We the Self-Employed
SEWA'S electronic newsletter
No. 21
September 2009
Campaigning for Micro pensions for SEWA members
SEWA Bihar Annual General Meeting
SEWA in aid of Street Vendors
SEWA’s Role in Public Awareness: Maintenance of Health and Hygiene
Sneh Milan

Campaigning for Micro pensions for SEWA members
Everyone wants a peaceful old age, but most people do not think about it when they are young. Yet, in order to be comfortable in old age it is necessary to plan for it soon after a person starts working. SEWA members know this, and yet till recently they did not have a method by which they could plan for their old age. Finally in April 2006 a scheme for the women workers of the unorganised sector was inaugurated by the then Finance Minister Sri P Chidambaram. This scheme was introduced by SEWA Bank with UTI Mutual Funds.
Shri Chidambaram said SEWA Bank’s initiative was as a movement, and that it would not only help women financially but will provide them with new strength. On the same occasion, Elaben Bhatt, said, that the benefit of this scheme will not be limited to the members of ‘SEWA Bank’ only, but will also be spread among the workers of the unorganised sector across the country.
As a campaign to spread this concept, September 7 to 11, 2009 was celebrated as a Pension Week by SEWA Bank. It was a great success and SEWA Bank membership in pensions increased to 50,000 women, with a pledge to reach 100,000 by October.
Mr U K Sinha, chairman of UTI, inaugurated this campaign on the first day of the week. Appreciating this initiative by SEWA Bank, he said, “This initiative by SEWA Bank is also spreading in other parts of the country. Milk Federation in Bihar and Milk Dairy in Rajasthan, Micro Pension Scheme started in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu following the example of SEWA Bank. This scheme has reached to 1,25,000 people of the country in total”. He further added, “Out of the total workers in India, only 11% get the pension facility, whereas 89% of the workers do not have the facility of ‘pension’. More than 6 crore people in the country need to be provided with the pension facility. This is very difficult, but very important. UTI will constantly make efforts for this.”
On this occassion, Mr Gautam Bharadwaj, Director of Delhi-based company, Invest India Micro Pension Services Pvt. Ltd. informed– ''Their company is engaged in spreading the concept of ‘micro pension’ and ‘pension literacy’ in the country. They are presently working in 10 states of the country. In addition to this, they are also spreading the concept of micro pension in the south asian countries.”
Jayshreeben Vyas, MD of SEWA Bank said that the main objective of the bank is to involve more and more women in the scheme and secure their old age. It is aimed to involve all the 11 lakh women members of ‘SEWA’ in the pension scheme in near future. However, it is difficult to make the daily wage earning women to plan for their long term future. Thus, pension literacy is important for creating awareness among women.
On second day of the week, street plays on pension were performed in different areas of Ahmedabad which caught the interest of many women. It was an experience of learning with fun.
On third day of the ‘Pension’ Week, women wearing white caps lined up to make a human chain on both the ends of Ellisbridge, Ahmedabad and provided information on the ‘need for pension’ to the people passing by. About 2,000 women had joined the chain.  
On 10th September, 2009, ‘Pension Dayro’ was organised in Town Hall, Ahmedabad. More than 1,200 women enjoyed ‘Dayro’ from Bhikhudanbhai Gadhvi and humour from Natubhai Patel. Bhikhudanbhai ensured his support for this great task by SEWA.
On last day of the week, 11th September, 2009, riddle and quiz competition was organised in Town Hall, Ahmedabad. Women participated with interest and won prizes.  
Women showed great excitement during the week celebration. These women, keen to build society and spread awareness, brought along with them their neighbours and relatives to participate in the celebration. The main objective of celebrating the week was to spread the message of ‘old age security’ among more and more people, to create understanding and awareness among women and to secure their future.
Speaking at the function were few women who shared their experiences:
Kantaben Marwadi
75 years old Kantaben Marwadi does the work related to clay stove. She is one of the oldest members of SEWA Bank and she has also been the director of SEWA Bank. She said – “Since childhood I did carpentry and stove work with my mother. I earned money and saved as well. But spent all the money I saved”.

“Today, my children have seperated. I get tired but still have to keep working and have to go to sell stoves. I regret not thinking of my old age when I was young and earned more income.”
Surajben Jagaria
72 years old, Surajben does the business of old clothes and vessels. She says, “I worked throughout my life. I need rest now but, still have to go sell vessels door-to-door. We did not save but daughters think of your old age from today”.
SEWA Bihar Annual General Meeting
SEWA Bihar, held its Second Annual General Meeting in Bhagalpur on 18 September, 2009. The annual report was presented by Madhuriben Sinha, General Secretary, SEWA Bihar to the group members. The women members were from a range of occupations such as bidi workers, vegetable vendors, incense rollers, weavers, agricultural labourers and clay pottery makers.
In 2008 the membership of SEWA Bihar was 12,500 women. In 2009, SEWA Bihar aims to increase the membership to 30,000 women workers. Efforts towards the increase in membership, training and awareness programs were arranged throughout the year.
Various activities undertaken during the year 2008-2009:
For the rights of bidi workers a meeting was conducted with the concerned members and Bidi Trade Committee was formed.
Self Help Groups of 10 members each under the microfinance program were formed. The details of these SHG’s under the microfinance program are as follows:

Total number of SHG’s- 375 groups
Savings -     Rs. 22, 91,400
Loans disbursed- Rs. 28, 59,551  

Various health programmes organized under the aegis of SEWA Bihar are as follows;
997 Health Awareness Camps
1241 Health Check up Camps
505 Member patients were directed to Government hospitals
Women were organized in Katiyar, Bihar. Along with SEWA’s movement and growth, rolling of agarbatti’s was also initiated.
35 families were given employment in the silk sector. The products made out of silk were exhibited in Delhi.
Election of president:
Past president Shakuntalaben had been keeping unwell for quite some time. As the regular work was suffering, for the smooth functioning of the office it was agreed by the entire group to elect a new president for a period of one year. Bibi Munni Begum was elected as the president of SEWA Bhagalpur.
Other matters:
Nutanben Singh, Secretary of Munger and SEWA Bihar, shared information about the membership and its importance in the group.
Gitaben Bharti, Treasurer of SEWA Bihar, welcomed the new members and requested for help in enrolling more members. Gitaben Sinha, Board member of SEWA Bhagalpur addressed the crowd in the local language. She emphasized on the importance of standing together.
At the end of the meeting the General Secretary appealed to the women present that they should wholeheartedly lend their helping hand to give a final shape to women’s rural market. The meeting was concluded with a prayer for success.
SEWA in aid of Street Vendors
SEWA has been involved in taking up the plight of the street vendors, for many years. Due to poverty and unemployment there has been a rise in the population of street vendors. Irrespective of the services provided by these street vendors, they are always perceived as hindrances by both – elite urbanites and the town planners.
The street vendors use the stretch between Jamalpur and Phul Bazaar, Ahmedabad to sell their material. The ongoing construction of the bridge is adding to the traffic chaos thereby affecting the business being conducted by these vendors. It is in fact a pitiable condition to be asked to operate from limited space allocated to them. Women from various areas of the city come to purchase vegetables from these vendors.
On 18th August, 2009 two Street vendor removal vans sent by the Municipal Corporation took away the green vegetable produce worth one to two lakh rupees belonging to 15 women vendors.
It is the duty of the Corporation to provide proper space to the vendors as well as maintaining the regular flow of traffic. Vendors are always considered as obstacles but the question is where should they go to earn their livelihood?
In support of the women vendors, SEWA members approached the corporation to fill the form for the release of the green vegetables. The corporation personnel assured that since it is green vegetables they will release it and no written permission was required for this. On reaching the godown SEWA members were asked to bring the permission to release in writing. The officer there informed that the concerned Deputy Commissioner was in a meeting when it was not actually so. Two women members sat at the corporation and two at the godown and through the phone they coordinated the activities at both ends. Through constant efforts finally the goods were released but less in quantity at nine in the night. Some part of the material was sold, while the part that was returned was not even weighed.
The women vendors got their material back, but in the process, they lost their income for a day and the freshness of the material. Moreover, the payment of the loans they had taken was still impending upon them.
While making Ahmedabad a well-planned and developed city, the Government should consider making a permanent provision for space in order to sustain the livelihoods of the street vendors.
SEWA’s Role in Public Awareness: Maintenance of Health and Hygiene
We have been hearing and reading in newspapers that there is rapid growth and development in India, and especially in Gujarat. The question that comes to mind is: Does development mean that a handful of rich people become richer and more powerful? Or that a few newly surfaced roads and bridges or buildings define “development”? How can the prosperity of 10% of the population be considered as “development”, when the rest of the 90%, all poor people, are still struggling for survival?
Mittalben Shah, Secretary, SEWA, recalled her experience on a visit to a chawl in Behrampura, a heavily populated working class area of Ahmedabad. This chawl is situated five minutes away from a government hospital. In this chawl, she noticed that a majority of women and their families were employed as domestic workers, construction workers or masons. She was shocked to see that 3 out of 10 families had family members affected by polio. Every second child had an eye problem. If this is the situation in a chawl just opposite a municipal hospital, it’s not difficult to imagine what villagers living in remote areas live through.
She observed that there was lack of basic awareness of childcare, healthcare and education. Such awareness cannot be created by educational institutions. If people understood about immunization, there would have been fewer cases of polio. If people knew where to go and what to do, then children would not have to suffer eye problems. People need to understand that by being healthy and giving their health the priority it deserves, they’d also lead more secure lives.
The government is organizing many health awareness programs and services for all. These include eye check up camps for children. There is a child care centre for every 300 houses which ensures that nutritious food and immunization are available to young children, pregnant women and young girls. For a population of 1000 people one link worker provides health services. Despite all of these programmes and investments, the situation has not improved much. Along with providing health services, there is a need to educate and spread awareness on health.
If the government does not pay attention to the full implementation of these programs,a majority of the population will not get the health care services which they need.
Public participation and education can play an important tool to spread such health awareness, so that services actually reach those deprived of them.
SEWA members have been working towards creating health awareness at the grassroot level. They do not bother about meeting “targets.” They work selflessly and with commitment for the well-being of their communities. And yet there is still much more to do for the well-being of all.
Sneh Milan
SEWA Academy celebrated education and literacy through a ‘milan’ or event with over 110 women and their families involved in SEWA’s healthcare education and training efforts. SEWA’s childcare workers, primary teachers and trainers from across the locations where SEWA has a presence came together to share their successes stories and how SEWA has impacted their lives in a considerable way.


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