Social Policy & Administration

Women, Prosperity, and Social Change in India

Women, Prosperity, and Social Change in India

The prominence of employment and income generation among social enterprise strategies for women’s empowerment in India reflects the unique strengths of the hybrid social enterprise model.


Isabel Salovaara, anthropologist and assistant director of the Jindal Centre for Social Innovation + Entrepreneurship, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

Jeremy Wade, Founding Director, Jindal Centre for Social Innovation + Entrepreneurship, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.


Women first, prosperity for all. This was the theme of the 10th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, hosted late last year in Hyderabad. It was also an unofficial theme for the year itself. Around the world, we witnessed demands by women to address persistent gender inequalities as a prerequisite to social and economic progress.

In 2018, one pressing question is how to convert the momentum generated by movements like #MeToo into lasting impact. A recent five-country study, commissioned by the British Council, on the mutual interdependence of social enterprise initiatives and women’s empowerment movements provides insights into the strategies for—and barriers to—long-term change.

As the study’s North India research partners, we conducted a series of interviews, a survey of social enterprises in India, and focus groups across nine Indian cities to galvanize conversation on the contributions of social enterprise to women’s empowerment and the challenges at hand.

For this study, we defined a social enterprise as an organization with a central social or environmental mission that earns at least 25 percent of its revenue through commercial activity. Such a definition enabled us to make international comparisons between countries with diverse regulatory and legal landscapes in relation to social enterprise. It also provoked questions about the place of social enterprise and other organizational forms within longstanding social and women’s movements in India.

Our research highlighted the multiple meanings behind “women first,” including the significance of women’s leadership and the importance of attending to the needs of women beneficiaries and employees in the social enterprise sector. In this three-part series, we explore the impact of social enterprise—including its ambiguous place among older social organization models—on women in India.

Published in: Stanford Social Innovation Review

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