Despite the renewed commitment of the international community to provide economic opportunities for poor women, most observers suggest that the majority of the past and current experience of community enterprise programmes for women has failed to make any significant impact on women’s incomes and social empowerment. Based on ethnographic research methods, this paper presents a feminist analysis of a singular women’s community enterprise promoted by local NGOs in the state of Tamil Nadu in India, usually known as GMCL (Gram Mooligai Company Limited). GMCL has been promoted by local NGOs in the state of Tamil Nadu and is an example of community women enterprise. Its main purpose is to assess the impact of GMCL on enhancing economical and social empowerment of women in order to better understand the potential of this particular type of initiative in promoting capacity building and local development. The findings show the need to see community enterprise programmes in a much more holistic light than is conventionally understood. Major outcomes of this research include giving voice and visibility to poor women, identifying their preferences and decision-making needs to poverty reduction and finally, developing culturally-sensitive policy recommendations that consider the multiple dimensions of empowerment.

Author Biography

Maria Costanza Torri over the last few years has gained experience in rural development policy and women’s studies, with a special emphasis on empowerment of ethnic minorities. She completed a PhD in Rural Sociology at Paris1-Pantheon-Sorbonne and she is currently associated with the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Andrea Martinez is the Director of the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. In addition to her research activities and teaching to undergraduate and graduate students, she served for six years as Director (2000-2006) of the Institute of Women’s Studies Faculty of Social Sciences.