INTRODUCTION

SELF EMPLOYED WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION (SEWA)

is a national trade union registered in 1972 with a membership base of over 1.5 million (2018) poor, self-employed women workers from the informal economy across 16 states in India.

We belong to the vast, unprotected working population of our country, who are considered informal workers. Although we constitute 90% of India’s labor force, few labor laws or welfare benefits include us. Our significant contribution to the nation’s economy is largely uncounted, undercounted, or invisible.

We formed SEWA in 1972, in Ahmedabad. Today we are 1.5 million women strong. We are the single largest poor women’s labour union in the country. At SEWA, we come together as poor, as women and as worker. The SEWA approach is to address the needs of the worker as a laborer, as well as a woman. This integrated and holistic view of workers has given birth to new and innovative ways to fight poverty and vulnerability.

Our goals are full employment and self-reliance.

Full employment means work security, income security, food security, and social security, which includes health care, child care, insurance, pension, and housing at the household level.

Self-reliance is the ability to work individually and collectively, to achieve economic freedom, and retain decision-making power over matters that concern our lives and livelihoods.

Our strategy is a joint action of union and cooperatives. Our union gives us strength, support and a voice. Our cooperatives nurture our lives and livelihoods. We have formed trade cooperatives for better income, skill upgradation, marketing, and access to credit. Asset ownership by women is our first step out of poverty. We have also built cooperatives to gain access to banking, healthcare, childcare, insurance, housing, and legal services. Such services are the safety net that protects us from falling into a spiral of vulnerabilities.

This is who we are, and this is what we do. And here are our stories….