Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI)

Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI)

ExcellenceIn Holistic Growth for Women

Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is ICA’s platform for supporting social and economic empowerment of women in India. Working in partnership with NGOs and community-based groups in India, it offers a multi-pronged learning process that equips the women with skills and tools to propel their leadership forward and take their personal lives and their organizations to their full potential.

Our core mandate is to:

  • Enhance women’s leadership capacity and knowledge
  • Provide key tools of leading, organizing, advocacy, enrollment and mobilization of community
  • Provide tools to overcome personal, social and institutional barriers
  • Offer ways for her to advocate for herself & her organization more effectively
  • Offer post-training Coaching & Mentoring
WLI Mission

Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is ICA’s platform for supporting social and economic empowerment of women in India.

WLP Works with SEWA


WLP works with SEWA

“It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved.”
Swami Vivekananda

In Jan-Feb 2019, the Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) championed by Lata Patil, a project of Indians for Collective Action (ICA) was invited by Self-employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a trusted and well-established NGO in Ahmedabad to conduct a workshop on transformational leadership to its selected members. In this partnership between the two organization, the predominant program aim was to

  • strengthen the capabilities of rural women micro-entrepreneurs in the community
  • increase the financial sustainability of their enterprises
  • fostering of personal growth of these rural women

The candidates were all from low-income grassroots communities, with an aspirational to participate in the workshop, full of dreams for themselves and for their businesses.

The picture above shows one group of women selected by SEWA to be trained. All are Coordinators of SEWA Programs, managing smaller units of businesses and have been members of SEWA for at least 10 years. They had first been trained at SEWA’s Manager’s School and over the years risen to the position of Coordinators, each one overseeing several small business owners involved in crafts, animal husbandry, village veterinary help, bore well repair, catering, small retail outlets, etc. A few them were college graduates, speaking a smattering of English, but most had high-school-level educations or less. All spoke and understood Hindi and Gujarati.


The second group of women were Master Trainers managing single units. These women were having difficulties taking advantage of the training and workshops offered to them. They were eager to learn but did not feel confident or empowered to do so. Even though there were several resources available they didn’t know how to access them, also they had concerns about sustaining themselves as viable businesses. Their biggest challenges were how to have a work-life balance, which led to a lot of frustration and low productivity.

It was SEWA that had first offered them the lifeline for a more secure future. They were able to build a better future that provided them with economic independence, and a life based on dignity and respect for themselves and their families - something that was earlier unthinkable for them. That was enough to start them on a journey towards independence. Now they needed more, more support and knowledge to succeed and sustain themselves. They needed to understand the new market place and how to get up to speed to thrive in that environment. We conducted two 3-day residential sessions. Most participants had travelled about 3 hours that morning with two of them coming from Kutch with a 5-hour travel.

Instead of just tips and tools there were guided exercises, group discussions and peer-supported dialogues. Included were opportunities to explore their motivations and gauge their own strengths and weaknesses to become more confident, trusted, and capable leaders. This proved to be an effective Leadership program to help women identify and develop their leadership abilities, help find the participant’s inner compass and discover their ability to anticipate and learn in order to lead. In the process they explored their motivations and gauged their own strengths and weaknesses. Even during that short span of time, we could see them becoming more confident and courageous in their responses. It focused not just on driving their confidence and measuring personal growth but helping them find the power within themselves to realizing their leadership capacity. An unexpected benefit was an opportunity for them to foster a deeper, meaningful connection with each other as part of a larger team at SEWA.


The workshop concluded with the women’s commitment to pursuing opportunities to thrive as a leader and capable of transforming themselves to facing challenges. Impact of this training will be measured via feedback post-workshop as well as follow up interviews with program participants for a period of six months by trained coaches to track changes in their mindset, self-value, and a sense of control and hope over their lives and their accomplishment.

Women’s economic empowerment as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals has been prioritized by ICA as a strategic focus for many years, supporting women-serving social enterprises. The Women’s Leadership Program works in variety of ways to drive this strategy for the advancement of women in India.


Donate to WLI and help us structure and scale the program Volunteer your time and talents Connect us to other partner NGOs or potential participants. Sign up for email updates, Send us your feedback.
Questions? lata_p@hotmail.com

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