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  • A SAARC Summit with SEWA and Homebased Workers

  • VimoSEWA in Namibia

  • MBOP Training organized by SEWA Academy's Learning Hub : "Everything starts small but can accelerate and gain more success".

  • Nanduben from SEWA Receives an Entrepreneur Award

  • SEWA Leaders Meet Hernando de Soto

  • Struggle of Papad-makers in Bikaner

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No. 28 | April, 2010
H2 Side A SAARC Summit with SEWA and Homebased Workers

The leaders at the 16th SAARC Summit in Bhutan in April were pleasantly surprised to find home-based workers from seven SAARC countries, lead by SEWA, along side the regular Government delegations at the Assembly venue of the Summit. The home-based workers present there were:

  • Hosne Ara Reba, a nakshi-kantha embroiderer from Bangladesh,
  • Leki Wangno, a weaver from Bhutan,
  • Naseema, a glass painter from Maldives,
  • Laxmi, an allo weaver from Nepal,
  • Gulshon Bibi an embroiderer from Pakistan,
  • Elizabeth a food processor from Sri Lanka,
  • And SEWA's very own Kakuben from Santalpur, a leader of SEWA and a shareholder of SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre.
  They are all members of SABAH from their respective countries.

The leaders at the SAARC Summit launched the SAARC Development Fund (SDF), with SEWA and HomeNet South Asia as the first ever recipient, to build SAARC Business Association of Homebased Workers (SABAH) in each South Asian country. The home-based workers and the multi-country SABAH project team have already achieved successes with SABAHs launched in 4 countries namely, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; and about to begin in 3 more countries, namely, Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan.


Renanaben, National Co-ordinator of SEWA, said, "the finest moment came when the group of leaders entered the space where the home-based workers were working, colourfully decorated with their products. Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousof Raza Gilani were in the front. And, seeing Kakuben and Gulshan Bibi sitting and stitching together, Prime Minister of Pakistan asked if it was a Pakistan stall. Gulshan Bibi responded ‘ No, this is a SAARC stall, and this embroiderer is my friend from India, Kakuben”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then explained to all the leaders about SEWA and its work. And, we further explained that we were working towards a 'Made in SAARC' brand."

H2 Side VimoSEWA in Namibia

VimoSEWA, India's first insurance cooperative owned and run by women workers in the informal sector, will assist the government of Namibia, southern Africa to set up microinsurance in their country. The Namibian government's financial services authority, NAMFISA, and FIDES Bank, a microfinance institution, had invited VimoSEWA in this regard. Mirai Chatterjee, Chairperson, VimoSewa and Director, SEWA Social Security; Shipa Pandya, Chief Coordinator, VimoSEWA and Arman Oza, General Manager, VimoSEWA, went to Namibia in April 2010 and visited a number of villages to understand their grassroots reality.


"Namibia is already providing NAM $ 450 per month (Rs. 2700) pension to its elderly citizens and NAM $ 200 (Rs. 1200) per month to all its disabled citizens. But there is no microinsurance in the country. And, our role was to share our 18 years of global and Indian experience in reaching out with microinsurance", said Mirai Chatterjee, during a press conference in Ahmedabad.


While, Vimo SEWA has yet to issue formal recommendations, Mirai Chatterjee stated that similarities between Namibian and Indian environment would simplify the implementation process. She said, “There are some issues like high number of HIV cases, alcoholism and scattered population, but our model can be replicated there.”


India's first insurance co-operative owned and run by women workers in the informal economy, VimoSEWA, expects to sell policies worth Rs 1.56 crore in the year 2010. Registered in September 2009, it has 10,000 shareholders from five states - Gujarat Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh. Currently, 1,25,000 women and their family members are covered by VimoSEWA which provides a combination of insurance services and products with premiums paid by women ranging from Rs.400 to Rs.1,000 per annum.

H2 Side MBOP Training organized by SEWA Academy's Learning Hub : "Everything starts small but can accelerate and gain more success".

SEWA Academy has initiated a learning hub with the objective to take SEWA’s learning to other organizations and individuals at local, national and international levels. From 29th March to 2nd April 2010, it conducted a training on ‘The Membership-Based Organization of the Poor (MBOP) – Exploring the SEWA Model' for HomeNet South East Asia (HNSEA) in the city of Ahmedabad, India. HNSEA is a network of organizations of home-based workers from Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Lao. Twenty-one participants attending the training were a mix of home-based workers and support staff from various home-based workers' organizations from the South-East Asian countries, namely, Artisans' Association of Cambodia (AAC), Non-Profit Association of Lao Development and Environment (NALD); Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion (FLEP), National HBWs’ Network, Thailand and Mitra Wanita Pekerja Rumahan Indonesia (MWPRI).


The objective of the training was to provide exposure about SEWA and its experience of promoting different forms of MBOPs for its members. The five days training was bifurcated into three days exposure visit and two days of technical sessions. The exposure visits provided the participants with an opportunity to closely observe SEWA initiated MBOPs like union, cooperatives, cooperative federation and community based organisations. While, the class-room sessions provided by the Learning Hub helped the participants gain understanding towards historical background of SEWA, SEWA's organizational structure, SEWA as an MBOP and conceptual understanding of MBOP.


By the end of the training, one of the participants quoted "It is a great opportunity for me to come to this training. To come to SEWA is a worth an experience. We have been trying to work hard for almost 20 years. Everything starts small but can accelerate and gain more success. I invite the trainers to visit and teach us more."

H2 Side Nanduben from SEWA Receives an Entrepreneur Award

Nanduben Govindbhai Bariya, a farmer by profession and a SEWA member, was announced the Winner of the '2009 Citi Micro Entrepreneur Awards- National Winner from West and Central Zone'. She was awarded Rs.200,000/- and a trophy by R. Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director, TATA Sons Ltd, in a ceremony organized in New Delhi on 17th March 2010.


The Citi Micro Entrepreneur Awards is a global initiative that recognizes individual microentrepreneurs for their extraordinary efforts in gaining self-sufficiency through the innovative use of microfinance. Conceptualized by Citi India, the awards process has been implemented by Partners in Change, a not-for-profit organization, through significant support from the Citi Foundation.


Nanduben was one of the 12 winners selected from more than 800 applications received from across 25 States and Union Territories of India. Nanduben is 48 years old and resides in a village named Kukada from Vadodra district with her family. She joined SEWA in the year 2002, and soon became a leader of the community. She started by joining a savings SHG group and took a loan of Rs.5,000/- to rescue her land from the clutches of the money lender and to purchase a machine to draw water for irrigation. She not only uses this machine to irrigate her land, but also rents it to other farmers of the village. Thereafter, she took a managerial training from SEWA's Manger School. Now, she has proved to be an effective entrepreneur by managing a 20 women team on her farm and linking with SEWA's Unnat Bazar for selling the produce. She said "I have only studied till class seven. After joining SEWA, I took a loan and a number of trainings. And, today, I am not only an owner of my land but have also employed other women to help me with my farming. Today, my land is producing like never before. Joining SEWA has developed my capacity and thereby has helped my family to come out of poverty."



H2 Side SEWA Leaders Meet Hernando de Soto

The famous economist Hernando de Soto was in Ahmedabad in the month of April to meet the leaders of SEWA. Mr. de Soto received a Nobel Prize for Finance in the year 2002. He is known for his work on the informal economy and on the importance of business and property rights. Currently, he is the President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, located in Lima, Peru.


He interacted with a group of SEWA leaders working in the rural parts of Gujarat. Most of them talked about their achievements after being organized into a trade union. One of the leaders said, "My name is Niruben Parmar and I am an agricultural labourer. Through my labour, I contribute to my family, my village and my nation. From dawn to dusk, we work on large agricultural lands owned by rich farmers. For the entire day's labour, we used to receive a meager amount of Rs.20/-. Then we formed an agriculture cooperative. Farmers with small landholding took technical training, got the land tested, accordingly used manure and started farming. Then we had to sell the products. Initially we had to sell our products at lower rates. But, thereafter, we formed a company called RUDI. Through this company we check the quality of the produce, package it and sell it within the village. Through our effort, small farmers get appropriate price for their produce, village members get nutritious food and the money of the village stays within the village."


Mr. de Soto patiently heard all of them and then said, "Prior to coming here, I had a lot of questions like, why should I meet these women? What will I talk to them? But, after talking to all of you, I am extremely impressed. In your introduction you call yourself self-employed women, but in actuality you are entrepreneurs. I am an economist who develops tools and design policies to reduce poverty. In Peru, I have contributed toward policy-making process by which poor can own assets in their name. You have developed enterprises from your Union. You have companies and cooperatives owned by you. As you are organized, your bargaining power has also increased. Therefore, you should work towards policies that support your enterprises and increases your ownership of assets. It is an interesting topic for me. I have to visit the Planning Commission and I will surely talk about this. And, I am keen to visit again when I can spend more time with you."



H2 Side Struggle of Papad-makers in Bikaner

Papad-making is a popular home-based work adopted by a number of poor women in Bikaner, Rajasthan. Papad-makers of SEWA in Bikaner have been struggling for years to get their demands met. Their demands are:

  • Minimum Wages for all,
  • Identity Card,
  • Bonus,
  • Dearness Allowance, and,
  • A Tripartite Board of Labour Officers, Traders' Association and Papad-makers.

Earlier, they have met with the Chief Minister and with the Labour Inspector. There had been some progress, but it has been standstill since then. In the month of April, papad-maker members of SEWA alongwith SEWA National Council met with the Traders' Association of Bikaner. In the meeting women faced resistance from the Traders' Association to form a Tripartite Board. But, what the members of SEWA have managed is to ensure that all the traders pay a minimum wage to the middlemen who further provide them with contracts. Therefore, SEWA has formed a two-pronged strategy, where on the one hand they are going to advocate for a Tripartite Board through the Labour Inspector, and on the other hand, it plans to conduct surveys in communities to find the middlemen and the wages paid to papad-makers. Post the survey they plan to work with the middlemen directly to ensure minimum wages for all its members.



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