GENDER insights

Determination and resilience amid COVID-19 uncertainty

Women in India. Photo: IFPRI.

How self-employed women in India coped with lockdowns and disruptions to business.


The COVID-19 pandemic has made generating income and access to food far more difficult for many, particularly women in developing countries. To better understand how the pandemic and lockdowns to control its spread are affecting the livelihoods of women small-business owners and farmers in South Asia, researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) asked the women themselves.

The researchers conducted surveys in collaboration with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), an organization that aims to empower women workers to reach full-employment and self-reliance by providing the tools, support, and community for them to reach their economic potential. They carried out a phone survey with 627 SEWA members and did in-depth case studies of five SEWA members across the Indian state of Gujarat.

While each woman reported different experiences and perspectives on navigating COVID-19, a common theme emerged: making a living became tougher, yet these women were able to identify coping mechanisms to protect their livelihoods and their families.

Read on to learn more about these five women’s stories – as they explain how COVID-19 is impacting their diverse sources of income and what SEWA is doing to help.

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This work was carried out with support from the CGIAR GENDER Platform, which is grateful for the support of CGIAR Trust Fund Contributors.