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  • Struggle through campaigns: SEWA Madhya Pradesh

  • SEWA Co-operatives

No. 51 | July 2013
H2 Side Struggle through campaigns: SEWA Madhya Pradesh

Struggle and development is the way that SEWA has grown and empowered its members. SEWA Madhya Pradesh (MP), focuses on struggle through campaigns reaching out to a large number of the poorest women in India. In 2012 the total membership of SEWA MP reached 5, 50,640 women members, including Homebased workers like bidi rollers, tribal forest workers and migrant construction labourers.

SEWA MP Membership Details

Workers Membership
Home based workers 1,07,553
Forest workers 1,70,013
Construction workers 1,26,322
Hawkers and vendors 23,247
Agricultural workers 81,947
Domestic workers 37,898
Other workers 3660
Total Membership 5,50,640


Campaign for an identity

Every person needs an identity but the poorest women workers are invisible and unrecognized. The first struggle is to ensure recognition. With recognition comes self-worth, a willingness to struggle; with recognition comes inclusion in government policies; recognition is the first step to empowerment.

SEWA MP organizes to ensure that workers get an identity card from an official entity which leads to a concrete benefit.

Occupation No. of Identity Cards Official entity
Construction worker 9464 Madhya Pradesh Construction Workers Board
Hawkers 3720 Municipal Corporation
Bidi makers 5000 Bidi workers Welfare Board
Domestic workers 4320 Municipal Corporation
Forest workers 6686 Madhya Pradesh Laghu Vanopaj Sangh
Agricultural labourers 179  
Job Card 555 NREGA
KisanVikasPatra 177 Department of Agriculture
Total 30,101  

Campaign for social security

Although there is no clear social security system in India there is a vast network of various government schemes. These schemes are difficult to access and the large amount of funds spent by government is often wasted. SEWA MP organizes its members to get access of these schemes through various departments and this access serves as a (rather frayed) social security system.

The following table reflects the benefits availed by the members through various schemes in 2012:

No. Schemes No of Women Amount (Rs)
1 Subsidy for Marriage Expense 199 19,90,000
2 Medical Benefit 726 21,58,875
3 Scholarship 1897 19,88,300
4 Pension 261 39,150
5 Housing Subsidy 52 -
6 Others 690 26,64,000
Total   3825 88,40,325

Through SEWA MP, 2700 children were given polio medicines, medical checkup camps were organized in 28 residential areas, 185 cataract operations were undertaken, 850 members received spectacles, 600 members were distributed free of cost medicines and DDT sprayed across 20 villages benefitting 2050 families.

Campaign for the right to work:

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household. In 2013 the Central Government within the NREGA decided on Rs 146 as labour wages.

Since the past five years SEWA MP has been consistently making efforts to link its women members with NREGA and avail its benefits. As a practice in rural areas the job cards are usually in the custody of the sarpanch. SEWA MP works towards restoring of the job cards to its members, filling applications for the members and their families and ensuring 100 days of employment.

With the efforts of SEWA MP, 306 families received employment for 100 days. The income generated through this employment was marked at Rs 28,02,000. SEWA MP through NREGA helped 1839 workers receive work worth Rs 25, 70,807, 1798 applications were made and benefits through various schemes were availed.

Case Study:

My name is Sone Singh. I am a resident of Vamni village of Damoh district in MP. My family comprises of six members. I work as a labourer. I did labour work for a period of 25 days with NREGA. My total remuneration came to Rs 3300. I wasn't paid a single penny for my work. In spite to contacting the sarpanch and the secretary about the issue no action was taken. During this time period due to lack of funds the financial condition of my family deteriorated. Since my grocery was brought on credit my debt on it also increased.

One day I met SEWA MP workers Balubhai and Jitmalbhai. I informed them about my impending agony. They persistently worked towards solving my problem. They met up with the sarpanch of the village and discussed my issue further. They questioned the sarpanch on why the money which should have been distributed in 15 days post work completion yet not been given. In this way due to SEWA's intervention and consistent efforts my wages were paid. I am grateful to SEWA for its selfless service!!

  Our forest campaign

Traditionally forest workers start collecting tendu leaves during its prime season, that is April and May. Every year SEWA MP undertakes a campaign to improve and empower tendu leaf pickers. This includes increasing their rates, ensuring that their collections are properly recorded, wages are paid in full and making sure that they receive all benefits like bonuses and insurance due to them.

In addition this year to improve the quality of the leaves the MP Rajya Laghu Vanopaj Sangh through primary co-operative societies undertook the work of trimming the branches of the tendu patta trees. Many a times labourers were brought from outside the villages to undertake this work. SEWA MP kept a close vigilance to make sure that employment was given to the villagers themselves.

SEWA MP undertook its tendu leaf campaign across 9 districts. This campaign enabled 1294 members to earn Rs 12, 13,620 through the work of trimming tendu trees.

Case Study: Sukalipura Village, MP, Mandari Gram Panchayat

During a village meet of Mandari Gram Panchayat at Sukalipura Village the tribal women said, "Since years we are in possession of the land and have built kachcha houses on it. The officers and rangers of the forest department often threaten us to vacant the land. They threaten to fine or jail us. Our families live in constant fear of losing our homes. During this time we heard of 'The Forest Rights Act 2006' and made efforts to get our lease deeds ready."

Workers of SEWA MP met the secretary and questioned him about the delay in distribution of the deeds. He reciprocated saying he kept the deeds for building huts. SEWA MP workers suggested him to return the original copies to the women and possess only the photo copies.

The secretary was given detailed information on SEWA's work and activities. He immediately distributed the lease contracts to 11 people. The villagers showed immense gratitude to SEWA workers. There after the sarpanch and the Secretary of the village turned cooperative towards the villagers and SEWA.

Campaign for fair wages

SEWA union's first and most important campaign is for the increase and fair payment of wages. Informal workers are paid extremely low rates and often minimum wages does not exist for them. When it does, it is not paid. SEWA MP has been active to bargain for increased wages and ensure that workers are not cheated and their wages are paid to them. This year we were able to ensure a good increase in wages of tendu leaf collectors and bidi workers, leading to widespread benefits.

Increase in Minimum Wages

Occupation Per day wages in the past 2011 (Rs) Per day wages in 2012 (Rs) Total Membership
Betel nut cutting 60 100 960
Kurkure packing 50 75 -
Tamarind sauce packing 60 100 811
Agarbatti making 80 120 4011
Agarbatti perfume packing 100 116 1012
Tendupatta 65 75 1,70,013
Bidi 56 90 50,811

The following workers had not been paid their dues. SEWA MP intervened and ensured that they received their payments.

No. Occupation No of members Amount (Rs)
1 Tendupatta collectors 1920 11,340
2 Bidi workers 997 5,59,697
3 Incense stick workers 327 47,892
4 Domestic workers 72 30,789
5 Construction workers 232 2,34,978
6 Others 178 99,343
Total   3726 9,84,039

Food security campaign

A campaign was initiated by SEWA MP to ensure that food from the ration shop reach the poor. Information regarding the state of things was collected from different districts of MP. Executives and representatives of SEWA Madhya Pradesh were educated and trained about the Food Protection Act and their rights. Dialogues were carried out with the food commissioner about ration cards and its situation. These dialogues encouraged provisioning of ration cards to the women left out.

In rural areas it is a normal practice to open ration shops at different timings. This practice facilitates the shop owners to black-market their products. SEWA representatives imposed restrictions on black marketing and presented a letter to the ration contractor in the collector's office.

Initially ration quota was given for a period of three months. But it is not realistic to expect people who barely earn two meals a day to pay for three months. Hence discussions were carried out with the food contractor and SEWA MP was successful in getting the three month quota cancelled. Thereby encouraging ration shops to be kept open through the day.

In the district of Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh inhabitants falling in the poverty line were sold rotten rice. This incident was narrated by the women to SEWA MP Executive Draupatiben. She was shown the poor quality of grain sold at the shop. She marched rural women to the house of legislator and surrounded him. Next day Draupatiben and the legislator personally and vigilantly distributed the new stock of rice.

In Chanpura village of Indore the ration shop is located 10 kilometers away from the village. Due to this the villagers were unaware of the shop timings, arrival of the ration and the availability of the stock. This gave the owner an escape route and enabled him to sell the goods through the black market. Taking into account the difficulty and issues faced by the people of Chanpura, SEWA MP presented a letter to the food contractor. This facilitated in opening of the ration shop in Chanpura village providing enough ration to all the villagers.

In another incident ration shop owners were not providing kerosene to women. This matter was discussed with SEWA MP workers. SEWA workers questioned the ration dealers on this matter. The owners reasoned that supplying kerosene to women made them sell it in the black market. A solution to this matter was found by SEWA MP and women were provided with kerosene on their ration cards.

In the ration shops of Shastri Ward and Vijay Nagar Ward of Sagar District, MP black marketing of kerosene is prevalent. In spite of availability of kerosene the owner refused to give it to the women resulting in a fight between them. In this scuffle the owner slapped the husband of one of the woman. Immediately SEWA workers were called upon and they threatened the owner of police intervention. The councilor was informed about this over the phone who ordered the shop to be opened and the sale of kerosene to be resumed.

Similarly in Dhar district of MP few general and poverty line ration cards were received and few ration card forms were filled. Killa Medan Zone of Indore district had an issue of not issuing ration cards. The zonal officer was not ready to offer ration card to women leaders. Hence SEWA MP intervened by contacting the zonal officer and exchanging dialogues with them. This resulted in issuing of ration cards for widows and women reaching adulthood and destitute.

Campaign for water and sanitation

Water and sanitation are crucial to the lives of women in maintaining cleanliness, good health and ensuring drinking water. However in poor colonies these basic infrastructures are often not available. SEWA MP members mobilize to obtain basic infrastructure.

Services Benefitted families Activities
Drinking water 17,717 67 hand pumps were repaired and installed, 4 tanks were deepened, 4 new bores were made and 8 tankers of water were made available.
Sanitation 15,350 Cleanliness campaign across 83 areas was undertaken.
Electricity 1600 250 electricity poles were installed.
Roads 1160 Roads were built in several areas of MP.
H2 Side SEWA Co-operatives

There are 105 SEWA co-operatives. Each of the SEWA co-operatives have their annual general meeting every year. They review the progress they have made and make plans for the next year. It honors all the pioneers who have helped in building the co-operative. June is the month of SEWA Co-operative Annual General Meetings.

SEWA's Tree Growers Cooperative
Shri Vanlaxmi Ganeshpura Mahila SEWA Vruksh Utpadak Sahakari Mandali Ltd is the first tree growers cooperative of Gujarat. The cooperative has been successful in making land arable. It has made its own boar well. Since last 10 years organic farming is undertaken. This has given rise to Ecotourism and Greenhouse centre at Ganeshpura. Soil test was conducted by Shrusti Foundation and consequently since the last seven years it has encouraged organic farming through exhibits. Education, science and research centres were set up due to the rich medicines and herbs growing in the village.


  • In 2011-12, 223 groups and 4134 tourists visited Ganeshpura.
  • Annual income of Rs 3, 40, 440 and net profit of Rs 1, 57, 267 was registered.

Shri Gujarat Mahila Video SEWA Mahiti Communication Sahakari Mandali Ltd
Video SEWA formed Shri Gujarat Mahila Video SEWA Mahiti Communication Sahakari Mandali Ltd in 2002. The aim behind forming the cooperative is to bring about a visibility amongst the policy makers at a macro level regarding the socio-economic conditions of the informal sector, issues which are waiting to be addressed to and what remains to be done for their improvement through the medium of technology. The documentaries prepared by the cooperative aims to educate individuals on various issues and develop them through trainings.

Activities of the cooperative are listed below:

  • In 2011-12 the co-operative received an award from the Gujarat Rajya Sahkari Sangh for its performance.
  • 158 programs were shot, 26 films were completed, 136 women and girls received 6 photography trainings.
  • Through 4 video replay trainings 98 women were trained.
  • Total of 467 video replays reached an audience of 22,745 people.
  • Net profit for the year was registered at Rs 1, 45,191.

SEWA's Health Cooperative: Shri Gujarat Mahila Lok Swasthya SEWA Sahakari Mandali Ltd
Consistently since the past 23 years SEWA's health cooperative has been providing life-saving, preventive health information/education, appropriate curative services to women and their families. These healthcare services have spread across Gujarat and other states of India.

The following are the details of activities undertaken:

  • The cooperative received an award from Gujarat Rajya Sahakari Sangh in 2011-12.
  • Post trainings the dayan (midwives) of the village became local doctors.
  • A case study on the work and contribution of SEWA's women health workers was featured in a book published by UNICEF.
  • Total profit from the sale of 4 medical shops was accounted at Rs 2,87,83,386.
  • 150 women members made sales worth Rs 3,44,782.
  • 900 members were imparted health education, 6999 members were linked with Vimo SEWA receiving premium worth Rs 33, 18,780 and claims worth Rs 17,75,514 were issued to the women.

SEWA's Shaishav Child Care Workers Cooperative

In Kheda district, Shaishav Child Care Workers' Cooperatives is running centres for 0 to 6 year old children of tobacco workers and agricultural labourers.

The following activities have been undertaken through the year:

  • 7 daughters of childcare centre received nursing training in Coimbatore and eventually practiced nursing in a reputed hospital.
  • The cooperative received second prize from Gujarat Rajya Sahakari Sangh for its Excellent Performance.
  • The profit of the cooperative was registered at Rs 3,19,300.
  • 845 children were taken care of across 20 centres.

Shri Swashrayi Mahila Shramshakti Dayan Co-op. Ltd.

In Anand district women are mostly associated with the work of tobacco farming. They work continuously for 8 to 10 hours a day. This lead to several respiratory problems and miscarriages amongst women. The cooperative imparted technical trainings to the midwives of the village to help increase their work efficiency and save more lives.

The following activities were undertaken through the year:

  • 17750 members were sent medicines and 30 midwives were trained.
  • 7000 pregnant women received vaccinations, 6 general camps were arranged, 3000 members received healthcare training and polio campaign was carried out actively.
  • Through 176 camps 6088 men and women got their eye surgeries.
  • Profit worth Rs 2,60,556 was registered.

Shri Saundarya Safai Utkarsh Mahila SEWA Sahakari Mandali Ltd

Country's first cleaners cooperative known as Shri Saundarya Safai Utkarsh Mahila SEWA Sahakari Mandali was set up 27 years ago.

The following activities were undertaken through the year:

  • Total turnover recorded was 87 lakhs.
  • Total membership is 313 members. Out of which 200 members are actively working.
  • Cleaning contracts of private companies and government institutions are given to the women.
  • Women have been trained with modern resources, linked with pension schemes and provided with CUG phone facilities.

Shri Matyagandha Mahila SEWA Sahakari Mandali Ltd

SEWA's fish co-operative was established 25 years back with the aim of linking fisher women directly with the manufacturer enabling them to receive goods at a cheaper and reasonable rate, acquiring high quality goods sellable at a good profit. This is the first women's cooperative of its kind.

Activities undertaken by the cooperative through the year are as follows:

  • 53 fisher women received legal space to vend under Chamunda bridge of Ahmedabad.
  • Women have benefitted by linking themselves with government schemes and manufacturers.
  • The cooperative now owns its office and transportation vehicle.
  • This year a total sale of Rs 27,00,000 was registered. 60 women received livelihood worth 17 lakhs.

Construction Workers Cooperative

Globalization and mechanization have greatly affected the livelihood of women construction workers. Rachaita Construction Workers' Mahila SEWA Cooperative was set up, keeping in mind, the needs of women construction workers. The main aim of this cooperative is to ensure that these women develop the capacity to get work on regular basis, in the era of globalization and mechanization. They are given proper training so that they can be connected to the latest technology, in the market. The cooperative intends to facilitate the association of women construction workers with the construction market, for the purpose of their livelihood.

The activities undertaken through the year have been mentioned below:

  • Masonry work was undertaken by women of the cooperative at five Safal company sites.
  • Women constructed two floors of Narayani Hospital and worked on Gandhi Mandir structure in Gujarat.
  • The cooperative has its own library of instruments. Members can rent them as reasonable prices. 300 women have been linked with insurance.
  • In 2012, totally 603 women received employment.
  • Turnover worth rupees one crore ten lakhs was noted of which 80 percent reached the women.

Shri Krishna Dayan Mandali Ltd

A midwives' cooperative, Shri Krishna Dayan Mandali, provides Health and lnsurance services to women.

Activities undertaken through the year:

  • The death ratio of the mother and child has decreased.
  • Discrimination between the boy and girl child has reduced.
  • Sense of cleanliness has increased during childbirth.

The Sangini Mahila Bal SEWA Cooperative

The cooperative was registered in 1986 with the aim to provide full time child care services for the children of SEWA members, all workers of the informal economy.

Activities undertaken through the year have been listed below:

  • The cooperative received second prize from Gujarat Rajya Sahakari Sangh.
  • Fathers participation has increased by 50 percent in parent meets.
  • 30% public contribution has been registered in the cooperative.
  • 460 children of the cooperative have taken admission in the first standard.

SEWA's Geetanjali Cooperative

Shri Gitanjali Mahila SEWA Industrial Stationary Producers Cooperatives Ltd was established in 1995 and is involved in the manufacturing of various paper products made from recycled waste paper. The objectives of the cooperative are to reduce and recycle waste, to provide an alternate livelihood and to teach new skills to waste pickers who are its members. The waste pickers are mostly women,who pick out recyclable materials from mixed waste to create hand crafted products.

Activities undertaken through the year are as follows:

  • Approximately 300 women have been given trainings to make products from recycled paper.
  • Samples of the cooperative received much appreciation in Washington DC.
  • The cooperative provides files to International Stationery Store 'Staple'and writing pads for Gift Links in Bangalore.
  • Currently spring files are sent to Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Bangalore, Gudgeon and Kolkata.
  • Door to door waste collection work is undertaken in three areas of Ahmedabad.
  • In future the cooperative is looking at providing employment to 300 women.

SEWA Home Care Sahakari Mandali Limited

SEWA's Home Care Women's Cooperative Ltd provides four types of services such as child care, old age care, patient care and domestic help. Trainings in the use of modern equipments are imparted to the women. Such trainings increase their proficiency in work. The aim of the cooperative to ensure employment to 500 women in the coming three years.

Suchit SEWA Dora Sundari Mandali

In July-August 2011 the procedure to register SEWA's thread shop was initiated. The name of the cooperative is Dora Sundari which means beautiful thread. Currently in Juhapura area of Ahmedabad this shop is operational. Threads, bobbins, scissors, oil, needles and canvas are sold at this shop at cheaper rates. At present a monthly sale of Rs 30,000 is registered.

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