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No. 26 | February, 2010
H2 Side SEWA Women Miraculously Survive Kabul Attack

Three SEWA members from Gujarat had a miraculous escape, in a terror strike that targeted Indians, killing 11 people on 26th February. SEWA is working with the Afghan sisters in Kabul since 2007 to organize them and help them develop their skills and livelihoods making them financially independent. Most of the women are from the war-ravaged families. The SEWA members were in Kabul to provide trainings to Afghan women in tailoring, handicrafts, embroidery, food processing and eco-regeneration activities . In the last two years 1000 women have been trained, about 700 are earning their own livelihoods and some have found local markets for their products.


The terrorists targeted the hotel, where the SEWA sisters and other Indians were staying. At first they burst explosives and then went from room to room shooting whoever they could find. Recalling her terrifying experience, Sunita Patel of SEWA said there was a loud explosion at 6.30 am that left their window panes shattered and the curtains in their room on fire. They immediately got out of the room and knocked on the next door where SEWA’s technical person Barkatbhai was sleeping, along with another colleague. With terrorists opening fire outside the hotel they ran through an internal door to a storeroom for mops and brooms and other cleaning materials. The four of them closed the door of the store-room, turned off the lights and switched off their mobile phones, hoping to escape the attention of the attackers. They heard the attackers going through the rooms and shooting people and they heard the screams of the victims. Although the attackers did not see the four people hiding there, a terrorist put his gun barrel into the store room and fired a few shots. Fortunately, the bullets missed their targets, except one which scraped the side of Barkhatbhai’s face.


The terrified SEWA members hid in the store-room for four hours as the firing went on. They were finally rescued by the police but the shock and terror they had to face that day will remain etched on their minds for years to come. However, all of them say that they are committed to empowerment of their Afghan sisters and will ensure that their work continues.

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H2 Side

SEWA Grows in size and Strength


At SEWA’s annual meet 2010, members take a look at the achievements of the year gone by and make firm resolutions for the future


More than 2,500 SEWA workers and leaders assembled for the annual general meeting held at SEWA Academy in Manipur on 2nd and 3rd of February, 2010 making it a memorable affair.


Talking about the year gone by, SEWA’s General Secretary, Jyotiben Macwan said, 2009 brought countless struggles, but we kept fighting and instead of weakening, our organisation became stronger and bigger. SEWA’s national membership reached 12, 56,944 in 2009 in 9 states. As compared to last year, three lakh members were added to the organisation. Even if every SEWA member on an average has four people in her family, the organisation has reached and touched the lives of almost 50 lakh people. It is this joint strength that has made our successes possible.


However, SEWA is just not about numbers. Through internal consultations we come up with agreed solutions to make members self-reliant, independent and to increase their family income. We arrange and implement projects keeping in mind the needs members and their families. This is what is called true development. Let me explain some of the successes and setbacks this year.




Secretary of SEWA, Mittalben Shah, said, “ SEWA is a sea of humanity. Members came from different regions, districts and states, were garbed in varied attire and spoke different languages, but all of them were united for a single cause -- the movement for economic independence. Experience shows that when people unite for a common cause, the barriers of caste, community and region are broken ".


An important fact that I would like to emphasise on this occasion is SEWA’s contention that along with preservation of income and livelihood, provision of social security should be mandatory. This is a cause that SEWA has been fighting for ever since its inception.



Mumtazben Baloch, Secretary, SEWA Radhanpur said,

“For the first time, we held our annual meeting in the form of an adhiveshan where we had panels of asset building, organising, social security and markets where women leaders conducted the affair. This new format made the annual gathering an enjoyable experience.



Concluding the adhiveshan, Elaben shared some insights.

Every individual has a history and this is a platform where SEWA is making history by gathering thousands of such individual histories. History is not about the glory of kings and queens but about the deeds of common people. Whenever history is written about the ‘common man’, women are often left out! SEWA has taken initiatives to bring about equitable development in many spheres such as financial transactions, social security and development of rural economy to ensure that village wealth and resources remain in the village.


Any development or growth is impossible without struggle. Women here constantly talked about their struggle for growth. For women, the struggle first takes place in their own hearts and then in their homes. From their internal struggle to the struggle faced by them on the work and home front, this is the story of several such struggles.


An invisible energy flows in us which we can see and feel only when we struggle for a cause. Without struggle, you cannot see progress as there is no momentum to bring about change. If you demand your rights without making any efforts, it is a lost cause. Preservation of pride in our union is your true wealth. Only when a group of people get together for a common cause, they become a united power to reckon with.


We are not a crowd or mob that behaves as it pleases. We are a union that is run by values and principles. When we stride ahead, we aim to benefit ourselves as well as others. Preserving our compassion and ability to empathise with others’ pain and passing on our values to the next generation is our responsibility.


SEWA- 2009 Gujarat’s district-wise membership


District Members

Number of members

Ahmedabad city

2, 30,184

Ahmedabad district



1, 26,300















6, 31, 345


Gujarat’s urban-rural members

Urban                  2, 30,184         36.46%

Rural                   4, 01,161          63.54%

Total                  6, 31, 345        100%

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H2 Side

SEWA’s Resolution at the Annual General Meeting


We, the 2856 elected representatives, representing the 12,56,944 strong members of Self Employed Women’s Association SEWA, a central Trade Union, have assembled for the General Council meeting on the 2nd and 3rd February, 2010 at Ahmedabad. We have experienced and heard the difficulties faced by our members due to loss of livelihoods and due to inflation and feel that in spite of growth the women workers of the informal economy are suffering.


The double whammy of economic recession added with the ever rising inflation is pushing poor families of self employed and daily wage earners into hunger and starvation. Work and income security has deteriorated, the incomes has reduced by 50 to 80%, resulting into mental stresses, ill health, loss of children’s education.


It is most distressing and unfortunate that even after 60 years of independence, in India poor daily wage earners, informal sector workers still starve and their children go hungry. When will we, the unrecognized contributors to the country’s growth, get our rightful demands of a secure livelihood and basic amenities?


We once again reiterate that Food, Shelter and access to livelihood are fundamental human rights.

We, therefore strongly demand that:

Our existing livelihoods should not be snatched away but protected and enhanced.


There should be increased opportunities to earn decent livelihood.


Increasing price rise should be contained immediately – especially, the prices of pulses and grains should be controlled.

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H2 Side

Victims of ‘Development’—A Jun Sunvayi (Peoples Hearing)


Ahmedabad, Gujarat is at the epicenter of an urban development hurricane. Roads are being widened, farms are making way for malls, shops and housing societies; Kankaria Lake and Sabarmati are undergoing a makeover. Half the city is literally under construction –- be it flyovers, under-bridges or the Bus Rapid Transit System projects. Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) areas are merging within Ahmedabad Muncipal Corporation (AMC) limits, Town Planning schemes are razing encroachments in their paths.


Even as we complain about the inconvenience of dusty, dug-up roads or look forward to a ‘modern’ city, have we spared a thought for the impact on environment? And what about the slum-dwellers and roadside vendors who live and make a living on these roads?


To hear the voices of the victims of ‘development’, SEWA along with CEPT and a number of other Ahmedabad organisations organised a public Jan Sunvayi—People’s Hearing. ‘Aapnu Sahiyaru Amdavad’ or “Our Inclusive Ahmedabad”. Darshini Mahadeviya of CEPT anchored the event.


In the first half of the session, the ‘victims’ of development projects presented their woes and worries -- how the projects had displaced them or made them homeless, how re-settlement schemes had turned out to be empty promises, their fears for the future etc . In the second half, experts expressed their views on the issue as well as possible solutions to the problem. A report on this meeting was sent to the state government.


Sabarmati riverfront may soon dazzle visitors with its promenades and walkways, but this beautification comes at a high cost. The Sabarmati Riverfront Development project is displacing 2,000 vendors of Ravivari Gujari Bazaar – a historic market that bustles with buyers every Sunday.


Gujari Market Traders Association head Nafisbhai said, “King Ahmedshah started this bazaar in 1414. Since then, people have been selling old and second-hand goods here at a reasonable price. The sellers spend the entire week collecting second-hand books and goods from the city to sell them at the bazaar. Countless students have used these books to study and do well in life.”


“If this bazaar is dismantled, 2,000 vendors will be rendered jobless. Even though we pay tax to AMC regularly, we are going to lose our means of sustaining our families. Shouldn’t such a historic bazaar be preserved rather than removed?” he asked


Kamlaben had been living in Dani Limda area of Ahmedabad for two decades and had built her own house in khodiyarnagar, when AMC shunted her to Ganeshnagar in Piplaj. Kamlaben said she hates the new locality, which is very dirty, with no basic infrastructural facilities.


“There is no public transport available here. In the recent past, patients from Piplaj have died due to the long delay in transporting them to a hospital in the main city. Harassment and eve teasing of young women is quite common. Added to this is the fear of being bitten by poisonous snakes and insects in this ‘jungle area’. What will be the future of my children here?” Kamlaben rued.


SEWA’s woman leader Champaben Fatabhai, who sells vegetables in Khodiyarnagar in Bapunagar said, “We have been displaced due to the ongoing BRTS project work on National highway no. 8. I have been selling vegetables in the market for the past 15 years. The civic body told all of us to leave the market and sell by the roadside. We have lost our regular selling spot and customers. As roadside vendors, we are shooed away and harassed by everyone -- from the police and shopkeepers to the AMC. We are battling on to feed our families.”


“We are not opposed to the government’s development projects, but it should also make alternate arrangements for people like us, who have been operating here for years,” Champaben added.


A survey by SEWA reveals that 15 per cent of roadside vendors have lost their livelihood or have suffered losses due to urban development projects in the city. Many have been displaced from their homes and shunted to the outskirts of the city. In fact, a majority has not received any alternative help or facilities. SEWA has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Gujarat High Court seeking the formulation of a state policy for city’s 1 lakh unorganized sector sellers, based on the national policy devised by the Central government in 2004. The High Court has also given an interim order to AMC to come up with a policy, but it is still ‘in process’.


Talking about the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project, Dr Renu, a PhD scholar from Ahmedabad said, “The biggest problem is the re-settlement of residents. The rule that resettlement location should be within two kilometers from the original residence is being openly flouted. Sufficient funds for re-settlement of people have not been allocated in the project. More attention is being paid to infrastructure instead..”


Dr Bimalbhai Patel, who works for the project, said, “Development projects being implemented in the city should not be at the cost of the poor. Several such schemes completely overlook the needs of the marginalised section. While making the framework and structure of any government scheme, government officials have to operate within the law. All the details are of the project cannot be made public knowledge. Due to this, injustice is often done to the poor, even though the riverfront project had outlined a plan for slum dwellers from the beginning.”


Prof Ghanshyambhai said that lakhs of people come to the city in search of work, a better life and a better future. The city’s wealth and resources are meant for everyone. Why is development ignoring certain sections of the society? Giving statistical information from an interesting study, he said, “AMC’s income has increased by 19 per cent from 1981 to 2008. The area under tarred roads has increased from 900 km to 1,280 km.


But the number of public buses has reduced. In 1981, 650 AMTS buses used to ply in the city; in 2006, there were only 164. Even the number of bus routes has reduced from 208 in 1981 to 36 in 2005-06. The number of government maternity homes is only 7 compared to 27 in 1981.”


Conclusion: The whole urban development project process needs to be given a human touch. Every citizen has the right to live. Why should he need to do the rounds of courts for his rights? One-sided development needs to become inclusive development.


The state should hold discussions and debates rather than enforce decisions. Every stakeholder and every person who is affected by the project should have a say. It should be a participatory process.


People who are displaced due to such projects live in fear and uncertainty. They wonder whether they should build permanent homes, whether they would be moved again. At present, no one has a clear idea or information about the city’s development projects, the funds allocated etc. A separate forum is needed to address these questions and bring about transparency.

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