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  • Where else are vendors harassed by Mafias like Delhi?

  • Slow Food Celebrations

  • Migration's ill effect on women / Effect of migration on women

  • Farmer's difficulty : Land Acquisition

  • Land Rights and Women Empowerment

  • Violence against Women

  • The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Draft

  • Convention of Domestic Workers

  • 'Are we threat for the city?' asks Bhadra's vendors

  • Financial Freedom

Side Divider
No. 39 | February 2012
H2 Side Where else are vendors harassed by Mafias like Delhi ?

Delhi is a place where people migrate in search of work. But as each day passes, people become invisible among the crowd and glitter. The less educated migrants find variety of work like labour work, ironing work, vending work, home based work, domestic work, driving rickshaw, etc and they earn well enough. With rapid development happening in all major cities of India, the poor are displaced ruthlessly. Similarly, the situation of street vendors is no different in Delhi. The street vendors are harassed by MCD, Police, Goons and Mafias, in the process of beautification, modernization and development.

There are many street markets in Delhi, which are forbidden to vend in the name of security and beautification. In 2010, during Commonwealth Games (CWG) street vendors of entire Delhi were restricted to place their markets. Unfortunately, the Government doesn't understand that rehabilitating the vendors is as important as renovating the city for CWG. It is the responsibility of Government to reestablish the markets in some other place for the poor vendors' to earn their living with dignity.

The Goons and Mafias with support from Police and MCD set up the markets at various places and charged illegally for the space from the vendors. In desperation, vendors pay Rs 500-1000 to Goons or Mafias to make a living. Besides, MCD charge penalty from the vendors for setting up illegal markets. Thus, vendors are exploited by both, Mafias and MCD.


A 45-50 years old, historical market behind Red Fort was displaced. In the year 2000, the market was displaced under the guise of beautification of Red Fort. Thousands of vendors lost their means of livelihood. SEWA worked closely with the vendors and in the year 2005 the market was revived at North Vellodrome Road. SEWA linked the vendors with union and struggled a lot to prevent vendors from exploitation by Goons and Mafias.

As the vendors were about to settle down at their new location, once again the Government restricted the market citing security reasons. Within a week the work for new flyover project was initiated once again without thinking about the vendors and their rehabilitation. The vendors again had to struggle to find a place to vend and again they were harassed by Goons representing themselves as union members. In the year 2011-2012, as the work of flyover completed, SEWA continued reestablishing vendors at the North Vellodrome Road.

SEWA approached Shri Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi and Chief Secretary and represented the problems of vendors of North Vellodrome Road. Ultimately, SEWA signed a MOU with PWD, which states that SEWA will supervise the entire market. As per the MOU, not more than 1200 vendors can be allocated place. It is compulsory to carry an Identity Card issued to them. The space allocated to vendor is 6" x 4". One of the rules is that if there is any damage to the flyover for setting up the market then SEWA will bear the damage cost.

Considering all the rules and regulations, no other union wants to join hands with SEWA in reestablishing this market. Also, other unions charge money illegally from the vendors; they don't want to work with SEWA. They are trying to influence vendors against SEWA. In the process to stop injustice to vendors, SEWA is negotiating with Police Commissioner to stop setting up of illegal markets. SEWA's struggle for the vendors continues.

H2 Side Slow Food Celebrations

Slow Food means traditional nutritious food. The discussions on Organic Farming are talked about world over. A 3-days workshop on the same topic was organized at Jokkmokk, Sapmi, Northern Sweden. SEWA Academy team members participated in International Indigenous Terra Madre organized by Slow Food Sapmi, Slow Food i Sverige and Slow Food International.

Slow Food, founded in 1989, is a global, grassroots organization to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Terra Madre, a project conceived by Slow Food, is a network of food communities which is committed to preserving, encouraging, and supporting sustainable food production methods.

The event focused on local food systems, traditional knowledge, diversity of indigenous languages and conservation of agro biodiversity as the main themes of discussion. The event saw grand participation of 70 different ethnic groups and 50 indigenous communities from 31 countries. Around 300 international delegates along with observers, politicians, journalists and decision makers were present at Indigenous Terra Madre.

During the event, they exchanged expertise and raised a collective voice on how traditional knowledge and sustainable use of natural resources can contribute to developing good, clean and fair food systems. And it is a way to oppose environmental destruction and climate change.

Shanta Koshti, Coordinator, SEWA Academy shared, 'During the event, each participants wore traditional attire and presented documentation of their traditional food. We also made an audio and video presentation of our traditional recipes. A sapling was planted with soil and water brought by the participants from their own countries. This gesture was to emphasize: 'We all are one and part of one world'.'


The Terra Madre (Earth) Day was celebrated at SEWA Academy on 10 December 2011. Every year, SEWA Academy celebrates Earth Day to show respect and seek the blessings of mother earth. The earth day was organized at Manipur, SEWA Academy in which around 80 women participated. Rudino Radio Listener's Group, Radio team and SEWA Academy team altogether celebrated Earth Day with great enthusiasm.

The celebrations began by offering prayer and lighting the lamp ceremony. The mother earth was worshiped by painting Rangoli and offering Rice, Moong (green gram), Wheat, etc food grains. Along with Shlok (verses) and chanting, mother earth was worshiped.

Namrata Bali, Director, SEWA Academy welcomed the Earth Day celebrations and shared, 'we are all self-employed workers, and especially women are engaged in agriculture work. We worship mother earth during various festivals. All the family members sing songs, chant hymn and sow crop. We have to pass on this cultural message to our future generations as well. When we talk of our Mother Earth we should also link the concept of 100 miles, which means we should meet all our needs from within a radius of a hundred miles and no farther. We should fulfill our six basic needs i.e. food, clothing, housing, primary education, primary health care and savings & credit from our own neighbourhoods.

She added, 'It is very essential to understand the significance of Slow Food and traditional recipes. We are affiliated to the Slow Food movement under which we respect and motivate our members to use organic manure, farming techniques and traditional recipes. And we are associated by documenting all this information in print, audio and video so that the future generations can benefit as well the local people are informed.'

Dr. K G Mehta shared, 'we should begin everyday by praying to mother earth. Mother earth supports human beings, birds, animals, plants and trees. Today, it is even more important to preserve the fertility of mother earth.' He also shared importance of crop rotation, organic fertilizers and traditional farming techniques. He stressed that everyone should sow one sapling. He also shared many stories and examples from our mythology on farming and recipes.

Being motivated with the words of Namrata Bali and Dr. K G Mehta, everyone sowed saplings of Asopalav, Drumstick (vegetable), and Shriparna (Seven). During the celebrations various traditional recipes were shared and their importance was also discussed. Everyone enjoyed the traditional nutritious delicacies prepared together. The traditional recipes prepared were Ringan (Brinjal) vegetable, Bajri and Jowar Rotla, Khichdi, Kadhi, Jaggery, Ghee, and Butter Milk having science behind each recipe. The Brinjal is rich in iron, Bajri and Jowar are rich with fibre, etc. The recipes prepared are not only rich in protein, carbohydrates, fat and fibre content but are also scientifically correct. And it is also our traditional way of eating.

H2 Side Migration's ill effect on women / Effect of migration on women

Employment is the major reason for migration from villages to cities. The prices are rising every now and then in the society and the state. But it is essential to earn the living. Most people don't like to migrate but certain situations live limited options for the people.

Today, along with men, women also contribute in the household expenses. There are many districts were women shoulder multiple responsibilities by engaging in farm labour, labour work and other household work. Our patriarchal society poses many difficulties for a woman staying alone in the house. Most women residing in remote interior villages are isolated and living alone.

Some remote villages of Dahod district, Gujarat have Adivasi population. The women reside here alone and support each other. They shoulder the entire responsibility of house, children, elders and other social obligations. While conversing with localites it was found that agriculture is only during monsoon. As it is a hilly area, the problem of water persists. Most men migrate to the cities in search of work.

Only women, children and elders are found in the villages. The women have responsibility of children's health and education. Most villages have health centres but without much medicine stock. Anganwadi and Schools are also found in the villages but they have very less students. The child's education is stopped as soon as they can engage in labour work. Adolescent girls also migrate with their father and brother to make food for them and with probability of finding some suitable work for her. The security and safety of her daughter adds to the stress of mother. The women are very lonely. There is no one to look after her when she falls ill or during child birth. She doesn't have any financial security.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) is a government scheme which guarantees 100 days of employment during a financial year to any rural household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work. Under this scheme, various work like digging well, digging irrigation canals, renovation of traditional water bodies, land development, etc are provided. The women complain that as per the rule the employment and the payment of the work done are not available within 15 days. As there is no alternative option of work, women have to enter into debt to manage their household expenses. Their hope to secure work under the scheme has shattered. Their complaints are pending in government offices. Despairingly the only option available with people is to migrate. The women bear the brunt of separation from their families.

H2 Side Farmer's difficulty : Land Acquisition

The village economy in our country depends on land and animal husbandry. And if this land is sold then how will villagers survive? The small and marginal farmers are at risk of land acquisition by companies or government in the name of development. Poor farmers are in need of finance and it leads them to incur debt and in the process lose their land.

The small and marginal farmers incur debts when they require money to purchase seeds, fertilizers, to built bore well, for medical emergencies, for marriage expenses, for various social traditions, etc to name a few. Sometimes, the land with low productivity are sold out of desperation. Whereas, sometimes the land are sold in greed and temptation for large sum of money.

In Muli Taluka, Surendranagar District, Gujarat, Suzlon Company purchased 1000 acre of land from farmers and are going to discharge waste water in the lake. It is very unfortunate that the local farmers are clueless about the type of factory Suzlon is going to build. The waste water which will be discharged will pollute the surrounding land. The farmers have not thought about the seriousness of this issue. How can poor illiterate farmers understand all this?

Raniben Ahir, Patan District shared, 'I am embroidery worker. I never owned any land in my life. But after joining SEWA, I started saving. I benefited from many financial and other trainings in SEWA. When the village land was up for sale, Sarpanch offered me to purchase it. I recalled one of SEWAs eleven questions i.e. asset and I grabbed the opportunity. For the first time in my life, I purchased 7 acre of land in my name. Today, I own 50 acres of land. Once during a financial crisis, I sold my gold ornaments but not my land. All this I could understand because of my association with SEWA.'

The lands which are already sold cannot be acquired back. But the efforts can be made to intervene for the investment of money earned from the sale of land. To prevent further sale of land, various trainings can be organized to generate awareness about importance of land, land acquisitions, land scams, adding woman's name in the land, having land in the name of woman, having assets in the name of woman, etc.

H2 Side Land Rights and Women Empowerment

The poor women workers worldwide are involved in many campaigns related to protection of land and environment. Increased privatization and globalization has forced women to come on streets and fight to protect public land, agricultural land and forest land. Some of the movements related to land are Bodh Gaya, Chipko, Nandigram, Singur, Chengra (Kerala), Sonbhadra (UP), Rewa, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, etc. that witnessed massive agitation by women which are still ongoing. These movements are supported by Dalits, Adivasis and other poor women directly affected by the deforestation and land acquisition. Also because for women forest and land are not just assets but means of their livelihood, future security and symbol of their honour.

The bond between women and land is very strong. And yet women have no right over land or forest. The economic, political and social independence of poor women depends on their right on land and forest. This is an ongoing struggle fought by rural, poor and deprived women workers. In the current scenario women's right on land is a very challenging issue. Until significant changes take place in women's social and political situation, no rights of women can be protected.

The land use should be limited to production or development and not for extensive use by private companies. Almost 50% of our society is poor having no property or assets. Besides, the contribution and involvement of women in various aspects of agriculture is almost 95%. The new agenda for land reforms should be more rights of women on water, forest and land. Although women in India have equal constitutional rights as men but there is no special mention of land rights and very few women actually own land due to our patriarchal practices.

The need of the hour is to enact laws favouring women's rights on land ownership. The women should not only have right on their family land, but women should also have right on public land, forest land, unused cooperatives land, and public land under private companies or industrialists. The women are highly capable to organizing and are also close to environment. The women are emerging as a collective strength to advocate for the protection of land and environment. The land rights are critical for women's development and empowerment. The women's ownership on land benefits entire society.

H2 Side Violence against Women

The United Nations General Assembly defines Violence against Women as an act of gender-based violence that results in physical, mental or sexual harm against women, including deprivation of liberty. The women suffer act of violence within their homes, at workplace and while travelling alone. We at SEWA believe that women's second freedom i.e. economic freedom plays a significant role to bring change in the violence against women. Education and awareness also plays a key role. Yet, we know that trauma due to mental harassment is very difficult to tackle.

Missing Girls
The two girls returning from Delhi after two years of extensive labour just had money to provide for the travel. These girls were among thousands of tribal girls from Jaspur and Surguja, Chhattisgarh who worked as domestic help in Delhi. In desperation, the parent's send their girls in search of work to Delhi. The placement agencies charge Rs 1000 per month as their fees. In spite of spending two years in Delhi, the girls returned empty handed. They were fortunate to return. The 10 year old Seema (name changed) was send to Hyderabad, is missing since past 4 years. So many, of these girls are forced into prostitution and labour.

Domestic Violence
The Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) conducted a study on Domestic Violence of slums in East Delhi. The study was conducted to ascertain and understand the condition of women suffering domestic violence and its various implications on their lives. The slums of eastern Delhi are resided by migrants who are mostly daily wage earners and self employed workers. Their family income is approximately around Rs 5000/- per month and the average size of their family is 5. Around 52% women are either restricted to work or don't work to protect their children or for other household responsibilities. The study revealed that most women bear domestic violence in a hope for better tomorrow.


The 24-years old Seeta (name changed), had studied till standard 10. She was brought up in an economically stable family residing in Delhi's urban slum. She was determined to marry the person she loved. The boy resided in the same slum. As their families were against their marriage, they remained hidden for sometime at boy's village after marriage. Her days in the village turned to nightmare when her husband and his relatives started harassing her. Her health started failing as she was physically and mentally tortured. During this time she became pregnant. With passing of 6 months, her family accepted the marriage and she convinced her husband to shift back to city. Even in Delhi, she was harassed by her husband and his relatives for dowry. When the harassment became unbearable she returned to her parent's place. Her relatives asked for maintenance allowance for their pregnant daughter. With no changes in her husband's behavior, they filed for divorce but later came to out of court settlement and Seeta went to stay with her husband. After her return, her husband's behaviour improved. Though, she believes her struggle against domestic violence is yet to reach neighbouring women. Seeta shared that if violence is opposed by women at the very first instance, they can overcome domestic violence.

The 47-years old Geeta (name changed) is illiterate. She suffered and later struggled against domestic violence. Geeta had witnessed domestic violence as a child; her mother died in pain inflicted by her father. When she married, Geeta knew she was going to a home where she will also have to suffer physical and verbal violence. With passing of time, her husband became alcoholic and the brutalities increased. She was thrashed throughout her pregnancy. Her husband had illicit relationship with other woman. Many a times she thought to leave her husband but fear of social disgrace prevented her. After an attempt by her husband to burn her with milk, she couldn't bear more. She forbade her husband to come home. Geeta believes education and economic independence helps woman in her struggle against domestic violence. All children of Geeta are doing their graduation except for the eldest son who couldn't study beyond standard 5. Her youngest son is studying in standard 6. Due to education, all 3 daughters of her are confident and independent.

Anitaben, recent member of SEWA Bhagalpur, was youngest among 3 sisters and 1 brother. Her father was auto rickshaw driver and mother worked as domestic help. Anitaben was brought up by her elder sister Renuben after their mother's death. Renuben's husband was alcoholic and used to beat her. Anitaben was married in a higher caste. After marriage when she went to her in-law's place, no one was ready to take her in. Anitaben and her husband started living separately in a rented room. She brought all the necessary essentials from her parent's place. Within a week, Anitaben discovered that her husband was alcoholic. He sold all her jewelry and later each and every household item. When Anitaben opposed, she was brutally beaten. When there was nothing more to sell, her husband ran away leaving her pregnant. Anitaben has a baby girl and she is doesn't want to live with her husband.


Harassment at Workplace
The harassment of women at workplace is every increasing. And the harassment of women working in rural areas like agriculture, salt pan work, construction work and forest work, is even worse. The women often face harassment at their workplace by landlords, co-workers and higher caste men. The mental or sexual harassment at workplace is an assault which is very difficult to heal. We at SEWA come across many cases of sexual harassment at workplace. One example is of the women tobacco workers of Anand being harassed by their supervisors. The supervisors and landlord take undue advantage of women workers' needs.


A family of father, mother and daughter resided at Petlad, Anand district. They engaged in farm labour at a farm of high caste landlord. Every day the daughter used to take food for her parents at the farm. The son of landlord had an eye on the daughter. One afternoon he took her advantage and assaulted her sexually and also threatened her. Her parents came to know about this when she became pregnant. The parents and entire community asked the landlord to accept the responsibility of the girl. But the landlord denied taking responsibility as the girl was of scheduled caste. The parents filed a case in the court but the landlord bribed and the boy was termed for just one year. The girl gave birth to a boy. Since then, the landlords don't hire workers from their village.


Physical Assault
Even educated women and girls fall prey to violence. The condition of women living in mountains and rural areas of Uttarakhand is very pitiful. The women work from morning till night, in farm and forests and when they return home in the evening they are beaten by alcoholic husbands.


Anupama was a simple and educated girl. Her husband was software engineer. He used to assault her daily. She endured everything silently for her children. Her husband killed by suffocating her to death. He sliced her dead body into pieces and concealed them in the fridge.

Similarly, a woman of Rudraprayag used to engage in farm labour. She used to earn for her children and to manage household expenses. Her husband was alcoholic and used to beat her. He was suspicious and doubted her character. During one of the fight the husband poured oil on her. In fit of rage, she lighted the fire. In her statement to police, she claimed to have committed suicide. When asked she shared that if she would have given a statement against her husband who would look after their children after her death?

One woman shared that after death of her parents, she brought her younger sister to live with her. During her absence her husband raped her sister. She came to know about this when her sister became pregnant. She had to accept her sister as her husband's second wife for her children. She can neither live nor die. She feels extremely tortured with every passing day.


Passive Assault
It is most difficult to highlight passive assault or nonviolent violence. The violence against women includes physical abuse, psychological abuse, kidnap, prostitution, blackmail, threats, foeticide and honour killing.


My mother had four sisters. When my youngest aunt was married, I went to live with her. My aunt had studied till MA and was working as teacher. My uncle was English professor in Government College. It was just 3-4 days since marriage, when he took us for a movie. He insisted my aunt and me to hide it from his father. But when we returned home, my aunt's father-in-law asked whether we had gone for a movie, in fear I said yes. My aunt's father-in-law scolded her; my uncle didn't stand in support of my aunt and left the room. My aunt was shattered. Some days later my uncle left her at her parent's place. I returned with her too. For couple of years, my uncle used to take my aunt at her in-law's place for some days and leave her back. Gradually, uncle's visits to take my aunt reduced. My aunt's health started failing. During one of her visit to Gwalior for checkup she was shocked to know that her husband had remarried and had two children. I was shifted to Bhopal for work and used to visit my aunt. Due to lack of proper care and treatment, only few days after retirement, my aunt died. Though, there was no act of physical violence, my aunt was killed by passive assault.

Ranu, my elder sister was not even 20 when my parents started match making for her. In spite of being a bright student, due to unfavourable circumstances at home, she received second class. After she completed her post-graduation, there was a match for her. Every relative started advising her on how to behaviour, what to wear, what to speak, how to smile, etc. The boy's parents visited our home. I can never forget the day when the boy's family visited us. They all liked Renu but boy put a condition in front of Renu to visit her college on foot instead of cycle next day. I put the same condition in front of the boy. The boy's family felt offended and left. My sister is 25 years old and she is still unmarried. Obviously, I am blamed for her situation.

My colleague Sujata is a competent lady. She is extremely modern and remarkable. During one of the visit by senior officer at our office, she invited us for dinner at her residence. When we reached her place, she introduced us with her husband and 5 year old daughter. We get along well with the daughter and started playing with her. Whenever she used to do something funny we all cracked in laughter. But when I observed Sujata she used to just smile in moderation. Sujata was a changed person in presence of her husband. Isn't this a form of passive violence?

H2 Side The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Draft

SEWA presented certain important points to Rajya Sabha's Human Resources Development Standing Committee on the draft of The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace 2011.

One of the main points is about inclusion of self employed women workers of informal sector and women street vendors, which is very limited. Informal sector women workers work at agriculture farms, small factories, small shops, mountains, compound, construction sites, houses, markets, garbage dump sites, offices, diamond polishing centres, etc., which have not been included. Besides, domestic workers have been excluded from this draft.

Recently, after a long struggle, Convention for Domestic Workers 189 has been passed, which clearly mentions Domestic Workers are workers and their workplace is the household where they work. The Government of India has supported this Convention. The Government of India has also formed a taskforce to draft a Law for Domestic Workers. Then why are Domestic Workers excluded from The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace 2011 Draft?

As per the proposed Bill, every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, where any women can complain. The entire procedure has been decentralized. The proposed Bill provides for setting up of Local Complaints Committee (LCC) to be constituted by the designated District Officer at district or sub-district levels as needed. The procedure of complaint is also mentioned in the proposed Bill.

The proposed Bill is very crucial for Informal sector women workers who are poorest of poor. They are exploited due to their need and low income, and they become victim of harassment. SEWA shared its experiences to Rajya Sabha's Standing Committee. Shri Oscar Fernandes, Chairperson of the committee and ex-Minister of Labour and Employment, and 17 members of Rajya Sabha were present during the presentation.

SEWA submitted an application of request mentioning the below points:

  • All Informal Sector Women Workers should be included along with Domestic Workers in the proposed Bill.
  • Clause 2 (E) should be amended. The sentence 'specifically excludes domestic workers working at home' should be replaced with 'includes domestic workers working at home'.
  • Clause 2 (N) should be detailed and all workers working with informal sector should be included.
  • Local Complaints Committees should be formed and one of the members of the committee should be from membership based organization.
  • Clause 16 under the Public Interest Disclosure prohibits the complainant to file RTI. While the complaint process is ongoing, the complainant should have a right to seek the status of her complaint.

Savitaben (name changed), a widow lived with her daughter in Anand District and to meet daily expenses both worked as farm labourers. They used to pluck cotton from cotton seeds. A boy working with them harassed Savitaben's daughter. As the boy resided in the same colony as Savitaben's, she complained his parents. After parent's scolding, for some days the boy didn't harass the girl. But one day the boy abducted the girl and took her to nearby farm. Listening to girl's shout for help, Savitaben rushed to her daughter's rescue with a sickle. The boy snatched the sickle and injured Savitaben and raped her daughter and killed both of them. The boy was convicted many years later but two innocent lost their lives.
H2 Side Convention of Domestic Workers

The Domestic Workers gain global recognition on 16 June 2011 with adoption of the ILO Convention for Domestic Workers. The governments, employers and workers of the world, adopted the First Convention and accompanying Recommendations on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the 100th International Labour Conference (ILC) at Geneva, Switzerland.

The Convention recognizes the "significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy" and that this work is "undervalued and invisible, and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities". It affirms that domestic workers have the same fundamental rights that all workers have:

  • The rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,
  • The elimination of all forms of forced labour,
  • The effective abolition of child labour, and
  • The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Myrtle Witbooi, Chair of the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) shared, 'Today we celebrate a great victory for domestic workers. Until now we have been treated as 'invisible', not respected for the huge contribution we make in society and the economy and denied our rights as workers. It is an injustice that has lasted too long.'

Now, it is the duty of each Government to take measures to make sure that domestic workers enjoy the fundamental rights stated in the convention. The Government will take measures ensuring effective protection of domestic workers against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence.

H2 Side 'Are we threat for the city?' asks Bhadra's vendors

India comes to life in its Bazaar (market). The traditional bazaars are being evicted all over India, and Ahmedabad is no different. As the festive season begins, street vendors are evicted. The eviction is carried out by either corporation or police. The reasons being cited are traffic congestion, complaints from shop owners and residents, security and development-related work. The issues multiply and add to the constant threat to the lives of vendors to earn their living with dignity.

The similar action took place during Navratri (dance festival), when police evacuated vendors from Panchayat office till Bhadra Hall. The vendors approached SEWA office. The security reasons being cited by police was 'due to bomb blasts' in Delhi. The vendors were restricted to vend considering public safety. But the vendors insist that they help police in preventing thefts, circulation of fake currency and antisocial elements.

After many meetings, requests and representations in front of Police Inspector, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Police Commissioner, and Joint Police Commissioner; finally the market was revived. After 2 days again the vendors of market near Premabhai Hall were evicted. The reason cited was need of parking space for Lawyers to prevent congestion in court. What kind of justice is this, where people's income are sacrificed for parking? After many efforts, women vendors were allowed to vend and later men vendors were also allowed to vend till two lines of footpath.

Once again the vendors are evicted to implement Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation's beautification project i.e. Bhadra Development Plan. Bhadra's vendors are questioning: Are we not legal citizens of India? Don't we have right to earn with dignity? Are we threat for the city? The vendor's who are not demanding for jobs from Government and who are actively contributing to the national income are not considered as citizens of this country. The Government should set up participatory mechanisms along with urban vendors before taking decisions on traditional vending zones. In spite of National Policy on Urban Street Vendors since 2004, the vendor's struggle continues...

H2 Side Financial Freedom

The first freedom was for independence of India, whereas, according to Elaben, Founder of SEWA, we have yet to attain the second freedom i.e. women's economic freedom. There is yet a long way to go to achieve second freedom. The labourer women have to engage in some kind of work as their men either earn less or spend their earnings on alcohol and gambling. Thus, it is the women who manage household expenses.

The economic independence is the prime need of women to live with dignity and equality. The women have multiple responsibilities be it, to look after home, children, family or to earn to meet daily needs. And although, it is the women who earns, she doesn't have right on her own income. The decision on the expenses is taken by the man of the house. The middleclass women are in first place restricted to work and when allowed they have to give their earnings to husband. And besides, it is not only about the choice to work, but it is also about the work as per her potential.

Since the beginning it is SEWA's experience that women work within and outside home and despite of this she doesn't have free will to spend her own income. Neither women can save from her own income nor can she buy assets in her name. Although, women contribute equally in the house, she never has any assets in her name and there is no security for her future.

Asset under the ownership of women is SEWA's priority. Having an asset in her name is very important for women's independence. She can have a bank account of her own, a land in her name, and a home of her own; from which no one can force her to leave. As she starts having assets in her name, respect for her from family members and society increases, she creates her own identity and her say in decision making is considered important. This is true freedom for women.


Taraben Begum resided in Bhagalpur. Her husband had a shop of electronic items. She had a happy life. Suddenly, her husband died due to polio. She somehow started operating shop with the help of her son. When her sorrow subdued, she started cleaning things up, during this she found insurance papers of her husband. She visited the insurance office where she discovered that she cannot claim 3 years after the death. Had Taraben known about the insurance, her life would have been secured.

Shobha Das is a domestic worker. Her husband has separated from her. She started living with her brothers. She worked as domestic help at 3 homes to earn her living. Her brother used to take whatever income she earned. She had bank account with UCO Bank. Her nephew was educated and he used to take her thumb impression and withdraw money. She came to know about it through her passbook entry. When she opposed, her brother used to beat her. With support from SEWA members, she informed the bank and also fixed her savings. The bank employees started recognizing her and so now no one could forcefully seize her money. Today, she has Rs 60000/- savings on her name. Now, her family members have started respecting her.

Mehrben's husband died when she was 20 years old. The responsibility of upbringing their son came on her shoulders solely. She neither had a house nor a stable income to survive. She started making Papad. During this time, she became member of SEWA and started saving gradually. She purchased the land was up for sale in her area. Gradually, she constructed a house on the land and later also started a shop. Now, she is old and cannot make Papads, but she can manage her live from the income from shop.

Nasimben, Jodhpur engages in Bandhej work. Earlier, she used to get work from traders. They didn't pay her dues. Now, she works independently and sells her cloth to 20-25 households. She earns Rs 7000 per month. Today, her family respects her and her in-laws seek her guidance on various matters. She enrolled her children in English school. She has small amount of savings on her name and she has also purchased land in her name. She bestows the credit of her 'independence' on SEWA.


SEWA Delhi is committed to organizing informal economy women workers since past 10 years to facilitate increase in their ownership and live with dignity. SEWA Delhi engages in variety of activities. We have registered a company, which provides embroidery work to 500 women. Through our efforts, one exclusive market of women was initiated, where 100 women vendors have ownership rights and they are able to vend with dignity.

The hard earned income of women used to get exhausted in household expenses and so women formed savings group. Now, women organize meetings and save money and also avail credits when required. As the credit available was not sufficient, in 2007 they registered 'Mahila SEWA Urban Cooperative Thrift and Credit Society Limited'. The women opened savings account and started saving as per their ability. Today, around 4300 women are members of the society and they have Rs 16,69,768/- savings. So far, 1731 women have availed benefit of loan.

Hemlataben is one of the members of cooperative. She resides with her parents and has 5 siblings. Being eldest in the family after studying till standard 12, she started working in a private firm to support her family. She started saving money in the cooperative. One day when she returned home from work, she saw her parents extremely worried. Her parents shared that they had availed loan of Rs 25,000/- on their home for her aunt's marriage. The amount had cumulated to Rs 75,000/- over the years. Her home was being auctioned for not paying the loan amount. Next day Hemlataben visited the cooperative office with her mother. Being old and trustworthy member of the cooperative, she could immediately avail loan of Rs 50,000/-, remaining Rs 25,000/- was arranged from relatives. They were saved from auctioning their home. Gradually, she repaid the loan amount. Many women availed savings and loan benefits to progress their trade. Some also became owner of land and house.

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