We the Self-Employed
SEWA'S electronic newsletter
No. 20
August 2009
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets SEWA artisans
SEWA’s Waste Pickers Cooperative: Struggle for Survival
Gujarat’s Moonshine Tragedy death toll reaches 160
June is a Month of SEWA Co-operative Annual General Meetings
SEWA shapes the life of New Generation
SEWA Delhi
SEWA Madhya Pradesh
Sierra Club honours SEWA for work in environment

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets SEWA artisans
On 18th July, 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Elaben and artisans from three districts of Gujarat at the Hansiba Creations outlet on Nepean Sea Road, Mumbai. Clinton was shown the Hansiba collection, a lovely range of hand embroidered and hand crafted products.
Brand Hansiba belongs to STFC (SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre) managed and owned by 3,200 rural artisans who are share holders in it. Clinton was truly impressed with Hansiba's organic herbal collection and how rural women were contributing to the fight against climate change.
Visibly excited the American Secretary of State was totally won over by the fact that Hansiba's supply chain right from the raw materials, to the dyes, to the fabrics, to the finished products, is managed by the rural women. She went on to add that in these times of economic turmoil and recession women are absorbing a disproportionate impact of all the hardships. She pointed out and reasserted her belief that SEWA represents an innovative and successful approach to sustainable inclusive development.
Impressed with the margin of victory of current SEWA president Ramila Rohit, she jokingly commented about her loss in the American presidential race. She went on to praise the efforts of Ramila Rohit which helped her to garness such trust and respect from SEWA members.
Recalling her long standing friendship with Ela Bhatt she reminded the gathering present that Elaben was the member of Global Elders Group which had other living legends like Nelson Mandela.
Stressing that SEWA is indeed a world leader in women empowerment she approvingly spoke of SEWA’s involvement with women in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the steps taken by SEWA in organizing them to help secure a better future for themselves and their families.
Technology brought about a magical moment in this function when women across far flung villages of Gujarat had an opportunity to speak to the most powerful woman on the planet through Skype. The US Secretary of State said that SEWA’s endeavor to use information and technology as a force to increase the capacity of its members has helped millions of women across villages, towns and cities to come together on a common platform. This Skype conversation was a prime example.
In 1995, Clinton visited SEWA’s headquarters in Ahmedabad as the US First Lady. Since then, she has demonstrated keen interest in its development and has made several visits to SEWA’s offices in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. She has shown wholehearted concern in SEWA’s progress and has addressed problems faced by poor, informal sector workers at global policy debates.

SEWA’s Waste Pickers Cooperative: Struggle for Survival
Shri Karyasiddh Kalag Kam Mahila Sewa Sahkari Mandali Limited, a cooperative promoted by Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) focuses on uplifting the poor women waste pickers to get dignified work and improved standard of living.
In 2004, our cooperative entered into a contract with Vejalpur Municipal Council for collecting and segregating wet and dry waste in the households and commercial building of the area. SEWA’s waste picker members known as Aryogya Bhagini (Sister safeguarding health and hygiene) dump wet waste into the trolleys, AMC dumpsite and segregate dry waste and sell it to recycling units. SEWA is the pioneer in doing such type of door to door collection in the entire State of Gujarat.
The Supreme Court of India passed Solid Waste Management Rules 2000 and during the same period Vejalpur ward came under the jurisdiction of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Tenders were issued for this work and the cooperative bid and got the work but had to compromise on the rates. As being the only source of livelihood, lower rates were also acceptable. The tenders have been renewed by the corporation from time to time. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) kept harassing by irregular payments and deducting amounts by way of penalty. Though work was being carried out regularly and consistently yet we were blamed by AMC staff for not performing our duty properly.
Our Cooperative was blacklisted by AMC under the pretext of inefficiency. We met the Deputy Municipal Commissioner and Deputy Health Officer to discuss the issue which was resolved. We took the help of our legal experts and formatted appropriate reply to the AMC. Consequently, a systematic working method was designed.
On 1st August 2009, it came to our knowledge that our work has been transferred to a Jigar Transport Co. Ltd, Surat. A resolution to this effect was passed by the Standing Committee of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in July 2009. An urgent meeting was organized at SEWA on 3rd August 2009 to discuss the strategy to save the work as women were very agitated and disappointed.
After intense and long discussions, a strategy was designed to give memorandum to all the members of standing committee in order to create awareness amongst the residents under Vejalpur ward and to support the agitation against gate to gate work.
On 6th of August, 2009 the meeting of the standing committee was held. An action plan by SEWA was charted and reached the venue of the meeting armed with copies of memorandum. As soon as the members of the standing committee i.e. the Corporators started arriving copies of memorandum were handed over. We explained the problem to them. This really worked in our favour. Consequently the chairman took up the discussion even without an agenda. The members of the standing committee have assured us that we will not lose our work, as it was only a pilot project in 15000 households where we weren’t even working. On the same day we handed over a copy of the memorandum to the Mayor.

Ensuring support of residents
Simultaneously a second campaign was undertaken wherein our members met the residents, gave them the leaflets explaining the situation and requested for their support. We received an overwhelming response which was conveyed to the Municipal office.
Though 14th 15th and 16th of August were holidays yet we saw the trucks of Jigar transport and the men getting down from the trucks with equipments. On our enquiry, we were shocked to learn that AMC had allotted almost 50% of the work of door to door collection to Jigar Transport Company.
We rechecked our options and the only recourse was to get a Stay order from the High Court of Gujarat. Though the High Court was also closed yet it was the only chance of our survival. We immediately consulted our legal experts and a strategy was chalked out to meet the Municipal Commissioner and chairperson of the standing committee at their residence. We would submit them the letter stating the breach of our door to door waste collection contract. After repetitive efforts the letters were delivered to Municipal Commissioner and chairman of the standing committee at their residence on the same day. Our photographers took pictures of trucks and workers of Jigar Transport Co. (JTC) as evidence.
Once the necessary documents for stay were ready, we took the same to the Chief Registrar, High Court which was refused due to inappropriate format.The entire set of documents was reworked and the same night was submitted. This time the documents prepared in the prescribed format and were accepted by the Registrar duly signed.
Road to success!
A Bench comprising of Justice Shah and Justice Thakker was constituted on 15th August, 2009 at High Court Justice M.S Shah’s residence. Around 50 of SEWA members were present at this session.
Our advocate and waste picker members described to the judges about the prevailing situation and the urgency before the Bench. Signed and accepted papers by the Chief Registrar were presented. Based on this, a stay order was passed on the plain paper, as the proper format to write the order was not available. We proceeded to the High Court, at around 1-00 am as the order had to be typed and duly sealed, with the High Court of Gujarat stamp.
Finally victory was ours as we got the stay order, duly signed, stamped and affixed with seal!!

Gujarat’s Moonshine Tragedy death toll reaches 160
The unfortunate moonshine tragedy has claimed more than 160 lives. The deadly mix of high percentage of ethyl with country made liquor has struck many a times before as well. This being the biggest casualty list so far. Unfortunately but not surprisingly most of the victims belong to lower middle class families, mainly construction workers.
SEWA’s response to the tragedy was instant, as members and leaders rushed to be by the side of their suffering SEWA sisters. Close to 42 SEWA families lost their near and dear ones in this tragedy. The members of SEWA shared their experiences of the affected women, and demanded end of all illicit alcoholism trade in the city, which was responsible for the tragedy.
A mother of two daughters who lost her 25 year old husband said, ‘I am 22 years old. I have never worked outside my home. My brother-in law is a part time labourer and doesn’t earn sufficient money to run the household. My father in-law is old and can’t take up any work. How will I take care of my two daughters? What will happen to them now? What about our future?
One family living in the affected area lost 3 of its male breadwinner’s. Women of this family said, ‘something has to be done to stop illegal alcohol consumption as the ultimate victims of such tragedies happen to be women and children’.
Lakhiben who is a long-time member of SEWA once said that ‘Poverty is acceptable but liquor is not’. In the true sense, she has made efforts to keep her Chawl from turning into a hub for making illegal liquor. As soon as a room is vacant in the Chawl she would personally go and check if it’s not occupied by some bootleggers.
June is a Month of SEWA Co-operative Annual General Meetings
» SEWA Bank- Shri Mahila SEWA Sahkari Bank Ltd
» SEWA Health Co-operative- Shri Swashryee Mahila Lokswasthya SEWA Sahkari Mandali Ltd
» Video Co-operative- Shri Gujarat Mahila Video SEWA Information Broadcasting Cooperative Ltd
» BalSEWA- Shri Sangini Child Care Workers' Cooperative
SEWA Bank- Shri Mahila SEWA Sahkari Bank Ltd
Shri Mahila SEWA Sahkari Bank Ltd announced the statistics of its growth at the 35th Annual General Meeting. The meeting was attended by over thousand women on 22nd June at Ahmedabad. Working as the bank of poor women it made a credit of more than Rs. 43.9million available to the self employed women through various loans and advances. SEWA Bank announced the opening for its three branches in districts of Gujarat.
The following are the statistics of its growth:
Share Capital
Total Deposits (Rs.)
Working Capital (Rs.) 1,02,91,79,000
No of loans and advances accounts 1,03,679
Loans and advances (Rs.) 32,45,49,000
Profit (Rs.) 52,41,000 51,71,000
(After Tax deducted
Rs. 25,00,000
from actual
profit of Rs. 76,71,000)

SEWA Health Co-operative- Shri Swashryee Mahila Lokswasthya SEWA Sahkari Mandali Ltd
Shri Swashryee Mahila Lokswasthya SEWA Sahkari Mandali Ltd held its 19th AGM on June 23rd at Ahmedabad. The meeting was attended by 758 shareholders of this cooperative most of them being health workers. It provides primary health care services to SEWA members such as T.B eradication, AIDS, family planning and welfare, vaccination, STD awareness and health training. Such medical care reaches more than 57,000 poor people. The co-operative runs fair-price medical shops. It trains women into making Ayurvedic medicines which help them earn a livelihood. It has so far trained 400 women who can make these cost effective and harmless medicines.
Video Co-operative- Shri Gujarat Mahila Video SEWA Information Broadcasting Cooperative Ltd
VideoSEWA cooperatives 9th AGM reported achievements that include; share capital of over
Rs. 83,000, with 220 shareholders; airing of a documentary film on water on Door Darshan and learning new techniques from the television team who visited SEWA from South Korea.
BalSEWA- Shri Sangini Child Care Workers' Cooperative
The cooperative was full of activities throughout the year. Some of the activities it conducted included monthly weight check-up at various places across the city/state, healthcare camps, celebration of children’s day, educational tours and picnics, parents-teacher meetings and capacity building programs.
At the AGM, the members displayed pleasure over all the activities and the impact it created on the society.

SEWA shapes the life of New Generation
The adolescent girls and our members’ daughters are taking keen interest by actively participating in the various training and workshops camps arranged by SEWA. Encouraged by this enthusiasm, SEWA is taking steps to help the new generation learn through various management courses.
SEWA wishes to join hands with various universities and organizations running job oriented courses for the development of its women.
Although Globalization is important for a developing nation like India, it is preventing the unskilled women workforce from working in their area of knowledge and expertise. As a result, more women are finding alternative ways of making a living. Efforts are made to involve women to be trained in traditional work and continue the profession of their choice.
SEWA’s Trade Facilitation Centre has tried to integrate the work done by these women at national and international markets. Apart from focusing on traditional work and activities SEWA has started other higher educational and employment courses. Eg: Jivanshala (SEWA’s educational program) where women learn how to read and write and consequently they are able to spread education to their children.
In collaboration with Rai University, SEWA keeping in mind the current market trends has introduced degree courses in Hospitality, Fashion Technology and Retail Merchandising. Around 40 women successfully completed the course and 30 young girls are currently pursuing it.
On request from Sankara Eye Hospital, Coimbatore SEWA arranged training for 70 women in the field of Vision Care Technicians and Eye Care Management. This was a year long course in Coimbatore. All 70 women after successful completion of the course were absorbed with Sankara Eye Hospital.
‘SEWA Rojgar Setu’ has provided employment opportunities to women at ‘Café Coffee Day’, ‘Westside’ (chain of apparel retail stores across India) and Petrol pumps.
SEWA Manager School’ imparts basic techniques in managing businesses. About 100 women have taken advantage of this training.
Experiences shared by women are stated below:
Sangeetaben Verma (Supervisor at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd

Petrol Pump): I used to provide support to my family by doing some stitching work. I never thought that being a woman I could work at a petrol pump. I was given an opportunity by ‘SEWA’s Rojgar Setu’ that today I am standing on my two feet and being able to support my family. I am indebted to SEWA for having provided this opportunity. I was given a 10 day presentation skill and interview training by SEWA which enabled me to secure the job and a good pay.
Pavanba Jadeja, Kutch:

I am a poor woman labourer. Since birth my family’s financial condition was very weak. Even after marriage the situation didn’t improve. To make ends meet my husband worked as an agricultural labourer earning only Rs.8 for the entire day. Coming from a Rajput family we were not allowed to work outside our homes. Due to our deteriorating financial condition I had to take up work as a midwife within a year of our marriage. Around the same time near my home there was a colony of bungalows where I got hired at Rs. 250 monthly as a security guard. We received a setback due to the havoc created by the earthquake in 2001. That is when I heard about SEWA taking various initiatives to help poor women labourers like myself. I joined SEWA and soon became the leader of the embroidery group. Consequently, I received training in savings, video shooting, insurance and capacity building programmes.

SEWA Delhi
» For construction workers:

  • Work undertaken

  • Experience
    » Mahila SEWA Urban Thrift and Credit Society

  • Experience
    » Help for street vendors

  • Experience
    Currently, SEWA is working in seven areas of the city with a membership of 15,771 self employed women. The work undertaken by SEWA Delhi is as follows:
    - Putting up an embroidery centre
    - Providing employment related training
    - Teaching through informal channels
    - Working for the welfare of pavement dwellers and cart pullers


    For construction workers:
    SEWA Delhi has so far registered 950 sewage cleaners of which 350 workers have been given L.I.C numbers.
    Work Undertaken:
    - Welfare Board has been set up
    - Welfare Board enables workers to receive benefits from the government
    - From time to time SEWA puts ups camps to register more workers
    - To increase the expertise of women SEWA has been arranging for various training    workshops

    Raniben says-I initially worked as a sewage cleaner and was depressed at the thought that I would never be able to get a better job. After joining SEWA I gained self confidence as they helped me learn everything about construction work. Hence, I was able to earn sufficient money out the skills taught.

    As the member of the Welfare Board an opportunity of student’s scholarship arose for our kids. Seeing my successful efforts other women got an incentive to participate in the various training camps organized by SEWA.

    Mahila SEWA Urban Thrift and Credit Society

    Women want to save money but are unable to the problems at home. In times of financial crunches they have to depend on money lenders who charge higher rate of interests. Seeing this difficult situation SEWA Delhi opened a Co-operative where women could save according to their earnings. It also helped to obtain loans from the Co-operative at a lower rate of interest and free them from the clutches of the money lenders.
    Shobhaben says before the Co operative opened I borrowed money from the money lenders at a higher rate of interest. To return the debt I had to work day and night while taking care of other daily expenses. There were always days when things became very difficult. After I joined the Co operative I could breathe easy. They provided me with loans whenever I needed them at a lower rate of interest. I appreciate their help and support without which we wouldn’t have been able to give our daughter a wedding she deserved. I will be forever grateful to SEWA and its various initiatives.
    Help for street vendors:
    Since a year SEWA Delhi has been trying to organize street vendors and has started first of its kinds an only by women vendors market known as ‘SEWA Mahila Bazaar’. About 200 poor women members of SEWA Delhi sell their products with dignity and without any harassment by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi or the local hoodlums. The aim of SEWA Delhi is to spread more awareness about the market so that it can attract not just local but also the tourists.
    Rajvantiben recalls how unsafe she felt while doing business in other markets. She feels grateful to SEWA for taking up the initiative to start this ‘Mahila Bazaar’.

    SEWA Madhya Pradesh
    The interventions of Mahila Shram SEWA Nyas (MSSN) led the state government to formulate the Madhya Pradesh Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Board in 2002. This board can as a welcome gift for the benefits of the construction workers. There are 1, 65, 532 women labourers as active members of SEWA MP.
    Masonry has been the dominion of men since time immemorial. Members of SEWA MP took the initiative to bring women labourers at par with men by arranging to impart skill up gradation trainings. SEWA MP formed groups of 5 women across 3 districts and different trainings on plastering, tiles fixing, polishing, etc were imparted.Incomes increased from Rs. 1000-Rs.1200 monthly to Rs. 1500-Rs. 2000 monthly post the trainings.
    As a result of SEWA’s initiative women will not only do masonry work for houses under construction but with better skills and income they would also soon realize their dream of building their own homes.
    Sierra Club honours SEWA for work in environment
    The oldest and largest environmental grassroot organization the Sierra Club of the US awarded SEWA with the “Green Energy & Green Livelihoods Achievement Award” on 30th July, 2009. The ceremony was held at the Ravindra Natya Mandir auditorium in Mumbai. Mr. Paul Folmsbee, American consulate general gave the award to SEWA. Ecosphere Spiti, from Himachal Pradesh, and the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, two organizations received the same award.
    SEWA has been at the forefront for green economic development with projects involving training women in watershed management, fodder banks, water resources construction, vermicompost and many more. Development efforts also include adaptation of renewable energy alternatives such as rain water harvest, check dams, and solar lights to name a few. All these efforts have resulted in creation of livelihood sustained majorly by environment friendly technologies. These efforts to help the environment and spread education about it have shown prolific results for SEWA. Water harvesting tanks were increased to 3794 which helped store almost 4 million galas of water.
    The direct result of this increase included employment opportunities and economic growth. By repairing and recharging hand pumps women received addition income which they used to repair ponds and employ other women to cultivate plants.


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    SEWA Academy
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    Ahmedabad: 380 006.
    Gujarat, INDIA.

    Phone: +91-79-26577115, 26580474 Fax: +91-79-26587086
    www.sewaacademy.org Email: mail@sewaacademy.org