Self Employed Women’s Association
No.4 January 2005
Yet another Disaster.....The recent floods on Gujarat have affected SEWA's member and their families in Ahmedabad,Kheda,Anand and  Surat districts. About 1,25,000 members are affected, many of them have lost their houses and livelihoods. Our concern is to help them to cope with the present and rebuild the future.....See  last page.

Ranjanben, SEWA Founder Member, Passes away
  SEWA lost one of its founder members, Ranjanben  Daulatbhai Desai who was 73 years old. She passed away on 16th of May. Ranjanben was born in Surat in a Gandhian family, but moved to Ahmedabad after marriage where her husband was a geologist with the Government of Gujarat. She felt she had found her life’s work when SEWA was formed. She had an instinctive bond with poor women and would get involved in all aspects of their lives. When SEWA first started, she conducted surveys and would spend hours visiting the women at their homes and worksites. The women often did not have time to talk to her, so Ranjanben would sit patiently in the woman’s house and wait for her to finish work. She would talk for hours to the daughters of the women who spent their days doing the housework and looking after the small children while their mothers worked. She was shocked to find that these girls where totally innocent about the facts of life and she came across cases where girls had got pregnant without the slightest idea of what was happening to them. She discussed this with Elaben and they decided to start a programme for young girls called “Know your Body”. There was a lot of opposition to this from the conservatives, who tried to stop the classes, but Ranjanben was always willing to fight for her beliefs. She confronted them boldly and continued the classes, which today are an important part of the SEWA health programme.

Through these classes, she came in contact with midwives, and conducted a survey to find that over 70% of SEWA members did not go to hospitals but had their babies delivered by traditional midwives. SEWA then started training in modern techniques for the midwives, which today has grown into the SEWA Midwives School, and the midwives have become independent health providers registering their own co-operatives.

 Ranjanben is known best for her organizing of paper-pickers. Coming into SEWA one would see the diminutive figure of Ranjanben surrounded by fifty paper pickers with their sacks of waste, all talking at once. When Ranjanben got up in the morning she would go out into her verandah to find a group of paper pickers with problems sitting patiently waiting for her. At night they would come to her house and sit talking to her till her husband requested her to go to bed. Ranjanben was always fighting for them. She would fight with the policemen who harassed them. She would fight with the officers of the Government to make sure that they got all the paper from the waste paper baskets (the D category of waste), she would fight with the contractors in the areas to make sure they got good prices. And most of all she would spend hours with them trying to help them sort out their internal differences.

Ranjanben was always concerned that SEWA organizers should be very close to the members. She would encourage the young organizers to visit SEWA sisters’ houses, eat and drink with them, and take interest in their work. She would often tell them "Your conduct should be soothing enough to give a sad woman her smile back" .Elaben called Ranjanben her "conscience keeper" and said in weak moments she would remind her of the guiding values of SEWA and keep her on track

On the day of her retirement, at the age of 65, Ranjanben said she was not going to leave; rather she would keep coming to SEWA till death took her away. And that’s the way it happened, she came to SEWA met everyone, and a day later she passed away on Sunday. 
  SEWA Cooperatives celebrate Indian Co-operative Centenary.
  The Indian Co-operative movement has just completed a hundred years. SEWA along with National Co-operative Development Corporation and the Gujarat Women's Development Co-oprative Federation celebrated the role of important role of women in co-operatives by awarding the Year’s Best Performance to Pethapur Women’s Dairy Co-operative. The Second award went to Saundarya Cleaners Co-operative, and the third was Lok Swasthya Health Co-operative. Each of these has a turnover of more than Rs. 5 million. They were awarded a certificate of excellence and a cash prize of Rs.1000. The Dairy cooperative of Pethapur, a village close to Gandhinagar has registered a profit of Rs.1.1 million and generated income for its more than 1200 members.

SEWA entered the Co-operative movement thirty years ago when SEWA Bank was started in 1974. The experience of SEWA Bank made the members of SEWA realize that the combination of trade union and co-operatives was very powerful. The trade union fights for the rights of members, while the co-operative gave them control of their economy. The next co-operative was the Sabina Patch workers Co-operative and after that were a series of milk producer co-operatives formed with the help of the Milk Producer Co-operative Federations. Today there are 93 co-operatives which are part of the SEWA movement.

These cooperatives came together to form the Gujarat State Women SEWA Cooperative for the purpose of facilitating training, marketing, providing linkages, generating employment, and solving their different issues. The federation has contributed in a very big way in generating employment for women in different trades. On 29th of June the Federation called its Annual General Meeting   and issued its annual report, which speaks volumes about the efforts put by self-employed members of SEWA behind the success of cooperative movement in state.

Last year the Federation conducted 72 training programmes for building the technical and organizational skills of the members of different cooperatives. It helped   cooperatives to do a business worth more than Rs. 10 million (Rs.1, 08,73,892 to be precise) and was able to give employment to 16,716 women earning an income of over Rs. 2 million
Sr. Name No. Members
1 Land Based Cooperatives 5 165
2 Labour Cooperatives:
-Salt Workers
-Stone Breakers’
-Paper Pickers
-Construction Workers


3 Artisan Cooperatives:
-Quilt makers (stichers’)
-Block printers
-Appliqué Workers
- Weavers
-Cane & Bamboo workers


4 Service Cooperatives:
-Child Care
-Health Care


5 Vendors / Traders
-Fruit & Vegetable
-Utility Items
-Snacks / Catering


6 Dairy 58 5879
7 The Mahila SEWA Cooperative Bank Ltd. 1 44,938
  Total 93 50,817
RESTORING A LEGACY: SEWA’s struggle for restoring the Kabadi (scrap) Bazaar
SEWA’s members in Delhi earn their livelihood by exchanging new pots for old clothes. They would repair and dry clean the clothes, and sell them in the historic bazaar behind the Red Fort. This bazaar was started in the Mughal times and was know as the Bibi Khanam market, the British who changed its name to Kabadi Bazaar shifted it. Since then it has been shifted around old Delhi seven times, but always retained its essential nature. Practically every old and recycled thing is sold in this market from clothes to stethoscopes, to electronic parts to old tires. Poor people come to buy goods from this market but so do the well off.. Those coming barefoot, and those coming in luxury cars, both can be seen shopping in this market. It attracts foreign tourists coming to Delhi in a big way.
In the year 2001, one more chapter was added to the history of this Market. The administration thought that the market demised the beauty of the Red Fort. It did not think for a moment what would happen to those over 4000 households, which were dependent on this market for their livelihood, or the tens of thousands of consumers who regularly used this market, or the hundreds of tourists for whom it was a major attraction. The Government removed the whole market with no thought of relocation.
This was a major blow to people’s livelihoods. Many of SEWA’s members had no other source of livelihood. They began to run into debt, they sold their jewellery and took their children out of school. Some of them did try to sell on the roads in front of the Red Fort on Sundays, but as the place was not legally theirs, they had to give bribes to the police, and still the police would beat them from time to time. They continued their struggle for a place that would legally belong to them, kept on receiving police beating. From time to time Municipal Corporation would select places for relocating the market but nothing worked out. SEWA made many efforts to get the traders their market back. It started the struggle with a general meeting that was called to associate every affected trader with the struggle. A steering committee of 12 members was formed to do all the necessary works related to different Government offices. SEWA also tried to take the voice of the affected people to the policy makers, leaders and higher authorities. It contacted the Police Commissioner, the Lt. Governor of Delhi, local Member of Parliament, to the press and the most important person in this matter- the Municipal Commissioner of Delhi. Every body gave a sympathetic hearing to SEWA, and its members, but to find a place for market in Delhi was some thing next to impossible yet the municipal Commissioner of Delhi Mr. Rakesh Mehta met SEWA's Committee several times and finally a place was decided upon. On 29th of May this year, a place on Veldrome road near I.G Stadium was given for Bazaar. SEWA members could not believe that their four-year-old struggle had come to a fruitful end ---for them it was a dream realised!

SEWA statistics
SEWA ENTERS MARKETS IN THE CAPITAL: SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre (STFC) Opens retail outlet in New Delhi 
The STFC has opened its third retail outlet at the Handicrafts Bhavan in New Delhi. The Bhavan was formally inaugurated on the 4th of June, by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Mrs. Gandhi was felicitated by STFC member-shareholders Subhadraben, Kakuben (Patan), Phulaba and Chandaba (Kutch).
STFC has been selected by the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India and the Development Commissioner of Handicrafts to head the gallery for textiles and textile based handicraft products. The outlet is a gallery housing a wide range of handcrafted apparels, home furnishings and accessories made by grassroots producers and artisans in the informal sector. Strategically located in the heart of the capital in Connaught place, Baba Kharaksingh marg, the outlet will be an important retail-marketing avenue in the national market. It will also provide a platform for the artisans to directly link with the final customers and have a firsthand understanding of their tastes, preferences and demand patterns. This will help improve the competitive position of the artisans in the domestic market, and prepare them to seize emerging opportunities in the global markets.
Important dignitaries including Ms Sheela Dixit Chief Minister of Delhi, Shree Shankarsinh Vaghela Minister of Textiles GOI, Shree R.Poornalingam Secretary, Ministry of textiles and prominent persons in the textiles and Handicrafts sector attended the event.
The gallery will provide direct market access to all SEWA members in the textile and handicrafts sector. This includes over 15000 craft artisan SEWA members in Banaskantha and Kutch districts, chikankari, Badla and zardosi artisans members in UP (LMST), tussar silk weaver members in Bhagalpur (SEWA Bhagalpur), Chanderi, Maheshwari weavers and smoking artisans in Indore (SEWA MP) and members of HOMENET. The STFC gallery will also cater to artisan groups and grassroots producers from all parts of the country and provide them with the much needed market support by marketing their products at the gallery. These groups will also be provided with additional technical assistance and business development services through custom made modules prepared by STFC. 
COMPUTER COURSES IN SEWA: Educating the the third Generation
Elaben Bhatt called upon the third generation of SEWA to have a large vision and   self-confidence in life.  Distributing certificates to adolescent girls of SEWA members, on successful completion of Computer course, Elaben, encouraged the girls to learn English language to join the mainstream. She said the girls have made her feel proud. Computer classes for the daughters of the SEWA members were started last year after SEWA members coming to literacy classes demanded it. The classes are run at SEWA Academy which is responsible for the capacity building of self employed women through research, training, literacy, and print & electronic communication 
"Ahemdabad Municipal Corporation wants to continue working positively with SEWA”: Municipal Commissioner
The Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad visited SEWA on April 30th to understand about the ways in which SEWA is inter-woven with the Ahmedabad city life. Over 120,000 self-employed women of Ahmedabad are members of SEWA including street vendors, paper pickers, construction workers, stitches, kite makers and many more. SEWA works closely with the Corporation in many areas. Paper pickers and cleaner members of SEWA keep the city clean. For example Vejalpur Municipality has given work to the women of Valmiki Community and they are now collecting garbage door to door in Vejalpur area. Over 200,000 women have accounts in SEWA Bank and have taken loans for employment and housing. 125 SEWA health workers are working in 30 wards on health issues like TB and AIDS. SEWA's insurance service “Vimo SEWA” has reached 122,000 people including men women and children. The Mahila Housing SEWA Trust working in co-operation with the Corporation and the Ahmedabad Electricity Company has reached water and sitation to over 5000 families and electricity connections to nearly 2500.
SEWA requested the Commissioner that this co-operation be continued and expanded. In particular, SEWA gave a memorandum that each and every street vendor of the city should be given spaces to vend according to the National Policy on Street vendors and they all should be given Family Identity Card. The Municipal Commissioner showed willingness to work with SEWA wherever possible and assured to take a positive approach towards the concerns of SEWA relating to self employed women. He said that he had first visited SEWA when he was still a student in 1981.
SEWA statistics
The SEWA Bank, formally known as "The Mahila SEWA Cooperative Bank Ltd." registered a remarkable growth during last one year. The Bank provided employment to 10,500 Women and paid wages, worth nearly Rs.19.7 million. (Rs.19, 67, 70,299.43 to be precise). It provided loans to Self-employed women working in 111 Trades. Following are the statistics of its growth.
Details 2003-2004 2004-2005 Increase
Members 34,835 44,938 10,103
share Capital 1,79,53,000 2,05,98,000 26,45,000
Accounts 2,56,617 2,76,684 20,067
Total Deposit(Rs.) 61,96,99,000 62,47,66,000 50,67,000
Working Capital(Rs.) 87,23,62,000 89,14,47,000 1,90,85,000
No. of Loans & Advances Accounts 53,472 64,326 10,854
Loans & Advances (Rs.) 16,69,44,000 18,41,72,000 1,72,28,000
Profit (Rs.) 88,59,000 62,20,000 26,39,000
SEWA bank's suggestions invited by Parliamentary Committee
The Indian Parliamentary Committee on Pensions has invited SEWA Bank's suggestions on "Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority Act". The Committee's   has asked for bank's view because the bank has the experience of implementing its own pension Scheme. The bank has made the following suggestions -        

- It should be the responsibility of the Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority to include poor workers in this scheme and it should be mentioned in the Preamble of the Act.
- The term "Working Poor" should be defined and the workers having a monthly income less than Rs.3, 500 should be included in it.
- A special old age pension scheme for the poor old people should be designed
- "For Point of Presence", institutions or organisations, directly working with the workers such as Non Government Organisations Cooperatives, Micro finance Institutions District Panchyat Village Panchyat, current Welfare board Urban Municipal Body etc should be recognised  
Miraiben Chaterji nominated in WHO's Commission
Ms. Mirai Chaterji, Coordinator of SEWA's Social Security has been appointed as a Commissioner in the Commission for Social Determinants of health (CSDH) constituted by World Health Organisation (WHO) , along with Dr. Amartya Sen,and Chile's President Mr. Escobar. The Health Ministers of Philippines, and Kenya, and the ex. Health Ministers of Iran & Canada and the former Surgeon- general of the United States are among other commissioners. The Commission has been constituted to change global health policy, in order to ensure that the poorest of people get access to health services, and in an integrated and holistic manner.
The commission will hold its next meeting in India. It will have a special meeting with the Prime Minister of India. There will also be a visit to SEWA in mid-September.

Dear friends,

The recent floods in Gujarat have affected SEWA’s members and their families in Ahmedabad, Kheda, Anand and Surat districts. About 1,25,000 members are affected, many of them have lost their houses and livelihoods. Our concern is to help them to cope up the present and rebuild the future.

More than 3000 mud houses have collapsed completely or partially.

Almost all members have lost their household goods, ration, their tools and other means of livelihood. However, within same days the need for long term relief will became apparent all the pressing for the movement.

The immediate need is for (1) dry ration (2) tarpaulin sheets (3) candles and (4) medical supplies.

Our teams are not able to reach out to the villages due to continuing heavy rains, no electricity supply and the telephone lines have been disrupted.

In a weeks time, we will be able to assess the exact damage.

On behalf of our affected 1,25,000 families, we appeal for your support with whatever you can in terms of small cash donations. Gujarat and SEWA’s members have been experiencing natural disasters every year. SEWA is also planning to take up at central and state level for long term livelihood security programme. We welcome your support in that too. In light of the urgency of the situation, we need this support to act quickly and effectively.  

The donations could be transferred to :
or write to :
Mahila SEWA Trust Ms. Namrata Bali :
Account No. : 62172 General Secretary
FCRA No. : 041910070 Self Employed Women's Association(SEWA)
Bank Swift Code No. : (US) BKIDINBBAMB Sewa Reception Centre,Opp.Victoria Garden
Bank Address : Bank of India  Bhadra,Ahmedabad-380001
Ahmedabad Main Branch Phone : 079-25506441-444-477/25507365,
Bhadra, Ahmedabad - 380001, India.  Fax : 079-25506446
  E-mail : /,
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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
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