SEWA
Self Employed Women’s Association
 
 
 

May Day Demand: Rural Employment

Guarantee Act

The Government of India has proposed the Rural Employment Guarantee Act to guarantee 100 days employment for families in rural areas. This Act has still not been introduced in Parliament and there is a great deal of debate about it. SEWA strongly supports this Act with employment proposals more oriented towards developing the varied skills and employment potential in the villages, and the implementation decentralized and as far as possible carried out through local organisations.

The main importance of this Act is that it is a good social safety net. The problem faced by a large number of people in the rural areas is the lack of employment during certain times of the year. Many communities in such areas have to habitually migrate seasonally to other parts of the country in search of work. This annual migration is a painful and disruptive process - it destroys the fabric of the community, the family lives of the migrants, the possibility for education of the children and perhaps worst of all, the possibility for development of their own area. These forced migrants are subject to some of the worst exploitative conditions of work and living conditions. Those left behind do not have enough to eat or the barest money for other basic necessities, and although there may be no famine, there is surely a slow malnutrition and starvation. Even when communities do not migrate they suffer a great amount of distress at such times. Their food intake is reduced, the children are withdrawn from schools, they go into debt, they are unable to attend to their health problems. At such times there is no safety net, no social security system, which would help to relieve their distress.

  Most people in the rural areas work in the unorganized or informal sector. The REGA is an instrument whereby poor people in the rural areas can begin to organise themselves to ask demand work.

However, the Act as it is now framed will not create full employment nor become sustainable because employment being provided under the Act, is only physical labour-mainly digging earth. This Act will become much more powerful if it is viewed in a different way and used as a generator of employment.

The Act should promote skilled work. Most of workers in the rural areas do have skills by which they earn their livelihoods. Promoting these will enable the villages to develop and bring new opportunities to the villages. This could include: Work linked to agriculture such as agro-processing, food processing, watershed development; artisan work such as weaving, printing, leather work, carpentry, plumbing; services such as teaching, health work, child care, old age care, has a growing demand and can be included; works of public interest can be sponsored by government such as environmental work like nursery raising tree-plantation, cleaning campaign, recycling, water harvesting, operation and maintenance of water resources such as hand pumps, pipelines.

  SEWA the dry, desert districts of Gujarat, people experience repeated disasters, like droughts, floods, cyclone, earthquake SEWA demanded both from  the State and Central Government to include home based craftwork like embroidery, appliqué work as in the official drought relief programme. In 2000, for the first time, SEWA was asked to cover 5000 artisan households under drought relief, programme. In 2000, for the first time, SEWA was asked to cover 5000 artisan households under drought relief, giving them a minimum of 25 days of work in a month and Rs. 1500 per month. SEWA could successfully implement the 'Livelihood Security Progamme' because of the recognition of women's home-based skill as 'work'. In 2001, SEWA up scaled its production and over 15,000 artisan households under the 'Livelihood Security Programme' - the traditional skill of the women and men, could organise guaranteed employment for 25 days in a month.

The work to be given under REGA should be planned locally. Often employment at the local level can be met by fulfilling a local need such as for irrigation by creating local water harvesting structures, or leveling and clearing waste land or three plantations and tending in forest areas, or mining local stone and so on. It can also be something that meets local needs such as toilets or health center or schoolhouse or drinking water. The decisions for which works are to be taken up should be decided at the local level. The Gram Samitis (village committees) should prepare the village development plans cost estimates of such works and the budget could be allocated to the Samitis.

This Act is aimed towards the rural workers in the unorganised sector. One of the reasons why these workers have not programme. In 2000, for the first time, SEWA was asked to cover 5000 artisan households under drought relief, giving them a minimum of 25 days of work in a month and Rs. 1500 per month. SEWA could successfully implement the 'Livelihood Security Progamme' because of the recognition of women's home-based skill as 'work'. In 2001, SEWA up scaled its production and over 15,000 artisan households under the 'Livelihood Security Programme' - the traditional skill of the women and men, could organise guaranteed employment for 25 days in a month.

The work to be given under REGA should be planned locally. Often employment at the local level can be met by fulfilling a local need such as for irrigation by creating local water harvesting structures, or leveling and clearing waste land or three plantation and tending in forest areas, or mining local stone and so on. It can also be something that meets local needs such as toilets or health center or schoolhouse or drinking water. The decisions for which works are to be taken up should be decided at the local level. The Gram Samitis (village committees) should prepare the village development plans cost estimates of such works and the budget could be allocated to the samitis.


May Day Demand---Law for unorganised Workers(Madhya Pradesh) 

Memorandum Submitted to Minister of Labour


Self Employed Women's Association is working with informal sector workers in 10 districts Madhya Pradesh for last 20 years and has so far organized 175,000 women workers mainly engaged in beedi and incense stick rolling, readymade garments stitching, tendu leaf plucking and construction. SEWA MP is the single largest and strongest trade union of informal sector workers in Madhya Pradesh.

The Government if Madhya Pradesh formed a task force in 2001 under the chairmanship of Smt. Renana Jhabvala. Smt. Manorama Joshi was included as a member in 11-members task force. The task force submitted its report to the Government of MP in 2002. On the recommendation of the task force report, Government of MP formulated the Bill which was approved the Union Government in 2004. SEWA MP congratulates the Government of Madhya Pradesh for this historic step but suggests:

  • To formulate the rules and regulations of the Act for informal sector workers giving proper representation to SEWA MP and formulate policies soon.
  • Set up a Welfare Board for informal sector workers. In this Board proper reperesentation should be given to male and female workers and labour organisation.
  • Social security benefits like- health, education, insurance, housing and employment opportunities should be included under the.
  • The benefits of law should reach to the informal sector workers of MP, hence it demands the quick and simple implementation of the law.
  • Every worker in MP should get identity card.>
Manorama Joshi Asha Jodha
General Secretary President
 
Hands Across Borders: Women Home based Workers Show The way

VISIBLE WORK, INVISIBLE HANDS was the theme of the South Asian Home based workers Mela(fair) organised at Burney Garden, Lahore in Pakistan by "Aurat Foundation" between 8 to 10th April. It was a Mela aiming at bringing Home based workers directly to the market by eliminating middleman and reaching directly to the consumer. Women home based workers from all over Pakistan - from Sind to Kashmir, came together, many of them traveling out of their homes for the first time and together launched Home Net st1:country-region> Pakistan . Home based workers from India , from Nepal , from Sri Lanka , brought their beautiful handmade goods and mingled with their Pakistani sisters. UNIFEM and GEP brought an international message. Plays and songs provided entertainment while the food court allowed for the sampling of many different types of foods. The Mela was welcomed by over 15,000 Lahoreans who came everyday with enthusiasm and goodwill. There was above all a feeling of one-ness, that of sisterhood among the women of South Asia . The solidarity among the home-based workers of South Asia was symbolized by all the workers present in the inauguration holding tying together the ribbons they held in their hands to make one long necklace. All this was made possible because of Home Net South Asia, an international organization launched by SEWA and UNIFEM.

There were 29 products stalls from Home Net Pakistan where 27 organisations from Pakistan participated, four stalls from Home Net Bangladesh, Home Net India, Home Net Nepal and Home Net Srilanka. There were 7 information stalls. The Mela was a resounding success. Commercially, the home based workers were able to earn much more selling their goods directly to the enthusiastic buyers. More importantly, they were able to test the markets and undertsand the needs of consumers. This was enhanced by debriefing sessions where home based workers discussed the markets, the availability of raw material, design, quality, production, capacity, stocktaking, and costing. Equally important was the quite amazing feeling of the home based workers, the feeling that although they came from different countries, from India, from Pakistan, and other South Asia countries, they shared the same cultures, the same problems and could come together to make a brighter future. 
 
CONTENTS
SEWA News
Celebrations
SEWAscope
 
SEWA News
SEWA spreads light in the lives of its members

SEWATrust, Ahmedabad Electricity Company and slum dwellers brought electricity to 2222 houses. Not only the slum dwellers but also Electricity Company has benefited from this effort. Legal connections have fetched good amount of revenue and theft of electricity has also been stopped. Women workers can now work and children can study till late in the night.

SEWA visits the Trade unions USA

The AFL-CIO is the national trade union federation of America with a membership of 1.3 million union members.AFL-CIO had invited representatives of trade union organising workers from different countries. The delegation included representatives from SEWA, Home Net Thailand, and SEWU in South Africa. Jaitunben, member of executive committee and incense stick roller and Chhayaben, co-ordinator of Baroda district, represented SEWA. The delegation discussed and shared their experiences of struggle with member uninos of heads and organisers of AFL-CIO.

Wages rose...

15 women workers of winding factory of Odhav, an industrial suburb of Ahmedabad, got an increased wage of Rs. 55 instead of Rs. 30 per day. They also got an increased bonus of Rs.1200 compared to the previous one of Rs.400 to 500.

The increased wage includes an increment of Rs.5 for commutation. They are also allowed to work for 10 minutes in their break for which they will be paid 45 paisa extra.

Reading of SEWA plays on World Theater Day

Reading of two of the SEWA plays "Gandhi" and "Puppet Show" was done on World Theater Day at Ahmedabad. Mr.Hasmukhbhai Baradi had trained daughters of SEWA members to act these street plays based on the themes of insurance and AIDS. The teams of 18 girls have so far performed more than 400 shows of these street plays in different villages and areas.

SEWA health worker honoured

  The Municipal Corporation Of Ahmedabad honoured health worker of SEWA, Chandrikaben, for her excellent work under DOT programme on World T.B. Day

Exhibition of Non Violent Silk

Gujarat State Mahila SEWA Cooperatives Federation, and Central Silk Technology Research Institute, Central Silk Board Bangalore organised an exhibition on silk handicraft. The exhibition was held at Kalakruti - a SEWA outlet for handicrafts. The objective of the exhibition was to generate employment opportunities for handicrafts workers and creating awareness about the new arrivals in silk. The type of silk during the production of which the silk worm is not killed is called non-violent silk. This variety is made in Samala Village near Limbdi in Surendranagar District.

Venders' goods worth Rs 250,000 released

Vendors of Ahmedabad city are still struggling with Municipal Corporation for a place of two baskets. Their goods are seized by the pick-up van of Municipal Corporation. Whenever such an incident takes place, SEWA city union comes into action. Its leaders reach at the spots request the authorities, or pay the fine but they get the possessions released. In the month of April the Union got possessions of vendors worth 2.5 to 3 lacs released from municipal authorities. 

Celebrations
Self Employed Day - APRIL 14TH
SEWA Bank Fair


Shri Mahila SEWA Sahakari Bank Ltd. (SEWA bank) commemorated Self Employed Day by organising a two days celebration. Self employed women of Ahmedabad started this bank 30 years ago to set themselves, and their families free from the clutches of debt, poverty, and unemployment. Hundreds and thousands of its self employed women account holders contributed to its growth. The fair was a celebration for the realisation of their dreams. There were stalls put up by women who had taken loans from the Bank - cloth, readymade dresses, footwear, fancy items, cottage industry items, and eateries. Self employed women got an opportunity to do the business and get financial counseling at one place. Head loader and Bank's Vice President Lakshmiben Raval said that the objective of this fair was that the members know each other, come forward, and build assets in their names. Information regarding activities of bank was demonstrated through plays. 

'SHRAMIK MAHOTSAV' in Bihar

SEWA Munger organised SHRAMIK MAHOTSAV i.e.Workers Celebration on 10th of March. 700 women got together to celebrate in this programme. SEWA Munger is particularly active in fifty villages of Haveli Kharagpur, Bariyarpur and Munger Sadar, as these areas are socially and economically backward. The local women are primarily dependent on agriculture, forest produce and contract labour for their livelihoods. These women hardly get any chances to celebrate themselves as workers. Shramik Mahotsav is SEWA's way of women workers coming together singing and dancing together, playing games and putting on plays. They are able to come together as workers, talk about their problems and the solutions they have found. It was instrumental in showcasing collective strength of women's organisation in a backward region like Kharagpur where level of participation in events is exceptional.



National Safe Motherhood Day Observed 

Any pregnant woman from below poverty line would get Rs. 100 /day on her admission to the govt. hospital ,and her husband would also get a similar amount to cooperate". Gujarat's Health Minister Mr. I.K.Jadeja declared this in a function on National Safe Motherhood Day, i.e.11th May. The "Day" was being observed by Govt of Gujarat with the objective to give visibility to the work of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) working in the state, and acknowledging their role in Mother -child Health Programme.TBAs from 15 districts of state and representatives of the seven organizations attended the function. The memorandum submitted by the organistaions made suggestions to increase the efficiency of TBAs . One of the demands put in the memorandum was capacity building of TBAs as the basic health leaders of the society.

SEWA ventures into Radio : Rudi no Radio  SEWA launched its first radio programme.  It is named "Rudi no Radio" after one of the SEWA members. Radio aims to convey developmental work of SEWA's struggles of poor self-employed women, their achievements and much more.
 
SEWA Scope

SEWA women talk to the National Commission


SEWA members and self-employed women of Gujarat discussed their issues with Chairman of Commission on Informal Sector, Mr. Arjun Sengupta, during his two days visit to SEWA on 18 and 19 of February. The issue emphasized most by the women was employment. They said that availability of employment could help them come out of poverty. Beside the basic necessities like water and electricity, the women also discussed other issues like availability of finance, and credit, training for capacity building and social security for self-employed women working in informal sector.

The women coming from different areas of Gujarat, and and engaged in different trades like agriculture work, old cloth vending, farming, readymade garment manufacturing etc. shared their experiences with the commission and demanded employment at the local level. They also suggested different opportunities for employment such as work related to water harvesting, or the forestry etc.

Discussing issues related to social security ,of the women,they said they make a very significant contribution to the economy of the country, thus it is their right that they should be covered with some minimum insurance. They showed their readiness to make their contribution towards this facility, provided these services are made available to them at their doorstep. 

The women also discussed micro finance and financial counseling as a means to create employment. They regretted that there is no holistic, and multipurpose law to protect the interests of the self-employed, working in informal sector. They demanded that the national policy for the vendors should be implemented.

Close Encounters

SEWA along with Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Netherlands, and Centre for Development Studies (CDS) Trivendrum, conducts a course on Universalising Socio-Economic Securities every year. The participants in three months long course include representatives of policy makers, development professionals and students. This year the participants included those coming from Nepal, China, Srilanka, Japan, Colombia, Zambia and Uganda. The 21 participants studied SEWA's social security related work with its grass root members. For this they participated in Exposure- Dialogue Programme (EDP). The participants were divided into 10 groups and each group visited a SEWA member's house, had a close encounter with her life, knew about their problems, their struggles, their living conditions and experienced the risks and the risk management of grass root members of SEWA. It was a unique experience for  the participants, which helped them, understand many issues of people for whom they are working, or plan to work. 
 
"SEWA Bank helped me release my husband from bondage"

It was a heartrending scene at SEWA bank on 28th of April this year. Parvatiben, an agriculture worker, came with her husband to take a loan of Rs. 20,000 to set free her mortgaged husband from the moneylender. She had the consent of all 16 members of the saving group she so painstakingly started in her village. The women took this loan against their joint saving of Rs. 6000.

Parvatiben's husband is the eldest son of his family, which lives in Hirapur village in Ahmedabad district. And when his parents fell ill and then died he had to bear all the expenses of their treatment, and death rituals. Parvatiben has five children, she tried to earn by vending vegetables, but as there was nobody in the family to look after her children, she had to stay home. Her husband's income was not sufficient for the family. She had to take loan from the local moneylender, when her father in law fell ill. It increased out of proportion by the time he died. Her total debt reached Rs. 60,000 after her father in law's rituals. She had no means to repay this loan. When the pressure from the moneylender became unbearable, she went to another moneylender, who agreed to lend Rs.20,000 on the condition that Parvatiben mortgage her husband with him. Her husband would live and work at his place for 30 days, he would get wages for 15 days and the wage for another 15 days would be adjusted against the interest of the loan.

Her condition after this deteriorated as the responsibility of the family fell on her shoulders. Her eldest son started working but even this was not sufficient. She would work all the day and look after the children and the 16 goats. She could not make two ends meet. Her struggle went on like this, and one day Savitaben, SEWA's leader of Spearhead team for Ahmedabad district came to her village. She explained to her the concept of saving group. Parvatiben worked very hard to start a saving group in her village, and finally 16 women enrolled and started the group with a monthly saving of Rs. 20 every month. On 2nd of January 2004 the group opened its account in SEWA bank.

When the group had a saving of Rs. 6000, the members unanimously decided to give permission to Parvatiben to take a loan of Rs. 20,000 against it, and set her husband free. Parvatiben's parents' family arranged remaining amount of Rs. 40,000.

Standing in SEWA bank with the Rs. 20,000 in her hand, Parvatiben said that she had almost accepted that her husband would never be a free man in his life. With tears in his eyes her husband said, " SEWA bank has given me another life. It is my mother now onwards" Overcome with emotion her husband said "men would have never thought of doing what SEWA women did for me"

 
Self Employed Women's Association
SEWA Reception Centre, Opp. Victoria Garden, Bhadra, Ahmedabad - 380 001. India.
Phone : 91-79-25506444 / 25506477 / 25506441, Fax : 91 - 79 - 25506446, Email :mail@sewa.org
     
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