ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Why It Is Important to Retain an Independent Mahila Samakhya Programme

The Mahila Samakhya Programme that began in 1989 has made significant contributions to women's empowerment in a little over 25 years. Yet, the government seems unsure about Mahila Samakhya. This article evaluates the programme's successes and argues against scrapping it summarily or merging it with other programmes.

We thank all academics, researchers and other professionals who shared their work with the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies in the organisation’s endeavour to evaluate Mahila Samakhya in Karnataka and Bihar. CBPS in collaboration with the Educational Resource Unit also held a half-day workshop titled “Mahila Samakhya’s Impact on Social and Economic Change: Building on the Evidence” on 16 January 2016 in New Delhi. At this workshop, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad and Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, ERU and CBPS presented research studies. This piece is an outcome of the review as well as the deliberations held in the Delhi workshop. It is not possible to mention all the names but we thank all the contributors.


The Mahila Samakhya Programme, started in 1989 as a national programme for women’s empowerment under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), was a response to a 1986 policy that recognised education as a means of women’s empowerment. It envisaged women’s empowerment as a key to social transformation. The programme was first introduced in 10 districts in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. As of April 2014, it functions in 11 states,1 working in 126 districts covering about 42,000 villages. It was initially funded by the Dutch government and later by the British government’s Department for International Development (DfID) and implemented as a centrally-sponsored programme in states, except in Bihar where it was a subset of Bihar Education Project funded by UNICEF.

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