SEWA'S electronic newsletter
No. 14
January 2008
- SEWA’s 2007 Annual Meeting
- IFWEA’s 20th Conference
- Visit by the Prince of the Netherlands
- We are poor but so many
- Award for Video SEWA
- A SEWA team in Kabul
- SEWA Bank’s award
SEWA in 2007 – Annual Meeting
SEWA held its 2007 Annual Meeting from January 8th to 10th 2008 in SEWA Academy’s Manipur centre.  On the first day, SEWA leaders and representatives from across Gujarat livened the meeting with their enthusiasm and active participation.  Of 2,400 representatives in 10 districts, 1,627 attended. In addition, SEWA organisers and invited guests took part in the first day’s events.

SEWA Gujarat’s membership increased to 551,764 women, of which 62% is from rural areas, and 38% urban. Details of membership across India are at the end of the newsletter.  

SEWA’s next generation
The main theme for the 2007 Annual Meeting was SEWA’s next generation: adolescent girls. For the first time, adolescent girls were given a platform at SEWA’s annual meeting to share their thoughts and dreams.  SEWA’s founder Elaben Bhatt introduced the idea with the reminder that many of SEWA’s founding members are no longer with us. SEWA’s membership is changing, and the organisation should grow stronger with experience.  Since a strong foundation has been laid, it is the right time for SEWA to hear the voices of our next generation.
Some thoughts shared by adolescent girls :
  Our mothers may be uneducated, but we are studying, and even learning how to use computers.
  We don’t agree with the discrimination between boy and girl children. A girl need not be a burden. Hearing about female foeticide disturbs us.
  After attending SEWA’s trainings, we feel confident that we can achieve our dreams.
  Girls want to be pilots, fashion designers, doctors and air hostesses. We also want to learn how to speak English.
  When we work at SEWA, our mothers are not worried.
  In difficult times, our mothers are always there to support us
  Our mothers have laboured very hard; we want to progress and ensure that they don’t have to worry about us.
Thoughts shared by mothers :
  We love our sons and daughters equally, but social and financial pressures can have an impact on our ideas.
  We regret not having studied ourselves, but we will educate our daughters.
  It pains us that we could not educate our daughters due to financial and social obstacles.
The concerns of women workers and their daughters are linked to their status as workers in the informal sector. At the end of the day, Elaben shared that, despite barriers and problems, SEWA is progressing ahead. An increasing number of women are being educated. India is being compared with other nations. In wealthy countries, the impoverished are in even worse straits. In India, we are many, and people must hear our collective voice – which is why SEWA’s membership and organising strength is our core.

Several guests from different countries also participated in the annual meeting. Professor Guy Standing, a labour economist at Bath University in the UK and Monash University in Australia, shared his experiences working on the informal economy across the world. For example, Namibia, despite its poverty, guarantees pension for all persons above 60 years. Dr. Standing stressed that youth literacy will be critical to guarantee a safer world. Anneben, Arleneben and Naleeshaben, who organise women workers in America, also related their experiences, similar to those of SEWA, in ensuring recognition for women’s work.

On the second day, representatives of each program area within SEWA presented their work over the past five years and future plans.  SEWA Bharat and representatives from Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand and West Bengal also reported on their progress.

Highlights of SEWA Gujarat’s achievements in 2007

    • A board for informal sector workers was established, from which workers will receive identity cards, medical benefits, training and equipment.
    • 154 bidi workers received Rs. 15,000,000 from their Provident Funds.
    • The wage for agarbatti workers was increased from Rs. 7.5 to Rs. 8 for 1,000 sticks. From this, 15,1000 women will receive a total annual increase of Rs. 15,828,744.
    • 3,000 paper pickers were recognised and will receive welfare benefits.
    • In 2007, Rudi sold Rs. 4 crores worth of goods and Hansiba grossed Rs. 3 crores
    • In 1.5 years, 60,000 women have received employment, from which Rs. 18 crores of income was generated.
    • Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Indian version of Sesame Street, has been brought to the children of SEWA members in their communities to promote creative learning.
    • Vimo SEWA has facilitated cashless tie-ups with 40 hospitals
    • SEWA Social Security hosted the annual meeting of the Asia Oceanic Association
    • Lok Swasthya Mandali and Sangini Mandali received ‘A’ gradations from the state cooperative board
    • The World Health Organisation has recognised and accepted SEWA’s approach to health
    • SEWA’s traditional medicines business, “Parishramalaya” has received a license to market 15 branded products
    • Midwives successfully utilised the Right to Information (RTI) Act to demand denied payments of  Rs. 150,000 due to them in government honoraria for deliveries
    • Mahila SEWA Housing Trust established a credit cooperative in Vadodara

IFWEA’s 20th Conference

The International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) celebrated 60 years this year at SEWA.  As an organisation of women workers in the unorganised sector for over 35 years, it was a unique honour for SEWA to host their celebration and 20th General Conference. 110 participants from 35 countries participated in a conference on “Worker’s Education in the Informal Economy” in Ahmedabad from December 1 to 5.

As part of the conference, SEWA presented and led discussions on four topics: economic organisation of informal sector workers; social security; microfinance and capitalism; and rural development and cooperatives. SEWA’s officers, coordinators, executive body and representatives shared their views and experience in these areas.  

Issues that emerged included: the importance of education; human rights education; effective training methodology; legal literacy; the effects of globalisation; the importance of organising; knowledge of government schemes; worker-employer relations; skills and effectiveness for representation; recognition of workers’ contributions; and the importance of international partnerships.

With the Prince of the Netherlands

Recently, the Prince of the Netherlands, Prince William Alexander, and Princess Maxima visited villages in Bansakantha district, after an earlier visit in 1991. Upon seeing the progress and results achieved over the past 16 years in attaining access to water and organising women, Prince William Alexander offered his sincere thanks to SEWA.


We are poor, but so many

We are poor, but so many, written by SEWA founder Elaben Bhatt, takes readers into the world and work of self-employed women. Through this book, one understands the actual contribution of women workers in the home and across the country. The English edition of the book has been released, and has also recently been translated into Gujarati.


Video SEWA Award

Video SEWA’s “My Life, My Work” won the Social Documentary Award at the Guidonia Film Festival in Guidonia, Italy.  Of  310 entries, 13 films were chosen.  Namrataben Bali accepted the award from the Mayor, and offered gratitude and appreciation on behalf of SEWA’s membership.


SEWA Team in Kabul’s Baugh-e-Janana (park for women)

On behalf of the Government of India, SEWA was invited to establish a vocational training and business resource centre in Kabul’s Baugh-e-Janana. Working with national and international organisations in Kabul, SEWA identified skill training appropriate to local conditions. Based on its experience, SEWA provided training in skills such as sewing, fruit and grain processing, nursery and gardening to 1,000 women. For the future, SEWA is considering trainings in management, marketing, finance and accounts. Twenty-two women selected from the trainings will come to SEWA for a three month training course. Whether from Ahmedabad or Kabul, the strength of self-employed women is formidable. For these women together, even language is no barrier.


SEWA Bank Award

The National Federation of Cooperative Banks, New Delhi, awarded SEWA Bank an award for “Excellent performance.”


SEWA Membership Across India



Munger 3,400
Delhi  13,517




Madhya Pradesh 512,267
Bikaner 2,694


W. Bengal  
Murshidabad 1,141

Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow 25,500
Uttrakhand 195


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