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  • A Historic Day for Street Vendors

  • SEWA at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva

  • Workshop on 'Organizing the Unorganized' by ITUC & SEWA

  • SEWA honored with the Jacques Diouf Award

  • VimoSEWA's fifth Annual General Meeting

  • SEWA's Intervention gains police support

  • SEWA's effort on eradication of the exercise of sex determination and abortions

  • SEWA News

No. 53 | September 2013
H2 Side A Historic Day for Street Vendors

SEWA sisters celebrated a victory. Lok Sabha on 6th September 2013 passed the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 in order to protect the rights of the street vendors in urban areas. The Bill provides for protection of livelihoods rights, social security of street vendors, regulation of urban street vending in the country and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Provisions of the Bill are aimed at creating a conducive atmosphere where street vendors, are able to carry out their business in a fair and transparent manner, without the fear of harassment and eviction. SEWA has been organizing street vendors since 1972 and this is a historic achievement for us.

The thrust of the Bill is on "natural market", which has been defined under the Bill. The entire planning exercise has to ensure that the provision of space or area for street vending is reasonable and consistent with existing natural markets. Thus, natural locations where there is a constant congregation of buyers and sellers will be protected under the Bill.

The Bill provides for constitution of a Town Vending Authority in each Local Authority, which is the fulcrum of the Bill, for implementing the provisions of the Bill and in order to ensure participatory decision making for aspects relating to street vending activities.

The Bill provides for a survey of all existing street vendors, and subsequent survey at-least once in every five years, and issue of certificate of vending to all the street vendors identified in the survey. It has also been provided that in case a street vendor, to whom a certificate of vending is issued, dies or suffers from any permanent disability or is ill, one of his family member i.e. spouse or dependent child can vend in his place, till the validity of the certificate of vending. The vendors have pay fees for the issuance of their identity cards.

There is a provision for establishment of an independent dispute redressal mechanism under the chairmanship of retired judicial officers to maintain impartiality towards grievance redressal of street vendors. For vendors of SEWA Delhi an appellate authority has been established and its experience has been phenomenal.

SEWA's journey for street vendors begins from way back in 1972. Here are a few highlights of the work undertaken by SEWA:

  • In 1981 SEWA filed a case in the Supreme Court for the street vendors of Danapit bazaar of Manekchowk in Ahmedabad.

  • In 1988, as a member of the parliament, Elaben had presented a resolution in the upper house, demanding formulation of a National Policy for the street vendors in India and thereby making them an integral part of the urban policies and planning. She also suggested appropriate measures to protect their existing livelihood and for provision of available space to sell their goods in the urban areas. The government should give them legal status by issuing licenses and providing exclusive hawking zones. These vendors are not demanding any subsidy or jobs from the government, but simply asking for "Do Tokri Ki Jagaah" (place for keeping two baskets).

  • In 2001 SEWA Bharat along with the Ministry of Urban Development conducted a conference which lead to the establishment of a task force for creating a National Policy for Street Vendors.

  • In 2004 the National Policy for Street Vendors was declared.

  • In 2009 the National Policy for Street Vendors was revised.

  • In 2010, SEWA demanded for the formation of a National Law for street vendors.

  • In 2012 in the presence of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Urban Development a presentation was made to make important provisioning for vendors in the Bill.

  • In 2013 Lok Sabha passed the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 in order to protect the rights of the street vendors in urban areas. This bill lies pending in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States).

H2 Side SEWA at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva

A Tripartite Meeting of Experts was held on 21st and 22nd September 2013 by ILO in Geneva to serve as part of the preparatory work for the standard-setting item placed on the agenda of the 103rd Session (June 2014) of the International Labour Conference on facilitating transitions from the informal to the formal economy with a view to the elaboration of a Recommendation. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite U.N. agency with government, employer, and worker representatives. This tripartite structure makes ILO a unique forum in which the governments and the social partners of the economy of its 185 Member States can freely and openly debate and elaborate labour standards and policies.

Renanaben Jhabvala and Manaliben Shah represented SEWA at this meeting and participated as an advisor as well. This tripartite meeting witnessed participation of 12 workers, 12 employers and 24 government representatives.

Some of the issues discussed at the meeting are noted below.

  • Own account workers, are they entrepreneurs or workers? Employers insist they are entrepreneurs/business people. It would be good to have a note on this from Harvard. This should include what own account workers need that is different from entrepreneurs.

  • Employers do not want to include in the scope of discussions informal workers in the formal economy.

    • This is a segment that is growing

    • Some GUFs have concerns re-definition of informal work and the effect this may have on workers in formal establishments.

  • In 2002 the subject of informal workers was discussed in ILO and we did not have a definition but a description of the informal economy and informal employment. In 2006 the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) proposed a definition and the Workers Group proposed to use the ICLS definition but employers opposed this, as they feel that in this definition everyone is a worker.

  • Representation by informal worker organizations in tri-partite bodies. The Workers' Group were hesitant at first. However they agreed to include informal worker representatives in the ranks. Employers opposed this.

    • Domestic Workers Convention includes Domestic Workers Organizations and in Social Protection Floor includes representatives of people concerned.

  • Upgrading conditions of informal workers questioned by employers as they say this will encourage staying in informal economy (unfair competition). They put forward the position that legalizing was the way forward as all rights will then be accorded to workers once the enterprises are formalized.

  • For employers formalization means legalization - a narrow approach

  • Approach of the ILO office: employers emphasized that the approach was skewed towards workers and workers rights - not businesses, which they were not happy with, especially as they put the item on the agenda.

H2 Side Workshop on 'Organizing the Unorganized' by ITUC & SEWA

A three day workshop on 'Organizing the Unorganized' was conducted by ITUC and SEWA from 25th September to 27th September, 2013 in Ahmedabad. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is the world's largest trade union federation. It represents 176 million workers in 156 countries and territories and has 325 national affiliates. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is the global voice of the world's working people. This workshop witnessed participation from ITUC affiliates across the world, representatives from ITUC offices and members from the SEWA's National Council.

Elaben Bhatt the Founder of SEWA in her welcome speech to the union representatives started off by paying respect to the first labour leader and social activist Anasuyaben Sarabhai. She stated how SEWA had to struggle for many years to establish its identity as a union. This all happened at the time when women barely received any recognition for their work. In times of struggle and development a distinctive strategy of having a trade union and co-operatives was adapted. SEWA has struggled for 40 years but due to its firmness and organizational strength the questions of women workers have gained visibility and SEWA has received a nod as a national union. Now with the efforts of ITUC, labour organizations of informal workers have started strengthening.

Two main topics discussed at the ITUC Congress 2014 were:

  • To ensure momentum for the unions it is important to organize.

  • Importance of legal rights wherein there is right to create an organization and have collective bargaining power. This collective bargaining power will not be limited to 'owner-worker relationship' but will extend to the Police, Municipal Corporation and Government Departments. In this way the meaning of collective bargaining power should be kept extensive.

International Labour Organization (ILO) will be holding a discussion on 'Formalizing the Informal Economy' in 2014. For this purpose a questionnaire is required to be filled by the governments of member nations, national organizations, owners and unions should specifically highlight the experiences of the unorganized sector. Secondly it is very important to stick together, organize and undertake campaigns.

The workshop ended on a very high note of enthusiasm and follow up on several issues.

H2 Side SEWA honored with the Jacques Diouf Award

In recognition for its innovative and dedicated efforts to lift extremely poor women out of poverty and hunger, SEWA was presented with the Jacques Diouf Award on 15th June 2013 by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at its 38th conference in Rome.

The award was presented by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva to SEWA. He congratulated SEWA in its endeavor for its innovative and dedicated efforts to lift poor women out of poverty and hunger. He said SEWA's model is an inspiration and ideal for other NGOs who are working towards the same cause.

Accepting the award on behalf of its 1.7 million members, Reemaben Nanavaty, Director, Rural Organizing and Economic Development at SEWA, said the award is a great motivation. "I dedicate this award to all the women who are fighting poverty and finding food security and financial self-reliance collectively," she says.

SEWA shares the award with the European Commission, which has also been working to reduce poverty and ensure food security in 50th countries across the world.

H2 Side VimoSEWA's fifth Annual General Meeting

On 27th September 2013 the fifth Annual General Meeting of the National Insurance VimoSEWA Cooperative Ltd was arranged at Chanda Nivas in Ahmedabad. The total membership of this co-operative as on 31st March 2013 was registered at 6018 members. Of which 6005 are individual members and 13 are institutional members. In comparison to the previous year there has been 16 percent increase in premium amount in the current year.

The main achievements of the cooperative for the year 2012-13 are listed below:

  • In this year, a total of 71,168 women, 17,113 men and 12,919 children received premium worth Rs 1,84,47,518.

  • Profit for the cooperative was registered at Rs 10, 68,059.

  • During this year several representatives from organizations of Afganisthan, Kazakhstan and Bangladesh visited VimoSEWA.

  • In this year under the Indian Government's Foreign Department work in countries such as South Africa, Ethopia, Tanzania, Ghana and Senegal was trusted over to VimoSEWA Cooperative.

  • To increase the coverage of insurance services the Savings Association started developing savings related life insurance scheme. This is happening with the support of the International Finance Corporation.

  • Total of 3115 people received insurance training across Ahmedabad city and district, Rajasthan, Gandhinagar, Gujarat and SEWA Bharat.

  • Women workers are given health, life, accidental death as well as insurance for damage to property. Through this 3,323 claims were passed issuing Rs 1,56,95,159. Total 456 claims were declined.

  • SEWA will be a part of a study on micro insurance to be undertaken across 51 nations by a German based institution. At the international level this is considered as a big success.

VimoSEWA is a blessing for the poor

Sushilaben resided in Multhan village of Indore district with her husband and two kids. Her husband worked as a factory labourer while she herself was a vegetable vendor. Both were members of micro-insurance. She had taken loan worth Rs 10,000 on 30th October,2012 for her vegetable vending business. Under the policy of the co-operative both husband and wife were associated with the VimoSEWA insurance scheme. On 13th Februrary 2013 their hut caught fire. Unfortunately both of them passed away. Having received information about this incident VimoSEWA completed its legality and issued claim worth Rs 20,000 to their children. This money helped the children in rehabilitation of their home and meet day to day expenses.

Dinaben from Visalpur village of Ahmedabad District worked as a farm labourer and her husband as a casual labourer. Dinaben has been associated with VimoSEWA since the past five years and has taken insurance covering her family. One day she experienced cough, cold and breathlessness. She was hospitalized and the medical expenses expanded. For a day to day wage earner like her how can there be any kind of savings? Under these circumstances VimoSEWA paid the hospitalization expenses. Today Dinaben is grateful to VimoSEWA and its team for saving her from the vicious cycle of debt.

Jayshreeben Vyas, MD SEWA Bank congratulated VimoSEWA on its five major achievements

  • For being the world's first National Insurance Co-operative.
  • More than 1 lakh people have availed insurance services.
  • Receiving premium worth two crore rupees.
  • For having capital worth rupees four crores and
  • Making profit of Rs 10 lakhs.

H2 Side SEWA's Intervention gains police support

Near Kharicut canal in Ahmedabad exists a natural market that consisted of 140 vendors. They had limited space to vend when additional 20 vendors joined them. Police harassment increased and this affected the income of the vendors. SEWA leaders approached the police inspectors and explained them the gravity of the situation. This resulted in establishment of a police station near the market ensuring peace and happiness for the vendors and the buyers and eradication of anti social elements present in the vicinity. Thus due to SEWA's efforts vendors gained sufficient space to accommodate all and the support of the police resulted in a happy atmosphere for the vendors and buyers.

H2 Side SEWA's effort on eradication of the exercise of sex determination and abortions

Currently incidences of sex determination and abortions are on an alarming rise. At the local level in SEWA Academy this subject was discussed with great emphasizes in the literacy classes. To spread awareness amongst women on sex determination and abortion, to ensure its extensive reach and to figure out how women can contribute to this problem a discussion was held on 7th September 2013 at SEWA's Rural Training Centre in Manipur Ahmedabad on the celebration of World Literacy Day. An understanding of the laws of sex determination, laws for women and information on employment oriented trainings was imparted. This programme witnessed participation from 600 women belonging to rural and urban areas.

H2 Side SEWA News

Increase in Wage Rate: SEWA Ajmer

SEWA Ajmer has been successful in increasing the wages of 4000 bidi workers of the city. From Rs 90 for 1000 bidis rolled the wages have now increased to Rs 100 for 1000 bidis. This increase in wages didn't happen overnight. With persistent efforts by SEWA leaders, demands put forth with the owners and a long continued struggle SEWA was successful in increasing the wages for bidi rollers. In the 2009 when SEWA started organizing bidi workers in Ajmer the rate for 1000 bidis rolled was Rs 45, in 2010 it increased to Rs 60, in 2011 it rose to Rs 70 thereafter it increased to Rs 90.

Recession observed in stitching work: SEWA Ahmedabad

Recession is been observed amongst home based stitching work across Ahmedabad city. The main reasons behind decline in work are the changing fashion trends, increase in job work outlets and more men engaged in this work. Secondly the recession hit more due to prolonged renovation work in the old bhadra area of Ahmedabad city where these workers would sell their products. Since the workers were forced to move out of Bhadra area the mediators replaced them and starting selling directly. Home based stitching workers have no skill up gradation facilities which result in less work security and lesser income security.

Obstacles in receiving scholarship for children of bidi workers

Under the Beedi Welfare Law, children of bidi workers are entitled to receiving scholarship. This enables several thousand children to receive higher education. Beedi Labourer's Welfare Association sanctions scholarships only to those students with Aadhar Card numbers. However the bidi workers have to undertake several visits to the Aadhar card office to acquire the card. Since this card is for all the citizens of Gujarat the queues to acquire the same are huge which results into overcrowding. SEWA met up with the Beedi Welfare Commissioner to discuss this issue and voiced the need to address this problem by supplying Aadhar cards for bidi workers either at Beedi Welfare office or Beedi Hospitals.

Afghan women visit SEWA

Recently 26 Afghani women visited SEWA Unnat Bazar to receive training in food processing, garments and embroidery. Out of which 9 women received food processing training over a span of 45 days, 12 women received garment training over 3 months and 5 women received embroidery training for 1 month. Afghani women are not allowed to step out of their homes and hence are deprived of any kind of training. They informed the SEWA team that through television, Bagh-e-Zanana and Ministry of Women Affairs they found out about SEWA's endeavors.

Post the trainings women expressed their desire to attend college and financially help their families. They expressed their desire to be trained in mobile and radio repairing to enable them to work out of home. Trainings have boosted their self confidence, unity and co-operation.

Experiences of SEWA members: Capacity building through trainings

SEWA Academy undertakes several trainings such as organizing, accounting, literacy, leadership for poor women workers. Experiences of SEWA members have been shared below.

Indravatiben post one such training narrated her experience. My name is Indravatiben. I cut threads of cloth. In a two day training program I first and foremost learnt the importance of prayers. SEWA women showed a program on savings to us. This gave me an understanding of savings and the strength of a women's organization.

After being trained, a scarf worker from Surat named Sarikaben described how difficulties can be overcome by working in harmony and unity with each other. By being a part of the organization, strength, knowledge and newer ways to work are availed. She described an incident where she paid Rs 10 to a rickshaw driver on the first day for her commute and the next day on being asked to pay for Rs 20 for the same commute she reciprocated to the unfair fee charged.

Madhuben a sweeper from Kankaria area of Ahmedabad narrated how she had heard the word 'membership' for the first time after being associated with SEWA. To be a part of the organization membership fee has to be paid. A membership gives voice and identity to an individual and brings solutions to their problems. Through various training programs imparted by SEWA our capacity building and confidence has boosted.

SEWA Federation organized a gathering

A gathering to understand the achievements and challenges of the women in the service sector was held on 7th September 2013 by the Gujarat State Mahila SEWA Cooperative Federation in Ahmedabad. 52 women participated in this gathering. This gathering focused on meeting the cut throat challenges faced by the cooperative in tough times and increasing professional standards with change in quality and capability of work and adding skills. A report on the work undertaken by SEWA Federation in the past 20 years was released.

SEWA fights for injustice

An incident occurred in the New Cloth Market of Ahmedabad where Varjuben Thakor worked persistently over the years. She narrated, 'Today I am 27 years old. We get plenty of work but not sufficient returns. Once I approached the owner and informed him to pay us in accordance with our labour and nothing less than that. Instead of increasing our wages the owner refused to give us any further work. After having given up on this issue I spoke to a SEWA Leader. This leader filed a complaint with SEWA's law department. Legally my complaint was registered with the tripartite board of the New Cloth Market and the hearing took place. SEWA fought my case. An application was submitted with the Head Loaders Board. With the support of SEWA sisters I was fortunate to regain my work. Today I continue to work at the same place along with my two sons. Hence we earn our bread and butter with dignity.'

SEWA's Green Livelihood Campaign

The green livelihoods at SEWA comprise of forestry, vermiculture, water harvesting, operations and maintenance of water resources and rural infrastructure. SEWA promotes the use of vermi compost and organic farming. Varshaben of Sangad village of Kutch district in Gujarat says, 'I propagate the information on the use of eco stoves and solar lights in different villages. Members across several villages now know about eco stoves and its usage. Farmers have started reaping better crops due to the use of vermi compost manure. In Amadara village of Sangad district 10 farmer members used vermi compost manure to cultivate rice. The farmers are happy with the quality of their produce. This makes my green campaign even greener!!'

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