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  • Many awards for SEWA: Reemaben, Renanaben and Jyotsnaben

  • Social Security for headloaders: SEWA's efforts raise social security fund

  • Celebrating increase in the wages of Bidi Workers

  • Domestic workers demand ratification of ILO Convention 189

  • SEWA's Community Radio

No. 49 | April - May 2013
H2 Side Many awards for SEWA: Reemaben, Renanaben and Jyotsnaben

This year SEWA is proud that three of its long-time workers—three pillars of SEWA-- received national recognition for their work. The recognition awarded to them is a reflection of their commitment and dedication. It is equally a recognition of the hopes, aspirations, struggles and achievements of the many members of SEWA.

Reemaben Nanavaty receives the Padma Shri

Reemaben Nanavaty the Director of Rural Organizing and Economic Development at Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), working for the economic development of SEWA members, received the Padma Shri award from the president of India Pranab Mukherjee on 20th April, 2013. The awards were announced in January this year and conferred at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in a ceremony in New Delhi.

Born on May 22, 1964 in Ahmedabad, Reemaben graduated in science from Gujarat University and was selected to IAS services of Government of India.

Reemaben started her work with the women in the desert areas of Patan and Banaskantha, bringing them into the SEWA fold and linking them with the market to enhance their incomes. Reemaben is credited with building popular brands of SEWA like Rudi and Hansiba of organic food products and fashion apparels respectively. Over the last decade, she has helped victims of 2001 earthquake and 2002 communal riots in association with the State and Government of India under projects like Jeevika and Shantha respectively. She currently works in war-torn countries of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to rehabilitate war widows and their families.

  Renanaben Jhavala was honored by India Today Woman Summit & Awards 2013

Renanaben Jhavala the National Coordinator of SEWA, and President of SEWA Bharat, received an award for 'India Today Woman in Public Service' from India Today Woman Summit & Awards 2013 held at The Hyatt Regency in New Delhi on April 19, 2013. Prominent women speakers from all walks of life spoke on various topics related to women's issues. The awards were given out to those women who had done revolutionary work while helping bring about a change in society.

After completing her post-graduate studies in Economics from Yale University Renanaben joined SEWA in 1977 as an Organizer first when SEWA was just five years old and worked with women workers stitching quilts forming the first Co-operative in SEWA. In 1981 she was elected the Secretary of SEWA under Elaben Bhatt and organized bidi workers, tobacco and agriculture workers, garment workers and many others. Later she worked to spread SEWA to other States including Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, UP and Delhi. She has been active at the international level, representing SEWA at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1995 and 1996 during the discussion on Convention for Home Workers; and subsequently in 2002 during the Resolution on the Informal Economy. At the South Asia level she was instrumental in forming HomeNet South Asia, bringing together organizations in India, Pakistan. Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan working with women home-based workers.

She has been active in many Government committees and task forces which have formulated policies ranging from National Policy for Street Vendors, to the Law for Social Security of Unorganised Workers, to policies for unorganised workers in various States. She has written widely on these issues in journals and newspapers and has co-authored several books. In 1990 she was honored by the Government of India with the Padma Shri award for her contributions in the field of social work.

  Shree Madhya Bharat Sahitya Samiti Award Conferred on Jyotsnaben Milan

Poet, story writer and novelist Jyotsnaben Milan has been a long-standing editor of the women's journal Anasooya (Hindi), published by the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA). She has published collections of poems, books of short stories and novels. She has also written about and translated Gujarati poetry. She brings in novelty, experimentation and imagination in her work. Her stories are woven around women and beautifully depicted in her own unique style of writing. She plays a special role in creating literary, cultural and social awareness.

She has brought her talents to bear for the benefit of SEWA members by making them visible through Anasuya founded in 1986 and for more than 25 years has been the voice of the poor self employed women. In addition to editing the magazine Jyotsnaben conducts workshops on writing for SEWA members and has created a cadre of "grass roots writers" who reflect the reality of women's lives in their areas.

For the year 2012 to acknowledge and respect the work of creation of the Hindi literates Shree Madhya Bharat Hindi Sahitya Samiti decided to honor the most senior Hindi authors Dr Ramadarsh Mishra and Dr Prabhakar Koshtriya and Jyotsnaben Milan. The felicitation function was held on 27th of April 2013 at the Shivaji Bhavan Auditorium in Indore. The chief guest for the function was Mr Vishwanathan Prasad Tiwari the President of the Sahitya Academy Delhi and Mr Dhirendra Pratap Singh, the Vice Chancellor of Devi Ahilya, Indore who presided as the chairperson.

H2 Side Social Security for headloaders: SEWA's efforts raise social security fund

The Cloth Markets and Shop Labor Board was set up to implement (regulation of employment and welfare ) Act, 1979 in the state of Gujarat for the manual workers. The Ahmedabad Cloth Market and Shop Labor Board are tripartite boards where labourers work for wholesalers in the cloth markets and where head loaders and hand cart pullers get their respective dues in terms of social security. These labourers work simultaneously and the registered owners pay levy on the amount of sales for the various plans laid down for the benefits of social security of the unprotected manual workers.

Statistics show the ratio between levy and the amount of social security goes parallel. The more levy the more would be the amount of social security. 'SEWA' has made tremendous efforts to increase levy from 5 lakhs to 15 lakhs and the Labor Commissioner also the president of the Board supported the cause. The campaign was not limited to discussions but was well structured and monitored. The outcome was phenomenal resulting in an increase in the amount of levy to 15 lakhs. This is an historic achievement for the Cloth Market Board.

On behalf of SEWA, Manaliben expressed her views by saying that 15 lakhs of levy of the textile market Board,reflects self reliance and hope for a better future of the trade and market . She recommended the following steps:

  • The Cloth Market is spread across Ahmedabad. It is time to stop restricting the limits of the board within a confined territory. The Board should cover the whole of Ahmedabad so as to benefit the head loaders and hand cart pullers.

  • It is a matter of great honor that the Cloth Market and the Shop Labourers Board is bearing its own Expenditures from this year onwards. With more owners joining the Board and their timely payment of levy, the amount of levy with the Board will increase thereby benefiting more beneficiaries.

  • Under the Shramik Suraksha Yojana of the Government during serious illness, handicap due to accidents and cases of death help is passed on to the beneficiaries. The government wishes to develop a new Board with a vision to benefit more beneficiaries through new schemes.

  • Work is now carried out as per the standards set by the International Labour Organization.

  • Advisory committee should be set up for policy making, pension schemes, child care arrangements, increase in wages, introduction of new plans and to help provide subsidized loans to the labourers to acquire equipments.
H2 Side Celebrating increase in the wages of Bidi Workers

A celebration was held in Ahmedabad to celebrate the increase in rolling rates of 1000 bidis from Rs 60 to Rs 92, i.e. over 50% increase. This clebration was held not only with the enthusiastic workers, but also with the contractors and employers. The chief guest was Shri Kanubhai Patel. The owner of Jivraj Bidi, the largest bidi manufacturer in Gujarat. The women leaders of SEWA honoured the guests with a raw cotton thread garland and a shawl in a tradional manner.

Manaliben Shah, Coordinator Urban Union, SEWA, requested the bidi owners and contractors to increase the price for 1000 bidis to Rs 100.The owner of Jivraj Bidi (a local cigarette manufacturer) praised SEWA's work and consistency in organizing bidi workers and fighting for their rights. He further appreciated his association with a trade union like SEWA and guaranteed his support and cooperation to SEWA.

H2 Side Domestic workers demand ratification of ILO Convention 189

Namitaben from SEWA Delhi and Ramilaben from the SEWA Ahmedabad were part of a seminar organized by ILO in Bangalore on April 17 and 18 to understand the process of ratification for Domestic Workers Convention 189. A joint discussion was undertaken various unions to ensure a quick ratification of the Convention by the Government.

The Convention requires:

  • Registration and identity card for the worker.
  • Minimum wages to the worker and their provident fund

  • There are 10 million domestic workers spread across India.
  • 80% of domestic workers are women
  • Since more nuclear families have come up in new India domestic help is needed for taking care of children and elders.
  • China and India have the highest numbers of domestic workers in the world.
  • Weekly holidays should be provided to domestic workers. For full time domestic workers a room has to be provided.
  • A welfare board for the domestic workers should be formed and through it the benefits of social security should be provided.

In 2010 a task force was created by Government of India to form policies for the domestic workers, SEWA was represented by Nalini Nayak from SEWA Kerala. A policy has been drafted for this task force. But the Government of India has not implemented it. A long battle for ratifying ILO Convention 189 is still in process.

H2 Side SEWA's Community Radio

A three day workshop was organized on 19th March, 2013 by The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India in collaboration with One World and SEWA's Rudi no Radio.

Mr Asit Vora the Mayor of Ahmedabad addressed the gathering by saying, 'Without the cooperation of the community neither institution nor the government can undertake any kind of developmental work. The easiest way of communication is through the medium of radio. From time to time the use of radio can contribute to bring in positive changes. If the reach of Community Radios to various villages increases, then the women will be able to access information regarding their progress.'

There are 144 community radio stations operational across India of which SEWA's Rudi no Radio is a prominent one. Namrataben Bali, Director, SEWA Academy exclaimed, 'SEWA's 40 years of rich experience with women workers has facilitated the radio programs. It has become easier to link women with labor and employment. Recalling her experience of establishing Rudi no Radio she said that this is a long process. It is necessary to have a state level community radio processing centre. It is significantly important to exchange the information with the society at large. Along with these prerequisites it is important to be financially strong plus it is a social responsibility as well.

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