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  • Crux from the speech given by Ilaben Bhat at Georgetown University USA

  • Land Acquisition Problems of Urban Poor

  • Expedition full of inspiration

  • Sewa News

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No. 43 | June 2012
H2 Side Crux from the speech given by Ilaben Bhat at Georgetown University USA

SEWA's founder Mrs. Ilaben Bhat was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Georgetown University USA, on 19th May, 2012. After receiving her honorary doctorate from Georgetown University she spoke to all graduates present in the ceremony and shared her excitement about the recognition. In her speech she said, "I'm truly overwhelmed and immensely pleased to receive such a distinction."

She addressed students in her speech and encouraged them by saying, that an entire world requires young brains for fresh ideas and new vision. She congratulated students for completing graduation and gave them best wishes for the future. She said, "I can understand your mental situation and I know that you all must be uncertain and tensed at this moment. At present you all possess inquisitive minds and I appreciate this state of yours because, your future lies on the questions you asked. Your questions will open closed doors and will direct you toward unknown future and you have to be tolerant enough as it will take years to get answers. Sometimes you will receive answers in form of simple truth and sometimes with partial truth and then gradually, you will realize that no truth has the similar answer.

Ilaben shared her experience saying that in early 70's when, I had started working with economically backward women and the one question that always hindered me was, what is the definition of work? I used to work with women who were vegetable vendors, 'Bidi' (tobacco leave cigarette) makers, sewer, farmer, cattle owners, all of them are involved in their own work but unfortunately the law designate them an unemployed person. Inspite of doing hard work they are not considered as workers. The reason stated in the law says that the one who don't have boss at workplace and those who don't work in organized sector are invisible in the judiciary and no law exists for their protection. And then to fight with this injustice, SEWA (Self Employed Women's Association) came into existence. The word 'sewa' means to provide a helping hand to others. Initially we are being denied to get registration under trade union because Sewa was not the organization that is standing against anyone for rights; we are an organization that is formed to stay united. We had always questioned system, society, government for this discrimination. You all are also going to face all such absurdity in life.

She added that you all must have observed that injustice and poverty are parallel to each other. A poor person always faces exploitation from family, society, and at work place. Poverty always follows strict hierarchy and inequality. This is called the 'permitted continuous violent act' of the society towards the poor. Poverty is always measured by the financial position, and does that mean that it can eradicate only with the money? No, it can be removed only with the empowerment of poor. Today, in the era of industrialization we all have become technology savvy but I think for the once as urbanization is not the development, development can be achieve when basic needs of every person is accomplished.

She advised students that whenever you start you professional life, be it with any government sector, private sector, or with any NGO, think about the effectiveness of your work and its result.

Whenever I introspect, I always ask three questions, what is the impact of my work in my life, others life and on motherland. She ended her speech saying, "I wish that you all impart equality, harmony and spirit of justice in an entire world so that a weak person can get strength from you.

H2 Side Land Acquisition Problems of Urban Poor

Unemployment is the main motive behind the migration. Metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai offer many opportunities of employment in the field of production, sales, administration and business hence; the influx of population from rural areas of other states has been increased, especially in Delhi. In most Indian cities the urban poor survive by working in the informal sector. All these migrants spend their life in an entirely strange place for the job perspective. Unfortunately, in spite of spending so many years they are being evicted from the city and also they have to face the accusation of destroying beauty of the capital city. They are treated as a stranger. Surprisingly on other hand, officials in Delhi say the influx of people from other states creates havoc on infrastructure. It is easily apparent that Delhi Government's interest lies more on the external superficial beauty as they desire to make Delhi favorite destination for tourists.

For the urban poor, hawking is one of the means of earning a livelihood. Also many of them are laborers, rickshaw driver, and vegetables vendors. Especially street vendors are tortured the most. They are forced to navigate from one place to other. They are regularly threatened by the Municipal Corporation and police. In Delhi hawking is regarded as an illegal activity. There are municipal and police laws that impose restrictions on the trade. In most cases these laws do not directly prohibit hawking as a profession. They impose restrictions on the use of urban space for street vending.

Once, a SEWA worker from Raghuvirnagar area in Delhi faced same problems, government made them roofless by destroying their hut and provided 10 yards of small land in reimbursement. This allotted small land was located in the middle of the forest and far from the main city. It was mandatory for them to commute for two hours in search of work and it is hard to reach city easily due to lack of transport facility and so they have decided to go back to the city for employment and have started living on rent.

In 2006 most of the markets are sealed and evacuated in order to maintain cleanliness .This time poor people of Jahangirpuri in Delhi suffered a lot as they were suddenly made homeless. And this time no lane is provided in the name of reimbursement. Even landlord exploited them and charged Rs1000 instead Rs 500. All these disappointed women workers visited SEWA to get solution of their problems and so SEWA arranged a meeting with developmental minister Ajay Makhan to resolve their problems.

Similarly in 2010 during the preparation of Commonwealth games and for the construction of flyover many regular markets were being closed. Again all of them had to move from one place to another, on the other hand, police, the municipal authorities and local musclemen all contributed to play havoc with their lives and their earnings and charged them unnecessary fine. Also markets like kabaadi bajaar, lalkila bajaar, chor bazaar which exists since 40 to 50 years were wiped out in 2000. All these frustrated people then approached SEWA for help. This fight lasted for four long years and then in 2005 they got permission to start business on Wellodrom road near IG stadium. SEWA fought with various unions so that they don't charge extra money from these poor people. But then again in 2008 they were forced to move out of this market and face exploitation from municipal officials and goons. At that time too SEWA stood firmly for their help and made efforts for the justice. For the permanent solution for their problems SEWA visited Mrs. Shiela Dixit, chief minister Delhi state. Finally PWD gave permission of running markets but in return SEWA was made to sign an agreement which says that SEWA will be the caretaker of this market, it was decided in the agreement that only 1200 workers will be allowed to work in this particular market. The agreement also mentioned one point strictly that the identity of all these workers should be examined properly and it was mandatory to carry identity card while working. Another inclusive point in the agreement was that SEWA will wholly responsible for any kind of damage.

H2 Side Expedition full of inspiration

Africa is the country where lack of employment opportunities lead youngsters to migrate from their own country. When Women from Ghana (Africa) visited SEWA, they were impressed by meeting self reliant business women of SEWA. All women visitors from Ghana wished to have the similar model like SEWA, so that every women in their country can also become self reliant like the women in India.

These visitors from Ghana are associated with two of the renowned organization of Africa, "African 2000" and "Pagsung". 'PagSung Shea Nut Pickers' and 'Shea Butter Processors Association', is a community-based organization, founded and incorporated in 2007. The PagSung Association now has 21 processing groups with over 758 members, all of whom are economically backward women in the Upper East, Upper West and the Northern regions of Ghana. The PagSung Shea Nut Pickers and Shea Butter Processors Association are unique from any other Shea butter processing group as it is exclusively owned by the women processing themselves. Shea butter has its medical values, and even it can use as moisturizer for the skin irritation.

Their main motive behind visiting Sewa is to understand model structure of "Rudi". In their ten days of stay they visited various districts and saw several activities.

When they visited Anand district, they observed that women over there are engaged in weaving using various colors. Looking at this art, they very anxiously said that in Ghana they are also into weaving but only with single color as they have small weaving loom. They weave only personal clothes that are worn at home. They never imagined that the weaving work can be brought into the market. They understood the importance of skills.

When they visited 'PIJ Sanskar Kendra', they came to know about the small methods used by the farmers in the town. In 'Rudi Processing centre', every woman gets employment and seeing this they said that Shea butter don't have any structure like this. They expressed that suppose if we get success in building such a structure, then many women can become self reliant.

On her visit to the Unnat Market, Zaheraben from Ghana said that, "We are surprised to see that women from SEWA had started their own business of embroidery that too without any investment. It is proud to see that these ladies are the share holders of 'Unnat Company'. It is a very big achievement of these ladies that they are successfully fulfilling the market demands and they have become recognized workers". Zahera ben added that Ghana women also make good embroidery and so we wish to establish 'Unnat market' in Ghana.

Women from Ghana had learned various ways to develop employment opportunities for women's of unorganized sectors. Looking at their enthusiasm and curiosity, SEWA specially trained them on how to prepare master trainer in various working field like weaving, embroidery, stitching. There are in all six Shea centre, SEWA convinced them to at least make one of the centre as 'Unnat market'.

H2 Side Sewa News

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principle global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.

The fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from, 27th February to, 9th March 2012. This time, the theme included the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.

Few well reputed organizations like ILO (International labor Organization), IFAD (International Fund for agriculture development), and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) were also present as chief guest organization. SEWA, an NGO that is working since 40 years, also shared views on women empowerment. Sewa's General Secretary Jyoti ben, Sewa's President kapilaben, Secretary Rehaana ben and Executive member Sonia ben attended the function. On this occasion, SEWA's representative put forward their views very strongly that the rural women are key agents of change. It is very necessary to enhance leadership quality in rural women so that their participation can be counted in all forms of decision making at all levels.

Jyotiben and Kapilaben shared their personal experience with the audience. Kapilaben said that, "I was an illiterate Bidi worker (tobacco leaf cigarette). After joining SEWA and attending various training sessions, I became more confident. I had realized the importance of education in life and therefore I have taken responsibility of educating my daughter. I have started giving importance to my work after joining SEWA. I became capable enough to buy my own property. My life is totally changed. I now use smokeless gas stove as I became aware of all hazardous effects caused due to normal gas stove. Direct connection with the market is very important for any farmer and I understood this only through the "Rudi Market".

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