SEWA
Self Employed Women’s Association
 
 
Nov 2006
Special edition
 
  AFL-CIO Human Rights award for Elaben.
  Launching the Struggle for Social Security of Unorganised Workers.
  SEWA helps to implement National Policy for Street vendors in Indore.
  New Diseases sweep India.
  The Hatkeshwar Vendors Struggle.
  SEWA Bank and SEWA Gram Haat launch a scheme to prevent hunger.
  Children of the Communal Riots.
  Funfair for Children.
  Bidi workers of Murshidabad, West Bengal.
 
AFL-CIO Human Rights award for Elaben

American Federation of Labour Congress of Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO) honoured Ela Bhatt the founder of SEWA, with George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Awards, acknowledging her courage and commitment for social justice. In the ceremony at Washington DC, Senator Hillary Clinton introduced who has earlier visited SEWA, introduced Elaben and said,” Ela Bhatt is my hero” She described her “colourful” visit to SEWA and expressed her admiration for the women members of SEWA and the organization they have built George Sweeney, President AFL-CIO, presented the award. Jyoti Mekwan General Secretary of SEWA, and Lakshmiben member of SEWA Trade Council were present.

Speaking at the ceremony Elaben said SEWA’s struggle for the rights of nearly eight hundred thousand workers, is not limited to the fight for their rights, wages or, benefits, it is a fight against injustice. A fight for developing a just socio-economic and political attitude towards workers at local, national and international level. She said informal economy is continuously expanding because of globalization, liberalization, and privatization, where as most of the workers in this sector are yet not organized. She said organizing workers is a big challenge, but there is no alternative to it. Elaben said in this rapidly changing global economic scenario, SEWA believes in a nonviolent workers’ movement, that would be effective in bringing in change for the development of common people, and workers , specially the women

Talking about SEWA’s initiative for organizing workers in the informal economy in other parts of the world and helping create organizations such as Homenet and Streetnet. She also spoke of the efforts to bring in changes at policy levels through WEIGO and expressed hope to take it further with the cooperation of AFL-CID and other international organizations.

Launching the Struggle for Social Security of Unorganised Workers

On 2nd October the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi, SEWA along with other trade unions and NGOs launched a joint struggle for an Act for social security to unorganized workers. SEWA members from Delhi, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh along with members of Hamal Panchayat and Waste Collectors Union from Maharashtra, representatives of central trade unions HMS and CITU and NGOs NCC-USW, Lokayan and MKSS held a Dharna outside Gandhiji’s memorial and took a pledge. Baba Adhav of Hamal Panchayat, led the Dharna.

The demand for a legislation for unorganized or Informal workers has been a long standing one which finally was accepted by the previous (NDA) Government when the Second National Commission on Labour was set up with two terms of reference.

They were, first, to rationalize the existing labour laws and second to draft an umbrella legislation for the unorganized sector workers.

SEWA’s founder Ela Bhatt was a member of the Commission active in drafting this umbrella legislation which included social security, conditions of work, promotion of organising and even rights to natural resources.

Although the central trade unions opposed the report of the Commission on rationalizing of labour laws they all supported the legislation for unorganized sector and the demand for this law was raised in the Indian Labour Conference. Unfortunately the Law was never introduced in Parliament by the Government.

The present UPA Government has been in power since 2004. One of the promises was to bring legislation for social security informal workers including agricultural workers. The National Advisory Council headed by Smt. Sonia Gandhi had asked SEWA to help in drafting a legislation.

This Bill was submitted by the Council to the Prime Minister. After this the National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector also submitted a Bill on Social Security to the Prime Minister. These Bills include health benefits, maternity benefits, insurance and pensions. Unfortunately, in spite of promises the Government has made no move to introduce the Bill in Parliament.

In this 60th year of India’s independence we have made a resolve to join hands with trade unions, NGOs, parliamentarians, academics and those sympathetic to the unorganized workers to conduct a mass agitation for a Social Security Law.

The plan this year is to have mass meetings in each state and to “ring a bell” outside the houses of the parliamentarians in their own constituencies by giving them a memorandum and reminding them of their duty to pass an Act for social security for unorganized workers.

We also plan a small demonstration outside parliament in the November-December session and a larger one during the budget session. We invite all friends to join us.

Pledge taken on Gandhiji’s Birthday 2nd October 2006

We are the workers of the unorganised sector. Much of the growth of the country is due to our hard work and labour but we remain poor and deprived. Health benefit, maternity entitlement, insurance, pension and other forms of social protection do not reach us.

For many years, the government has promised us a social security law, but every time it has turned out to be a false assurance. The salaries and the facilities of the parliamentarians elected by us, has been increasing every year, but we remain where we were. In 2007, India will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of its Independence.

On Gandhiji’s birth anniversary, we take a pledge that for the entire year we will struggle for a law on social security. we will forcefully remind our elected representatives of their promises. With all our strength, we will face all obstacles and ensure social security for every worker of our country.

e are all one.

Bharat mata ki jai !!

SEWA helps to implement National Policy for Street vendors in Indore

The Municipal Corporation of Indore, Madhya Pradesh has asked SEWA (Madhya Pradesh) to conduct a survey of urban vendors in the city and help to issue identity cards to them.

This exercise is a part of implementation of the National Policy for the Vendors in the central province of the country. SEWA has already completed survey and Municipal Corporation issued cards to over 9000 vendors.

SEWA started organizing vendors in Indore in the year 2004. SEWA did the mapping of vendors of Indore and identified the spots where they operate.

It organized workshops, processions and conferences for the vendors at Indore demanding the implementation of the National Policy for Street Vendors which provides for urban sapce for street vendors, registration with the civic authorities, Identity cards, constitution of Vendors Welfare Board and Vending Committee in cities, social and financial securities and a rehabilitation policy.

Madhya Pradesh is one of the first States which has officially adopted the National Policy.

New Diseases sweep India

This year’s monsoon in India along a new disease with it, which soon turned to be an epidemic. The patients felt a killing pain at joints, swelling in limbs and fever. Some older people died due to complications and most patients take months to recover to normal. The disease was identified to be Chicken Guniya caused by the Aedes Mosquito and has no known cure.

Festival time is the peak season for work and earning of SEWA workers. In each house 3-4 people got ill and expenses were over Rs. 5,000/- per person. Even after recovery it was difficult to work.

Mehrunnisha , a garment worker says, “Due to my swollen fingers and achy joints, I could not work on my sewing machine or use scissors for three months”. I cannot work “I have lost my peak earning season”.

“Shardaben – paper picker, says “I cannot walk long distances or bend and pick up paper. I lost earning of Rs. 70-80 per day. Another SEWA member Chanchalben says, “My cow got ill because I could not milk her. My hands would not work and she would not accept anyone else hands. I have lost so many days of milk earning and spent on both myself and my cow”.

I started going to construction site when I recovered, there I had replace and had to be carried here. : I don’t know if I can ever work again”. Says Amarben Tulsiben Sadhu.

SEWA’s health unit worked extensively to make people aware about the disease and precautions to prevent it.

The Hatkeshwar Vendors Struggle


While the country celebrated Diwali and Id the street vendors of Hatkeshwar (Ahmedabad) could not light lamps in their houses. Over one hundred street vendors were displaced from their traditional selling places when the residents fo the area took objection to them. 

This year when the epidemic of Chicken Guniya broke out, the people living in one residential society of this area blamed vegetable vendors for polluting the area. They complained against the vendors in AMC and sent an e- mail to the Chief Minister of Gujarat himself, as this area falls in his legislative constituency.

The vendors were removed and for two months they were without work.

Just before Diwali SEWA held a Dharna in the area. Abuses were hurled at SEWA activists and there was some attempt at violence against them. However, SEWA activists peacefully met the residents and the Municipal authorities and could temporarily find a place for the vendors to sell.

The Municipality ahs assured the vendors of a alternative space, meanwhile SEWA will continue to fight the case for vendors in the high court.

SEWA Bank and SEWA Gram Haat launch a scheme to prevent hunger

SEWA urban members earn daily and in lean periods they are unable to purchase food and their families have to go hungry. On the other hand SEWA rural members produce food grains but are unable to get a good price for their products.

SEWA Bank and SEWA Gram Mahila Haat have jointly launched a scheme to help rural producers get a good price for their grain and at the same time to ensure that daily earners get enough food for their family.

SEWA Bank’s Annapurna loan is like a credit card for food. The Bank approves the loan which can be drawn whenever the SEWA Bank member wishes. When she is short of food, or whenever she wishes to buy food, she informs the SEWA Gram Haat and her needs are supplied in a day.

The Bank pays the Gram Haat directly for the food bought. SEWA members are using this loan not only during times that they have no money but also to buy in bulk when the prices are low so that they can stock up for a season.

Children of the Communal Riots

SEWA organized a three days workshop for the children orphaned during 2002 communal riots. The workshop was organized in collaboration with Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Delhi. SEWA has taken responsibility for the education, recreation and general upbringing of these children – “Hamare Bacche”.

The workshop provided the children training on earning a livelihood through different arts such as stage, painting handicraft skills. The children were also given knowledge of common messages of Hindu ism and Islam. The children of both the communities recited couplets from Vedas and Quoran with explaining their meaning.

They were informed about similarities in different words and symbols of both the religions They also performed a skit based on communal harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims titled “Dosti”.

Funfair for Children

SEWA’s Childcare cooperative Shri Sangini Mahila Bal SEWA Cooperative organized a fun fair at Ahmedabad. Nearly 1100 Children coming to some 62 Childcare Centers run by SEWA for children of self employed women in Ahmedabad took part in this fair.

The children participated in activities like drawing, story recitation, and dance. Clay work etc. The children also enjoyed the puppet show. Everybody joined the Graba, the traditional dance of Gujarat at the end of the fair. The head of Home Guards Mr. Rana was also present at the fair to encourage the children.

Bidi workers of Murshidabad, West Bengal

SEWA took up the case of bidi workers of Raghunath Ganj Murshidabad who were being exploited by contractors.. These contractors would deduct provident fund in the name of the woman but would not give her a receipt. SEWA created awareness on this matter among women and ensured that the women received the provident fund receipts due to them.
 
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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 :mail@sewa.org
     
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