The Employment Guarantee Act of India came into existence in 2005, with an associated policy and programme that have attracted a large number of women as participants. Primarily, women’s participation in this programme has been as wage-seekers. This article argues that currently MNREGA, the well-known public works programme, has no impact on the social transformation (though legally claimed through provisions such as equal wages) that women involved in the programme need, but we can nevertheless see huge potential for women to do more than benefit in terms of day-to-day welfare: the programme has potential to support women’s empowerment in the sense that it affords them the opportunity to experience their collective strength, and potentially redefine relations with men through involvement in the programme.
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