Empowering women in India through social enterprise

Female social entrepreneurs become Master Trainers who will equip other Indian women with the skills to create their own social businesses.

The British Council, in partnership with Diageo, launched the 'Young Women Social Entrepreneurship Development Programme” (YWSED) in India in 2013. The programme identifies women working in social enterprises that specifically support women and trains them to become "Master Trainers".

As of March 2016, these Master Trainers had delivered training to 4,000 young women social entrepreneurs across India.

Why was the programme launched?

Only 39% of women are formally employed in India. According to the gender diversity benchmark 2011, India has one of the world's lowest female employment rates. 

The lack of female participation in the workforce results in a “cultural” vicious cycle. It has an adverse economic impact, dampening productivity and growth as fewer young girls aspire to full time work because there are less female role models they can take the lead from. 

Geeta Rao Gupta, the president of the International Centre for Research on women, offers a solution to this, saying, "you can trigger social and cultural change in a woman’s status by giving her increased economic opportunities.”

YWSED takes this same initiative. Dr Guru Gujral from the British Council, India, says,  

"Through YWSED, we aim to create a ripple effect and disseminate social enterprise expertise to women in communities across India. 50% of India's population is under the age of 25, and 65% is under 35. Supporting the emergence of a new generation of young women social entrepreneurs is an important investment in the future. They will inspire other women for years to come and support more sustainable and inclusive growth."

The programme focuses on the women’s development needs and then delivers a personalised training course which draws from UK expertise. It later supports these Master Trainers as they provide social enterprise training to approximately 1,200 other young women in India. 

It delivers training sessions to small groups of master trainers, between 20 to 30 women. They are run by India and UK trainers, some of which come from Social Enterprise UK.

The training days focus on core entrepreneurial skills, engaging participants practically in brainstorming and observation sessions, case study analysis, group work and group presentations.

Medhavi, the founder of the Happy Hands foundation, a social enterprise aiming to revive traditional arts and crafts and empower rural artisans, explains that she participated in one of the programmes, "to gain a more in-depth perspective on entrepreneurship. I believe that such training programmes help build the capacity of not only an individual, but of an organisation as a whole. They also introduce us to a network of entrepreneurs.”

Sadhana Deshmukh, an alumna of the programme, has launched two social enterprises with other women in her community. She said, "When women do business we connect with other women who are inspired by our work and also want to start their own social business." 

Christine Wilson, Head of Society Engagement at the British Council, says, “The British Council recognises social enterprise as a tool to achieve fairer, more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.”  

She notes that the British Council's Global Social Enterprise programme has supported and trained over 700 female social entrepreneurs between 2012 and 2013 alone.