Community-based Collectives are proving to be game-changers in women’s empowerment among marginalised groups

CARE India’s National Event and Study highlights increased leadership, higher control on financial assets and decision making among women members of collectives

29th March 2017, New Delhi: CARE India hosted a national event today, titled ‘Community Based Collectives for Women’s Empowerment and Poverty Reduction: Lessons for Making a Difference’, in New Delhi. The event witnessed participation from several organizations working on women’s collectives, and brought together key lessons and learnings to contribute and strengthen the work of collectives and collective action for poverty reduction. The event also marked the release of a study report by CARE India on ‘Community Based Collectives for Women’s Empowerment’ which brought forth significant findings from CARE projects to understand levels of women empowerment enabled through collective action.

In his welcome address, Mr Rajan Bahadur, MD and CEO, CARE India said, “Collective action has propelled changes in the ability of marginalised groups to exercise choice and voice. Collectives have the potential to become the fifth pillar of democracy and development – a critical force for reducing poverty and giving strength to vulnerable sections of our society to overcome injustice and violence. Working with collective has been a key strategy for CARE India across our programmes in health, education, livelihoods, disaster preparedness and response. This study undertaken by CARE India is a distillation of our learnings on how women’s participation in collectives enhances their agency, how it enables them to make choices, speak out in public forums, and participate effectively in domains managed primarily by men.  We believe our discussions today would be momentous in taking forward the process of empowering marginalised women and girls, for reducing poverty, and for ending gender-based violence.”

Mr George Kurian, Head, Impact Measurement Unit, CARE India, “This study was undertaken across three sectors i.e. health, livelihood and education collectives; across four project states viz. Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh and six types of collectives. It was mixed-design in nature entailing quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection, covering a sample size of 2,357 respondents. The key findings of the study show that women who are part of collectives and involved in collective action improve their capabilities on negotiation skills, abilities to express opinions, access and control over family resources and material assets, self-efficacy, leadership, mobility, and influencing decision-making indicating changes in the path towards women’s empowerment.”

Key findings:

  •          Women who frequently attended collective meetings were 1.3 times more likely to have higher self-efficacy
  •          Women who had been associated with collectives for a longer duration were 1.3 times more likely to score higher on market accessibility benchmarks
  •          43% of women respondents had taken new roles after becoming member of collectives, and nearly 50% women believed in their skills and abilities as          leaders
  •          Women who were members of a livelihood collective were 4.1 times more likely to score higher on political/civil society representation
  •          Women who were part of larger collectives were 0.9 times more likely to have higher scores on challenging social norms
  •          Adivasi communities exhibited greater mobility, family support, market accessibility and participation for women as compared to women in Dalit                     communities; Adivasis are also better-positioned in group alliances, negotiations and taking up leadership roles as compared to Dalit women.

Ms Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow, Poverty, Health and Nutrition, International Food Policy Research Institute, shared, “Evidences on how women’s collectives impact multiple outcomes are still emerging in India and South Asia. At the IFPRI, we also have some initial findings from our SHG programmes working to improve nutritional outcomes among rural women and children. These are quite similar to what has been shared by CARE today, revealing that women who are part of community groups and collectives show greater awareness, greater social access, improved understanding of health and nutritional information and community issues. Attending meetings and being active participants of collectives increases the possibility of social participation, challenging existing power structures and even shaping political representation”.  

Ms Philimina Pradhan, Sarpanch, Panchayat, Pathways Project, CARE India, Odisha shared, “CARE India’s Pathways team has helped me pave the way for a successful future. From a humble beginning as an SHG member, I was trained and capacitated to become a leader, actively coordinating meetings, mobilizing the community, and encouraging women members to have financial savings. Soon, as a   Community Resource Person, I was managing the accounts of 1000 members across 11 villages. Today I am the Sarpanch of my village and part of a mixed-gender collective. I hope to empower more women from my community to leadership positions now.”

The sessions deliberated on the specific strategies adopted by different communities and some of the key recommendations were  - the need to involve all sections of the community, including men and boys; the necessity of sound, pro-active local governance systems; building resourcing and livelihood capacities among collectives; linking them to financial institutions for long term sustainability; collectives being effective mediums to address gender-based violence and flexibility in methodologies that are adopted to overcome challenges emerging from social norms, barriers and patriarchal mind-sets. The panel speakers also placed emphasis on the learnings and observations on the efficacy of collectives from different organizations and programme experts, understanding the processes of working with marginalized women and girl members, and developing a roadmap based on best practices to enhance collective action across India. Some community leaders who spoke representing marginalized communities from different states shared about their journey from being extremely poor and marginalized, to becoming inspiring role models in their community and contesting election.

A collective action has the power to transform lives and empower the targeted group who are most marginalised.  It involves co-ordinated actions amongst key stakeholders and investment to achieve greater equity amongst most marginalised sections of the society.

About CARE India

CARE has been working in India for over 65 years, focusing on ending poverty and social injustice, through well-planned and comprehensive programs in health, education, livelihoods and disaster preparedness and response. For FY 2015-16, CARE India directly reached out to 42.8 million people through 50 projects across 15 states, covering more than 183 districts. The organisation’s overall goal is the empowerment of women and girls from poor and marginalized communities leading to improvement in their lives and livelihoods. CARE India a member of the CARE International Confederation working in over 85 countries, for a world where all people live in dignity and security.

In India, CARE focuses on the empowerment of women and girls because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination and suffer abuse and violations in the realization of their rights, entitlements, access, and control over resources. Also, experience shows that, when equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities overcome poverty, marginalization and social injustice.

For more information, please contact:

CARE India

Avian Media

Jyoti Rai: +91 9650591553

Rishu Singh: +91-9958891501


Kanica Sharma: +91-9810113624