SEWA
Self Employed Women’s Association
 
 
PART A
 
SEWA

1.    Introduction

2.    Goals, Objectives & Strategy

3.    Movement

4.    Membership Profile

5.    SEWA’sAnnual General Meeting 2004
 
1.   Introduction

SEWA is a trade union registered in 1972. It is an organisation of poor, self-employed women workers. These are women who earn a living through their own labour or small businesses. They do not obtain regular salaried employment with welfare benefits like workers in the organised sector. They are the unprotected labour force of our country. Constituting 93% of the labour force, these are workers of the unorganised sector. Of the female labour force in India, more than 94% are in the unorganised sector. However their work is not counted and hence remains invisible. In fact, women workers themselves remain uncounted, undercounted and invisible.

SEWA organises women to ensure that every family obtains full employment through the strategy of struggled and development. The struggle is against the many constraints and limitations imposed on them by society and the economy, while development activities strengthen women’s bargaining power and offer them new alternatives. Practically, the strategy is carried out through the joint action of union and cooperatives. Gandhian thinking is the guiding force for SEWA’s poor, self-employed members in organising for social change. SEWA follows the principles of satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence), sarvadharma (integrating all faiths, all people) and khadi (propagation of local employment and self reliance)

In order to achieve the goals, SEWA identifies the needs and issues of its members and identifies interventions that address these issues. Very often there is a need to create alternative employment opportunities to strengthen the bargaining power of these women workers.
 
2.   Goals, The Innovation, Objectives & Strategy

2.1   Goals

SEWA’s main goals are to organise women workers for full employment and self-reliance. Full employment means employment whereby workers obtain work security, income security, food security and social security.

Poor women’s growth, development and employment emerge when they have work and income security and food security. It also occurs when they are healthy, able to access childcare and have a roof over their heads. In a membership-based organisation, it is the member’s priorities and needs which necessarily shapes the priorities and direction of the organisation. Hence, members themselves develop their own yardstick for evaluation. The eleven questions emerged from the members continuously serve as a guide for all members, group leaders, executive committee members and full-time organisers of SEWA. It is also proves useful for monitoring SEWA’s progress and the relevance of its various activities and their congruence with member’s reality and priorities.

2.2   Objectives & Strategy

By dealing with the multiple dimensions of its members’ needs, SEWA supports women’s efforts to overcome poverty. Using an integrated approach, SEWA helps its members achieve full employment and self-reliance through self-governance. SEWA members have created several cooperatives and producers' groups, thereby forging market linkages and enhancing their bargaining position. The efforts have had so much success that, from 1994 to 1998, members increased employment income by 600 percent. SEWA Bank, with 202,706 savers, has issued loans to 50,849 members. To provide for its members' health care, SEWA has helped them start health cooperatives and developed an insurance program that provides members’ coverage for health care, emergencies and loss of life. A SEWA-affiliated team of 270 midwives and health workers serve the health care needs of 71,027 individuals.

Through its University, the SEWA Academy, members learn together, gain information, knowledge and confidence, important in equipping them with the skills to become strong and capable leaders and managers. The SEWA Academy also communicates the concerns, struggles and experiences of poor self-employed women to the public and to policy makers through its Research and Communication services. Today, SEWA is also working through video, telephone, computer, and satellite communications to provide Information Technology to the working class. To address legal issues such as housing and wage disputes, police harassment and other exploitation issues, SEWA provides its members with legal aid services. Currently, Bhatt and other SEWA leaders dedicate their time to influencing national and international policies in support of the informally and self- employed individuals around the world.

3.   Movement

SEWA is both an organization as well as a movement. The SEWA movement is enhanced by its being a sangam or confluence of three movements: the labour movement, the cooperative movement and the women’s movement. It is a movement of self-employed workers with women as leaders. Through their own movement, women become strong, visible and their remarkable economic and social contributions become recognized. 

4.   Membership Profile

SEWA has a membership base of 6,88,743 women workers in seven states of India. The majority of SEWA’s members i.e. 4,68,445 live in the state of Gujarat in north-western India and half of SEWA’s members come from the rural areas of India.


2004 Sewa Membership

All India Membership

688743
Gujarat Membership 468445

All-India Membership Year – 2004

State Membership
 Gujarat 4,68,445
 Bihar  
SEWA Munger 1,265
SEWA Bhagalpur 1,463
 Delhi  
SEWA Delhi 847
 Rajasthan  
SEWA Bikaner  500
 Madhya Pradesh  
SEWA Madhya Pradesh/Indore 1,66,223
SEWA Chattarpur  
 Uttar Pradesh  
SEWA Lucknow  49,000
 Kerala  
Trivendrum 1,000
Total Membership of SEWA: 6,88,743



SEWA’s Trade wise Membership: 2004



Trade Members Trade Members
  28,575 LABOUR & SERVICES  
CLOTH SELLER 365 SOIL WORK 389
CUTLERY SELLER 553 TIN WASHER 172
FISH VENDOR 1,022 TOBACCO WORKER 20,421
FRUITS & VEGETABLES 21,553 HOME BASED 85,976
GARLAND MAKER 108 AGARBATTI ROLLER 8,928
OLD SACKS & TINS 20 BAMBOO WORK 203
OTHER VENDOR 2,702 BANGLES MAKER 8
UTENSILS FOR OLD CLOTHES 2,252 BEAD EMBROIDERY 162
PRODUCERS & SERVICES 40,080 BEAUTY PARLOUR & PRODUCTS 231
AGRICULTURE 9,281 BIDI ROLLER 15,478
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY 10,867 BINDI, ROO NI PUNI MAKER 242
BOOK BINDING & PAPER WORK 39 BLACKSMITH 276
COOKING & VENDING 154 BLOCK PRINTING WORK 122
GUM COLLECTOR 1,425 BOBIN FILLING 3
IRONING CLOTHES & DHOBI 242 BROOM MAKER 117
MIDWIFE 210 CANDLE STICK MAKER 9
MILK PRODUCERS 14,247 CARPENTER 111
PLASTIC-CEMENT BAGS CLEAN 97 CHICKAN EMBROIDERY 8
POULTRY FARM 11 CHINDI & PATCH WORK 268
SALT WORKER 3,288 CUTTING BEATLE NUTS 3
TEACHER 219 EMBROIDERY 26,782
LABOUR & SERVICES 3,13,814 FABRIC PAINTER 3
AGRICULTURAL LABOURER 2,27,345 FIRE CRAKER MAKER 17
CASUAL LABOURER 14,732 FOOD PROCESSOR 27
CLEANER 6,741 GARMENT STITCHER 20,878
COAL WORKER 23 HAIR BAND MAKER 95
CONSTRUCTION WORKER 11,673 JARI WORK 2
CONTRACT LABOUR-FACTORY 3,950 KITE & THREAD WORKER 2,576
CONTRACT LABOUR-READYMADE 424 KNITTING WORK 10
CONTRACT LABOUR-TYE & DYE 3 LEATHER WORKER 31
CONTRACT LABOURER 125 OTHER HOME BASED WORK 6,397
COOKING & CATERING 1,858 PAPAD ROLLER 191
DIAMOND WORKER 532 POTTER 75
FIREWOOD PICKER 9 RAKHI MAKER 1,586
FURNACE WORKER 48 ROPE MAKER 108
HEAD LOADER 3,259 SHELLER-VEGETABLES 42
MILL WORKER 32 SMOCKING WORKER 4
MISCELLANEOUS 846 SOAP MAKER 1
ORGANISER 503 SPICES MAKER 9
PACKING WORK 17 SPINNING WORKER 46
PAPER PICKER 20,165 TOY MAKER 98
SCRAPE PICKER-IRON, PLASTIC 519 TYE & DYE WORKER 455
SEQUENCES ON SAREES 12 WEAVING WORK 374
SHELLER-COTTON PODS 16    
TOTAL MEMBERSHIP : 4,68,445


Gujarat Membership by Trade

Main Categories Of Members No. Of Women Percentage Of Total Membership
Producers & Services 40,080 8.56%
Hawkers & Vendors 28,575 6.10%
Home-based workers 85,976 18.35%
Manual labourers & Service providers 3,13,814 66.99%
Total 4,68,445 100%


Gujarat Membership – Rural – Urban Distribution



Main Categories Of Workers No. Of Women Percentage Of Total Membership
Urban 1,46,746 31.33%
Rural 3,21,699 68.67%
Total 4,68,445 100%





Growth of SEWA’s Membership: 1972-2004 (India)
 

Year Gujarat India
1972 1,070 1,070
1977 1,948 1,948
1982 10,733 10,733
1987 15,144 15,144
1990 25,911 25,911
1991 46,076 46,076
1992 38,136 45,936
1993 42,280 53,570
1994 75,615 1,43,702
1995 1,58,242 2,18,797
1996 1,62,781 2,12,016
1997 1,59,204 2,11,124
1998 1,42,810 2,09,250
1999 1,47,618 2,15,234
2000 2,05,985 3,18,527
2001 2,84,317 4,20,208
2002 5,35,674 6,94,551
2003 4,69,306 7,04,166
2004 4,68,445 6,88,743


 

5.   SEWA’s ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2004

Every year in the month of January SEWA organizes three-day Annual General Meeting. The primary objective of this meeting is to share the activities of past year and the annual plans of the forthcoming year. This year the Annual General Meeting 2004 was organized from January 3 to 5 at SEWA Academy, Manipur. This year, about 1,500 representatives had gathered on the first day of the Annual General meeting. The meeting began with a prayer and playing of homage to the Tsunami victims.

Elaben Bhatt, Founder SEWA spoke to the representatives regarding Empowerment. She said that self-empowerment means to be physically, mentally, and spiritually empowered and it should aim at social service and for the betterment of others. She emphasised that only if we are empowered we can pull others.

Reemaben Nanavaty, Organizer of SEWA Rural Development spoke on market-oriented empowerment and accentuated on the point that if we work on our own we will remain alone. Hence we need to venture into the mainstream.

After lunch break, Elaben spoke on SEWA’s struggle to get recognized as a Central Trade Union. She then talked on the issue and struggle of acquiring recognition as a central Trade Union. In the end she read out the resolution.

The Akashganga Kishori’s then presented a program to celebrate the 100th issue of Akashganga magazine. The girls presented their dreams and ambitions, which were inspired through the magazine.

Then came a serious issue of the vendors in Ahmedabad. Manaliben presented the issue. She stated that the vendors have struggled tremendously this year. Hence there was a decline in their membership.

In the end, Namrataben said that this struggle would continue this year. Our union and the women should remain as one in this crisis. We need everyone’s cooperation for this. The first day of the Annual General Meeting ended with the song “Ame paar karishu”.

 
Self Employed Women's Association
SEWA Reception Centre, Opp. Victoria Garden, Bhadra, Ahmedabad - 380 001. India.
Phone : 91-79-25506444 / 25506477 / 25506441, Fax : 91 - 79 - 25506446, Email :mail@sewa.org
     
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