A few excerpts from the various evaluations done of the work of WWF are given below:

Internal & Research Evaluation

Gender strategy for Poverty Alleviation, presented at the National Taskforce on Poverty Alleviation, NITI Aayog, New Delhi. An evaluation report by Dr.Nandini Azad.

Sustainable job creation for Women in the Informal Sector: The case of the Working Women's Forum - Indian Cooperative Network or Women, Chennai
a) The large reservoirs of poor women in India are in the informal / unorganized sector (90%). Considered a low growth sector, attention on it in terms of investment, protection and regulation, support structures, skill up-gradation, backward and forward linkages are minimal. Unions and bargaining power in this sector are low as there are few formal unions. Conditions of social oppression, poor living conditions, large families, child labour, and illiteracy exist.

b) It is in this environment of powerlessness that the Working Women's Forum (WWF)/ Indian Cooperative Network for Women (ICNW) intervened to help poor women create the foundations of a development model based on altered gender relations, by challenging structural poverty, spearheading social integration, and by transforming labour into capital with the surplus retained for poor women's needs.

c) The case of the WWF-ICNW is a classic case of countering the pillars of caste / class / gender discrimination as a private player by organizing poor women in this sector (as share holders in credit cooperatives) at nominal interest credit (lowest in the area) through women, by and for women for over 35 years. Operating at 14 locations in their states of South India, 2,14,000 women members with a 98% cumulative repayment. Members are in 267 occupations (trades / productions/ manufacturing / services). Requisite social protection through group delivery savings, training, legal awareness, and insurance products are provided. A million loan's have been disbursed with smallest loan sizes from Rs. 200/- in 1981 to about Rs. 1 Lakh now (i.e. MSME loans) the majority being within the mandatory Rs. 50,000/- classified as micro-loans). Automated software is operated by girls from fisher, coolie and such families in the ICNW credit operations that are regulated under the cooperative structure. The major lesson being that access to timely credit in the understandable terms set by poor women (as clients) through organization and governance devised by them is the prescription for growth, employment, better living standards, out of debt and poverty for women. Constant nurturing, mentoring with multiple products in various steps to enhance their viability as micro-entrepreneurs has contributed to the economic process including accumulation at the base. The concept, programme strategy, 5 year impact survey are highlighted in the next section. (Click on the link for full report )

External Evaluation


'Solidarity, Strength and Success Working Women's Forum (India) points the way'. An evaluation report prepared by Dr. U.KALPAGAM, Professor, G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad, India:

Empowerment of Individuals at Working Women's Forum:

It is beyond doubt that access to resources, in the form of loans, has greatly empowered individual women both in their productive roles as well as within households and their neighbourhood. In the productive sphere, empowerment was, as mentioned earlier, in terms of giving greater flexibility and autonomy by reducing usurious interest payments. For many young women, the accessibility to cash income made possible by enabling them to take up an occupation, has provided them a significant amount of economic independence and autonomy.


Both, access to resources as well as membership in the collective have enhanced the status of women within households and in the neighbourhoods. The fact that they can go to bank and do all their transactions has not only provided them self esteem and has also made the men folk in their houses respect them.


The most perceivable impact on individuals is their ability to analyse issues and articulate needs. Credit intervention, as we had mentioned earlier, in course of time gets transformed from an 'end' to a 'means' of mobilisation, and the confidence built up in these women is remarkable!


To many women the Forum's mobilisation has enabled them to break the barrier of spatial immobility. Earlier many women had not even visited the district headquarters, now move around freely on their own to cities like Chennai.


The most noteworthy aspect of individual empowerment is the change in their own perceptions. Earlier they perceived their own oppressions or unhappy experiences as something personal and unique to themselves, now they are able to share their own experiences in the wider milieu of a class, caste and patriarchal society. This is because of the "collective consciousness" that promoted these women to do so.


Dr. Marty Chen, Professor, Harvard Institute for International Development, United States of America:

The WWF models for staffing (leadership from the membership), credit operations (Credit groups and Societies under the Co-operative Act), and expansion (establishment of new branches by experienced staff from old ranches) are unique and effective. We were very impressed with the strength and confidence of members, leaders, organisers, and staff. Congratulations on your extremely fine work!


Dr. Jennefer Sebstad Independent Consultant, Economic Development, Program Planning, Project Planning, Project Evaluation and Research, Harvard Institute for International Development, United States of America:

WWF's success has inspired others to join the movement for economic and social justice for women. With its energy, its inspiration and its affirmation that social action can make a difference, women's organisations in many other parts of the world are now experimenting with their own group based lending models. The challenges are enormous and much remains to be done. WWF should expand even further. Similar organisations should learn from WWF's approach in filling the huge gap in demand for credit and social organisation among poor women, within and outside India. New actors should complement credit with efforts to address persistent downward economic, social and institutional pressures on the poor and to promote economic growth that benefits the poor. Together, as a movement, these groups can emerge as a powerful force towards the eradication of poverty and the emancipation of women.

Report of the Evaluation Mission, by Dr. Marty Chen, Professor, Harvard Institute for International Development, United States of America:
"By any standard, national or international, the Working Women's Forum (WWF) is a remarkable and successful institution. In terms of numbers, the Forum has more women staff and members than probably any other non-government organisation in India and all but a few non-government organisations in the world. Even more notably, almost all of the staff is from the same socio-economic class as the membership, that is, from poor working class households.

The organisational structure, which promotes leadership from the membership itself, is the unique and dominant feature of the Forum. The governing body or executive council of WWF, with the exception of its Founder-President, are all working class women".

Report of the Mid-Term Evaluation of the Working Women's Forum, Phase III, Madras, India, Empowerment February 2002 by Dr. Loes Schenk Sandbergen, Team Leader, Professor, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
"The evaluation team found that the WWF is in many places the only support network poor women really can count on. Politicians, councillors, Government departments, charity and church organisations have not shown real interest in them, or promised improvements in times of elections that were not realized. Therefore, being a member of the WWF, or, as the women name the WWF as 'Sangam' (organisation) is not perceived by the members as a functional matter, but has strong personal and emotional connotations".

Main Findings Organisational
"The organisational, managerial, social, human resource dimensions the branches have a high autonomy profile. Polices are uniformly replicated, accepted and implemented. Planning and decision-making in the branches have a high level of bottom-up approach. Transparency and accountability are self-evident matters within the branches. The annual meetings in each branch in the month of December focus on accountability of planning and real implementation of the work. Successes, problems, constraints and favourable situations are discussed with all involved groups in the branches and from the head office.

The success and strength of the WWF is based on the unusual wisdom that leadership should come from the membership itself. The Forum is very successful in integrating poor women at all levels in the institutional and organisational framework, which highly benefits the delivery system to reach a large numbers of poor women. Local leadership can be traced at every level of the stakeholder groups involved in the activities of the Forum. The Forum is building up leadership capacity for self-respect and self-development and earning an income".

Main Findings Credit Programme
"The credit programme has reached the poorest of the poor women in the informal sector, enabling them to access the institutional credit at lower interest rates, thus enabling them to come out of heavy indebtedness in many locations and livelihood of the women. Many women have ventured into trade, business and productive activities with the help of credit assistance. Also there are innumerable stories of women who have not decided to commit suicide because of a positive livelihood option in the form of credit support".