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SEWA'S electronic newsletter
  • Community radio station of SEWA gets award

  • Head loaders wages increase--- then and now

  • 25 years of achievement of Childcare--BAL SEWA!

  • A visit to Srilanka

  • Borders never stops SEWA

  • Literacy reaches Rural India

  • SEWA Kerala struggles for Waste

  • Occupational hazards faced by our sisters

  • Solar light reaches the poor

Side Divider
No. 34 | May, 2011
H2 Side Community radio station of SEWA gets award

Radio is a medium which can be accessed by the masses and so SEWA started a community radio station in the Manipur village of Sanand taluka, Gujarat in 2009 which reaches out to nearby 40 villages.

SEWA community radio has been awarded 'best station' by Ministry of information and broadcasting, Government of India. The award was given away by Shri Ambica Soni to Shri Shanta Koshti, Academy Coordinator.

The information and the broadcasting ministry along with common wealth educational media center for Asia from 7th to 9th April at 'Vigyan Bhavan', Delhi organized the first of its kind in India conference on national community radio. The conference saw the presence of representatives of 106 community radio stations which included SEWA.

SEWA's unique method of narrow casting to reach out to the people was appreciated by one and all in the conference. In particular, it won the award for its programmes on "Community Marriages" and "Drug de-addiction".

SEWA has been promoting Community Marriages to reduce crippling marriage costs to families. Some of interesting responses of the listeners were included :

Nirmala (name changed) was going to get married. But after listening to the program, the girl convinced her parents and her in laws that they should not spend on her marriage but should participate in a community marriage.One of the women after listening to the program called up the CRS team and requested them to give the number of deaddiction center as her husband was alcohol addict. CRS team provided her with the information and the husband is now well.

Congratulations to the CRS team!

H2 Side Headloaders wages increase--- then and now

Elaben talks about the experience, "The year was about 1971 or 1972.From the market, a dealer named Gabhaji came to the 'Mahajan's office'. He was sent to me. When I went to the market I saw many of the women, carrying load on their heads, reaching the stock from the wholesaler to the retailer. And they used to get 20paisa for one trip. At the end of the day the total money collected amounted to Rs.2.when a survey was conducted it was found out that there were other questions as well. At that time the late Shri Anubhai was the head of the 'sheth market' .We dared to negotiate with him but there was none to listen to us. We are very new!"

Once I met the late Shri Vinod Neelkanth, an eminent literateur, in a conference and discussed with him the demand of the head loaders to increase their wage rate from 20paisa per piece to 30 paisa. It was immediately published by him in a magazine called 'Ghar Ghar Ni Jyot'. This created uproar in the employers' market who immediately gave the justification that it as not true. As soon as it was published in the magazine I photocopied it and distribute it amongst the laborers. Because of that I was reprimanded by the Majur Mahajan about the way to fight. This was the first fight of SEWA union."

This struggle has been repeated over the year. SEWA latest victory was on 21st march, 2011 in the Sarangpur area of Ahmedabad district, where 5000 head loaders and hand cart pullers negotiated had increases of upto Rs.2500 to Rs.3000 in their wages.

This has been the first time in the history of SEWA that such a large increase has been witnessed. Workers were earning Rs.80 to Rs 100 on a daily basis as they were paid about Rs 2.50 to Rs 3 per trip. After struggle and negotiation it has increased to Rs 5 per trip. This would enable their income to be doubled. It has been a long journey from an increase of 25 paisa in 1972 to Rs 100 per today.

A tripartite board had been formed for the head loaders and cart pullers wherein representatives of workers, employers and government negotiate. SEWA is a member of the tripartite board. The employers as well as workers participating in the board were registered as well as the unprotected workers were given ID cards as well. Whatever amount the employers used to pay annually as wages, 8% of the amount was submitted as levy in the board to carry on the welfare schemes by the government.

Because of the continuous efforts of SEWA the employers and the workers are able to negotiate without bitterness. Sindhi Mahajan head Shri Hajarimal said that workers were like their bones and legs. Both of them could not survive without the other.

Jyoti Macwan, SEWA president, shared her views, "I congratulate the head loaders and hand carters on the behalf of the 13.25lakh member base of SEWA. SEWA is extremely delighted and pleased. If I talk about myself I and my whole families are workers. Today the increase in wages has eradicated discrimination amongst the workers and the employers and is a history in itself. This is the real celebration of the completion of 600 years of Ahmedabad.

H2 Side 25 years of achievement of Childcare--BAL SEWA!

The sisters of SEWA are engaged in various occupations like head loading, stitching, incense stick making, bidi and papad making, agriculture and in various other occupations. When the women work, they either have to take their children along with them to work or leave them to fend for themselves. As a result their healths as well as the child's health suffer. 25 years ago SEWA decided to plunge in the and provide the facilities of crèche in the various areas of Gujarat, later the teachers in these crèches formed their own co-operative Bal SEWA. Nutrition, education, recreation all, the aspects of the child are taken care of in such centers. This has contributed in increasing the productivity resulting in increased income of the women. At present there are in total 27 centers where 927 children are associated with it.

Minaben Rathod, stitching, has three children. Her two year son, Himesh, regularly comes to the Bal SEWA Kendra. Today, Minaben can do her household work as well as pursue stitching, thus earning and contributing to her family. On an average, she earns Rs.50 to Rs.60 on a daily basis. She is happy with the progress made by her son.

The most outstanding case is that of Faiz who from the last five years who attends the center. The boy was deaf and mute. Initially he was very shy and used to frequently run away. a special person had taken care of him in case he runs away. But in the five year long term association with SEWA, he has overcome his shyness and talks in signs with other children at the center. Earlier he used to be very inactive at his place but today he is the center of attention. Seeing this miracle Faiz's mother is extremely happy.
H2 Side A visit to Srilanka

SEWA organized study tour to Srilanka in order to learn something new as well as share their experiences. The team got to know more about Gandhian institutions-Sarvodaya Movement, Sansa institution and Practical action. Out of these institutions Sarvodaya movement works for the rural people in the 1500 villages of Srilanka. Sansa institution work to provide banking facilities to the poor and is active for the 32 years. Practical action works to reach the technology to the poor.

Thus the visit not only gave SEWA team a unique experience but also an opportunity to present their work purview as well.

H2 Side Borders never stops SEWA

Never ever any border has stopped the sisters of SEWA. Wherever the question is of the security of the informal sector women workers, SEWA does not have any inhibitions regarding the borders, be it Afghanistan or Pakistan.

SEWA sisters visited Pakistan. They gave training on the subject of embroidery for 15 days to the Pakistan sisters. The team of SEWA comprised of the ace trainers of SEWA and shared their experiences with the participants.

The training comprised of subjects like organizing, its importance, leadership and quality of embroidery, importance of savings. These trainings were for a period of 4 days each and were organized in different areas of Pakistan like Sindh, Ravalpindi, Haripur and Mansora. Almost 90 women participated in the training.

After receiving the training, the participants said, "We have not participated in such type of trainings before. We got to learn a lot in these trainings. We promise that each of us would train 5 daughters and try to bring them ahead in life."
Listening to your struggles, I dream to become like you someday. I want to come to India and would like to see the work of SEWA. I would like to start that sort of work here in Pakistan. Presently my husband do not allow me to go outside but I will explain it to him and will go ahead in life like you-Bhagluben, Sindh, Pakistan.
H2 Side Literacy reaches Rural India

In 1988, in Patan district of Gujarat, in remote areas SEWA started its union in the remote villages through the traditional handwork embroidery. Through this the women started earning. As soon as the women started earning they started to think about the education and the welfare of the children. The women of the village started demanding that we need education to properly develop the village. This dream of theirs was realized through 'Jeevanshaala' (lifeschool). Jeevan means education and shala means school. Thus the education useful in life comprised of 'Jeevan Shaala'.

Sharing her experience of the Jeevanshaala, Raanbai of Bamroli says, "Having learnt how to read and write in Jeevanshaala, I joined the BalSEWA center in the spearhead team I was a member, leader, representative. I visited the child center as a part of spearhead team. Earlier I was used to take the help of my daughter to write my travelling allowance but I write it by my own. Earlier I did not used to go to the market to buy groceries or vegetables because of the fear of accounts. But after I learnt how to read and write it is like I have been given wings!"

After studying in the Jeevanshala, the women realized the importance of education. A study was conducted along with 'alba collective and Harvard University. This study was named 'Shah'.

According to the principal of the village school there have been high instances of drop out which has been observed especially among girls during 1st to 7th std. The daughters have to manage their siblings, household as well as prepare meals. If the parents are educated it would be a lot of help to emphasize the importance of education.

H2 Side SEWA Kerala struggles for Waste

Wherever we go today, the common thing that we find today is waste littered everywhere in the cities and the; local governments finding it hard to come up with strategy concerning the management of waste.

Waste picking is also one of the trades covered by SEWA. There has been an instance in where at a place 7 kms far from the SEWA Kerala; a plant has been established by government there to manage the waste. The establishment of the plant was vehemently opposed by the local people there as well as by SEWA. The main reason behind this was: 1) the people should themselves bring out a solution to the waste problem. They should not pollute the environment in the process. 2) The place where this waste plant was planned to be established, exactly near the plant was a pipe line carrying drinking water for the people. This could be polluted by the waste management plant.

But in the end the authorities won and the waste plant was established. This led to the rise in the problems of the people residing in that particular area. Because of the combination of materials which is of varied nature. The huge amount of waste accumulated attracted flies and mosquitoes which rendered the life of the residents unbearable. People started suffering from skin diseases, ground water became polluted rendering all the wells useless. The rich sold their houses but the poor had to bear the brunt.

SEWA formed a forum of citizens which did the work of vigilance. This forum was quite active and continues with their demand to remove the plant. They spread awareness on the issue all over the state. Because of the efforts the municipal corporation had to enforce new laws which were concerning the decentralization of the power managing the waste as well as the building should be self sufficient to manage waste.

SEWA in Kerala has manufactured small gas plant through which a family can use the gas from the waste to cook their food. But the main obstacle in recent times is plastic which cannot neither be destructed nor can be used as compost. SEWA also tried its hand at recycling the waste paper as well.

H2 Side Occupational hazards faced by our sisters

SEWA has been consistently toiling for the informal sector since the time of its inception. Acknowledging the fact, population first and UNFPA the fact SEWA has been awarded the 2010-11 Ladli award. This was given for SEWA's efforts of giving voice to the views of informal sector women workers and their daughters through various communication mediums as well trying to main stream them.

Achalaben used to cut wires of the bulb. Small pieces of the wire used to be scattered all over the house and sometimes used to pierce in her feet. The bulb pieces also used to be scattered all over the place and if left in the sari, used to torn the sarees. It led to weakening of her eyes as well pains in the other part of the body. Everyday she had to visit the hospital. The hands have been badly bruised still she has to work because she feels that she cannot do her work.

For people like Achalaben SEWA initiated a health camp .after this workshop the women became conscious bout their health. They realized that if they are in good state of health they will be to take better care of their family. Keeping in mind the suggestion given at the health camps the women have started to follow them thus improving their health.

In SEWA MP, most of the members are associated with trade like homebased workers, bidi workers, incense stick worker, bidi-papad makers, and construction workers. These workers toil hard day and night but they earn so much so that they can earn their two time meal.

To counter the health related problems, SEWA since the last two and half years has in its center have started training related to health related trainings. In Bareily such health camps are also organized in the areas of the women where medicines are distributed for free. Moreover these women are also referred to other hospitals operation for eye cataract operation.

Rajiaben of Faridapur said," After receiving the training we realized and understood the precautions that should be taken during pregnancy, balanced diet, protection from diseases like T.B. and other information as well. This should be actually done by government. But Asha (Accredited Social Health Activist) worker or ANM (Auxilliary nurse midwife) visit the area sometimes. Earlier we used to fear to come to the SEWA center. But after attending the health camp we have reached to good health.
Vandanaben Nandubhai Mangnoor shares that her husband works in the plastic shop and earns Rs.2000 per month. She herself works as incense stick worker. She earns on an average Rs.60 per month. Everyday she makes around 5000-6000 incense stick s in about 8 hours every day. SEWA gave us the boards and cloth to cover mouth. This has resulted into reduction in back pain .Now I can make 7000 incense stick workers per day. My income has increased from Rs.60 to Rs.70 per day.
H2 Side Solar light reaches the poor
In a village called Jalsaakra in Kharagpur women work to make leaf plates. These villages do not have electricity. So one day she goes to forests to collect leaves and the next day she makes the plates. Due to absence of light she had to work only in daylight reducing her productivity and income. SEWA worked with the shg of women in Jalsakra to get solar lights and each woman pays Rs 3 per day for these lights. This has increased their earnings as well as their well being.
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