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  • SEWA at Forty

  • Excerpts from the discourses given

  • Unique experiences of SEWA members

  • When they became opportunist

  • Sewa News


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No. 42 | May 2012
H2 Side SEWA at Forty

"Hum Sab ek hai" (We all are one), when these words were uttered by Ilaben Bhatt on 25th April 2012 during the huge celebration of completing forty years of SEWA(Self Employed Women's Association) Academy at town hall (Ahmedabad), It was a moment of proud and achievement, experienced by every single woman present at town hall. Ilaben Bhatt, the founder of SEWA stood like a pillar behind every woman associated with SEWA. It is due to the combined efforts of its volunteers that SEWA is now an internationally acclaimed organization. The SEWA Academy's trainings are driven by the core belief that everyone has potential and ability and of course this is the reason that SEWA is now a large family unit.

The ceremony began with the outstanding performance by a legendary Indian classical singer Shubha Mudgal. Also women from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Assam, Kashmir, Meghalaya, Nepal and Srilanka have participated and presented their own cultural programmes. Such performances clearly defined the philosophy of unity in diversity.

A great philosopher from Nepal, Sister Annie Choing was one of the special guests. With her soulful singing she had added the pure essence in the function .She is actively involved in the process of awareness for the girls' education in Nepal. She has opened various schools and boarding's in the remote areas of Nepal for the same thought.

One of the most accountable achievements of SEWA is observed in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a country that has faced obstacles for twenty long years. Women are the most sufferers in Afghanistan; hence, to uplift their position in the society and make them self reliant, SEWA entered Afghanistan and started their developmental activities for women. SEWA established "Baage khazaana Sabaah association", where presently 3000 women have become self reliant. It is one of the biggest achievements for a country if the women residing lives an economically independent life. "It was impossible for us to survive in an environment of conflict and war, but it is due to the efforts of SEWA that we got a chance to present our talents and skills to the world. Today, many women like me are employed and living with dignity in the society", says Masuda from Afghanistan, who also sang a song called "This land is Afghanisthan".

H2 Side Excerpts from the discourses given
  • "We get emotional whenever we have to share our experiences about SEWA. SEWA is the organization from where we have learned the true philosophy of life that you can elevate your standard of living by your own endless efforts and hard work." says Monica (SEWA's coordinator from Bhutan).

  • "We are indebted to SEWA for the steps they have taken to improve the lifestyle of Assamese women. We have presented a dance form called "Bodo" which we usually perform to pay tribute to our elders, and SEWA deserves that respectful gesture from our end." says Neetaben Solanki, SEWA's coordinator from Assam.

  • "We all women from Kashmir have faced terrorism since two decades and now the time has come that we too require peace and happiness." says Mumtaaz Baloch, SEWA's coordinator from Kashmir.
H2 Side Unique experiences of SEWA members
  • April had become the memorable month of the year with the grand celebration of SEWA's 40th birth anniversary. "It was an amazing experience to watch all those members associated with the organization from 1972 to present on same platform. It was observed that SEWA's values have been imparted in three generations very successfully", says vendor Shantaben. She further added that I am into a business of selling vegetables on road and it is like a dream for us to visit high profile function like this. I can't believe that I have seen singer Shubhaji so closely, though I didn't understand her language but still enjoyed her melodious singing. I also enjoyed various dance forms from Assam and Kashmir. Music is truly a tool that imparts peace to every SEWA members. This event had proved that we all SEWA workers are music lovers.

  • "I have heard that SEWA has been recognized in many countries but today I saw it in reality. I am very thankful to Ilaben, who herself is a woman but still has the strength to unite women from different countries, different religion, and different culture on same platform". Says Champaben Parmar (factory worker).

  • "I am associated with SEWA since 35 years; I loved clothes that were worn by Afghani women in function. Participants from Nepal and Kashmir had performed beautifully. Ilaben was surprised after watching this programme, it was kept secret from her and she was very happy in the end". Says Kherunishaben Naagori (Sewer).
H2 Side When they became opportunist

Kheda to Gelifu

"Initially we are being trained by SEWA and now we are proud trainers", says Tashiben and Udinben". We are very thankful to SEWA that they had given us the opportunity to share our knowledge and skills with poor women of Bhutan. We had conducted one month training programme on food processing in the remote villages of Bhutan. It was a shared learning experience by all added Tashiben and Udinben.

It was an acknowledgeable endeavor by labourers of Ganeshpura and Anand villages that they successfully delivered lectures without any hesitation in an entirely strange place like Bhutan. They conducted one month training on taste, cleanliness, packaging, costing and labeling. Bhutanese women were so much excited that later they showed their eagerness in learning potato chips, tomato catch up and other food items too.

Bhutanese women also have learned to prepare Papad (thin dry cake make from rice), gooseberry juice and various other food items made from the rice flakes when they have visited India for one month training session in December 2011. With all these acquired knowledge few of them have started their own business in Bhutan.

Women residing in Gelifu and Bhuntang village had to travel 9 hours to reach Thimpu (Capital of Bhutan). As all villages are scattered, one has to cover a walk of two hours to commute from one village to another. They have never visited capital city of their country, but once in Thimpu when Queen Ashi Dorji Vangmovangchuk had specially organized a fair for skilled workers and entrepreneurs. All these trained women grabbed the opportunity and sportingly carried 15 to 20 boxes of food items, gooseberry juice and various other food items for the business purpose. Queen personally visited their stall and praised their efforts. She was overwhelmed by their initiation and determination. Queen was very impressed and had ordered 80 litres of gooseberry juice for her personal use. On that day they had a good profit which has raised their confidence. Bhutan ladies had already acquired the knowledge of marketing and in future with more understanding on collective marketing they can easily fight with poverty.

H2 Side SEWA News

Recently the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry has decided to include domestic workers under the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010.

To amend this law Rajya Sabha has constructed a special body. This special body also invited and involved Sewa in the process of amendment. Sewa presented certain important points to them. One of the main points is about the inclusion of self employed women workers especially the domestic workers. Finally Indian government has given an approval on the inclusion of self employed domestic workers in the law of protection against sexual harassment at workplace, 2010. It is considered as one of the biggest achievements, as under this act 47.5 lakh domestic workers will be benefited. The bill ensures a safe environment for women at workplace - be it public or private, organised or the unorganised sector.


Sewa is effectively working for the purpose of social security in the remote villages of Bihar from past four years Sewa volunteers found that women in Bihar villages are very reluctant towards their health. Looking at their ignorance towards health, volunteers from Sewa organization conducted several health awareness workshops. During all such workshops they found that the reason behind their negligence towards health was extra attention in their household activities. They kept themselves so much busy in the household work that they didn't even have time to pay attention towards their own health. The consequence of this initial ignorance leads to major health problems for which they are bound to take heavy loan for costly medication. Very few are aware about government schemes in village, but they too have to face many obstacles in getting proper aid at proper time. Sometimes they also get cheated by the mediators who charged extra for their assistance. To prevent these poor illiterate people from fraudsters Sewa volunteers have conducted various training sessions to aware them on several health related issues. They also check whether the benefits of all government schemes like Vima Yojana, Janani Suraksha Yojana and Smart card are reaching to the beneficiaries in needed time. Sewa volunteers also help them to get monetary help of Rs30, 000 under Smart card which they hold.

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