. With a focus on low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, GrOW aims to support policies and interventions that improve women's livelihoods and contribute to societal well-being. One component of the program will support 11 projects addressing barriers to women's economic empowerment and gender gaps in earnings and productivity. This project is among them, selected following a competitive call.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Gillian Dowie
Total Funding
CA$ 884,109.00
Institution Country
Project Leader
JyotsnaJha JyotsnaJha
[name of President] for and on behalf of the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies


Why it is important to retain an independent Mahila Samakhya Programme : policy brief

Why it is important to retain an independent Mahila Samakhya Programme : policy brief


The Mahila Samakhya (MS) programme, started in 1989 as a national programme for women’s empowerment under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), was a response to the 1986 education policy that recognised education as a means of empowerment and transformation, and also acknowledged women’s empowerment as key to social transformation.


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Language: English