Women Empowerment

Women are the
key agents of sustainable development
and women’s equality.


"The Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development stresses that the empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status is both a highly important end in itself and necessary for the achievement of sustainable human development."
- Guidelines on Women Empowerment, United Nations Population Information Network

Women are the key agents of sustainable development and women’s equality and empowerment are seen as central to a more holistic approach towards establishing new patterns and processes of development that are sustainable. IIRD maintains that it is crucial that women empowerment should be a key aspect of all social development programs. It has also worked for Improved Maternal and Child Healthcare with intent to facilitate innovation in the delivery of maternal and child healthcare services.


To allow women to the means which will allow them to play an active role in their own development and society through empowering women representatives and adolescent girls, by raising awareness and building capacity.

The Program at a Glance


Area and Time

Supporting Agency

No of lives affected (approx)

Mahila Mandal Representative Training (MMRT)

Rajasthan, 1997- 1998

Department of Women and Child Development, (GoR) and UNICEF

3787 women trained

Empowerment and Capacity Building for Adolescent Girls of Slums in Jaipur


United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

120 girls trained for various livelihood generation

Life Skill Education and Counseling to Adolescent Girls


Save the Children Fund (SCF)

100 girls trained for various livelihood generation

Women Livelihood Restoration Project - WLRP

Bhachau, Kutch (Gujarat), 2002

Government of India, Government of Gujarat

105 women

Maternal and Child Health Programs (Aanchal se Aangan Tak)

Khanpur, Jhalrapatan, 2006-7


300 villages

SHG Formation and microfinance

Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh

Various agencies


Leading Women Empowerment and Child Development Discussions
Ongoing studies, research and monitoring
Various partners
Awareness raising campaigns and research studies co-ordinations

Mahila Mandal Representative Training (MMRT)

Year: 1997- 1998
Place: Rajasthan
Partner Agency: Department of Women and Child Development, (GoR) and UNICEF

  • Provide reorientation and build capacity among Mahila Mandals Pradhans (women commission representatives) of Rajasthan and thus fully empower them to play their essential change agent role

IIRD was solely responsible for the coordination, support and monitoring of multiple NGOs’ activities all over Rajasthan.  This was the first time IIRD worked as the mother NGO for a women empowerment & child development program.

Training sessions on health, nutrition, sanitation, gender and child development issues were given with the primary aim of creating awareness, developing commitment, enhancing sense of responsibility and raising self confidence and self-sufficiency among the Mahila Mandals Representatives.

In the course of the following years, in partnership with national and international agencies like US Aid, Action Aid, DWCD GoR, Women Resource Centre (WRC), UNICEF and others IIRD continued to develop, implement and co-ordinate projects and research studies mostly related to women and child health, gender issues and economic empowerment of women.


  • 98 blocks in 17 districts covered
  • 1800 Mahila Mandals involved
  • 3787 women trained

Women Livelihood Restoration Project - WLRP

Year: 2002, after the earthquake
Place: Bhachau, Kutch, Gujarat
Partner Agency: Government of India, Government of Gujarat

The Women Livelihood Restoration Project - WLRP started in the end of 2002 in Bhachau, Kutch (Gujarat). The objective is was to establish a mechanism for sustainable economic livelihood restoration of the women affected by the earthquake.

The project pursued revitalization of traditional livelihoods and also explored new sources of income with sufficient market potential, mainly vermicomposting and tailoring. Women were equipped with sewing machines or the worms required for taking up vermicomposting activities.

In total, 105 female beneficiaries were identified and received skills development training.

Life Skill Education and Counseling to Adolescent Girls

Year: 2001- 2003
Place: Rajasthan
Partner Agency: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) & Save the Children Fund (SCF)

  • Create awareness about girls’ and women’s rights
  • Debate and generate understanding about gender issues
  • Educate about the adolescence and puberty phase as well as reproductive health
  • Provide vocational training

Interventions under Empowerment of Adolescent Girls Programs
  • Training on first aid and home nursing
  • Skill development training on cutting and tailoring, soft toy making, quilting, mahendi application and candle making
  • Balika Mandals (Girls’ Fora) formed
  • Two SHGs formed
  • Banking and saving practices

Due to the good appraisal it received, by the second year of implementation, the project Empowerment and Capacity Building for Adolescent Girls of Slums in Jaipur could also count on the support of and financial funds from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoI and the Bhoruka Charitable Trust. The project ended in December 2001, but the participating girls, have felt the positive impact of the formation of SHGs and Balika Mandals for the rest of their lives.

Maternal and Child Health Programs

Year: 2006- 2010
Place: Jhalrapatan and Khanpur, Jhalawar, Rajasthan
Partner Agency: UNICEF

  • Make rural people aware of the disadvantages of malnutrition
  • Bring about a conceptual change on Immunization
  • Teach mothers to take care of themselves and their malnourished children

Under programs such as Aanchal se Aangan Tak (2006- 2007) and Behaviour Change and Communication (2010), IIRD has developed and executed maternal and child awareness programs through community dialogue, making of reforms on socio-cultural practices that affect women and children as well as the provision of basic life saving equipment for clinics and health centers. (See the Health section of the report). It has also involved monitoring and evaluation, maternal and child health and infectious disease interventions, organizational development, and health information systems. IIRD has managed to achieve the following objectives:

  • Pilot and analyze new approaches to introduce and scale up high-impact interventions in the poor sections of rural communities
  • Contribute to overcoming key operational barriers to scaling up delivery of these interventions through the provision of technical leadership and specialized technical resources; and
  • Disseminate evidence and lessons of proven models for the delivery of high-impact integrated interventions.

The 300 villages were impacted in the following way:
  • Got immediate immunization
  • Removal of Gender based feeding
  • Delivery cases increased in Aanganwadi centers and in health centers.
  • Families learnt the importance of cleanliness
  • Malnourished children were given nutritional food at food centers.

SHG Formation and Microfinance

Year: 2004- date
Place:  Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh
Partner Agencies: SIDBI, NABARD , Yes Bank

IIRDhas mobilized various women to organize themselves in SHGs to achieve economic upliftment and self-sustenance. During the initial period, economic stability is promoted through the generation of a common fund that should be collectively managed and used according to priorities, which have been commonly agreed upon. Borrowing, saving and paying back habits are thus acquired by each one of the beneficiaries, enabling the group to take a step further towards the formal banking sector and its possibilities.

Opening an account and getting a loan are the next phases of group development and if interest is shown, counseling and training on income generation activities are given to further encourage entrepreneurial initiatives. 

Besides facilitating access to financial services and offering a framework for building technical and entrepreneurial skills, SHGs help to reduce dependency on expensive moneylenders, create employment and increase productivity. But most of all, the SHGs allow for the true economic empowerment of the huge part of the population which daily suffers the worst type of marginalization, namely women. Through SHGs, women and girls from the most underprivileged areas of India have the opportunity to broaden their life perspective, gain knowledge and skills, acquiring self-confidence and consequently being able to improve their social and economic condition. 

  • 45000 women borrowers
  • 99. 98% Recovery Rate
  • 2596 groups
  • 55 crore disbursed

Leading Women Empowerment and Child Development Discussions

The year 2001 was very fruitful in terms of awareness raising campaigns and research studies co-ordinations. In partnership with the Rajasthan State Women Commission (REWC), IIRD was responsible for the organization of the Media Workshop on Adverse Sex Ratio Foeticide & Denial of Opportunities of Girl Child which was intended to alert the media of the region to the prevalent severe discrimination of females and thereby assure media representatives commitment to contribute to social change through adequate media coverage. The workshop was held in Jaipur and approximately 50 people – including journalists, activists and academics – were able to participate and discuss the role of the media as an important social change agent with regard to women and child development issues.

On behalf of the WRC, IIRD’s team also conducted two research studies: Women’s Access to Health Services in Rural Rajasthan and Missing Women: Adverse Sex Ratio in 2001.

From January to September 2005, IIIRD, in partnership with the International Foundation for Election System (IFES) and US Aid, conducted a study on “ Changing Face of Dowry in India: a Study of Trends, Causes and Consequences.”

The study covered four geographical regions of India (i.e. North, South, East and West) at a micro and macro level with the main objective of identifying causes and consequences of the custom of dowry payment in Indian society. Documenting successful interventions done by governmental and non-governmental agencies against dowry practices and thus being able to make suitable proposals for the creation of public policies are some of the other outcomes expected by IIRD team and its partners. 

Its specific objectives were:
  • To study the type and spread of dowry systems in India
  • To understand the relationship of dowry to emerging globalization and consumer culture
  • To assess the dynamics and causes of the spread of dowry, particularly in communities and geographical areas which have not traditionally given dowry
  • To study why and how social values, norms and civic society institutions have contributed to the spread of dowry
  • To understand how giving or not giving dowry is linked to the empowerment of women, particularly in the context of education
  • To assess the inter-relation between dowry and discrimination against female children, female feticide and infanticide

At the Macro level, sources included official court and police records, newspaper and magazine reports/stories, investigation/study reports by women’s commissions, researchers, NGOs etc.  Investigations focus on the prevalence of dowry; the size and kind of dowry; the consequences/impact of dowry on society, family and women; whether dowry is spreading; and the factors associated with the increase of dowry. At the micro level, independent representations across age, caste, gender, class, were chosen. Among other opinions, the following were suggested:

  •  Accessibility to redressal should be increased.  Mahila Thanas or special units/cells for women should be opened.
  • Functionaries from the police, medical welfare, woman/child dept. and social welfare should be regularly sensitized to dowry issues.
  • Civic society should be sensitized and orientated.
  • NGO's, social workers, activists and media should be more involved.
  • Special/separate courts should quickly hear dowry-related cases.
  • General public should be informed about the legal provisions: Legal literacy.[??]
  • Women must be provided an adequate place to live during litigation.
  • Property inheritance laws must be amended (GOI recently amended them, and States should enforce them).
  • College/university curricula should touch on dowry issues.
  • The Dowry Prohibition Officers at the District and State levels should be separately appointed.
  • Legal procedures must be shorter; the law should punish offenders immediately.
  • Daughters should be educated and given equal share in parental property.
  • More NGOs and social organizations working on violence against women should be recognized.
  • Panchayats and social organizations should take a proactive role in curbing dowry.

Success Stories

Hemkanwar lives in a small village with her social worker husband. The meager amount obviously did not suffice the family. After connecting with IIRD, she put her talent to use. Very good at stitching, she bought a hand operated sewing machine to stitch Rajputi attire for the women folk in the village and earned 1200 Rs a month. Further, she took another loan to buy an electricity run machine. The growth is only vertical since then. Now she runs her business around the clock with women employed under her. She now has plans to expand the business and include selling ladies accessories also.

With the financial support and technical inputs from IIRD, I am able to generate profits in my tailoring shop and I see myself expanding very soon

-Hemkanwar, Sari and Garment Shop Owner, Khandiya, Baran

  Coming from a family with meager income, she connected herself with IIRD 4 years ago, and started a bangle shop. Dedication and discipline paid off, and now she has purchased a land and will build her house very soon.

I began my humble bangle shop in my locality, with microfinance assistance from IIRD, and I now have purchased a land on which I will build my house very soon.

-Sirajunissa, Bangle Shop Owner, Mandsaur