SEWA
Self Employed Women’s Association
 
 
Vol. 1 No.1 January 2005
 
Dear Friends  
 
We are happy to announce that SEWA is launching its electronic newsletter titled, We, the Self Employed. This is but an attempt to give voice to the women of the informal economy. Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) was registered as a trade union in 1972 and since then has been organising women in the informal economy. Belonging to various trades and services, SEWA members are divided into four major categories on the basis of their work. They are home based workers, vendors, hawkers, laborers and service providers and small producers.

The informal economy accounts for 93% of Indian work force. Of the women's work force in India, more than 94% are in the unorganised sector. They work for long hours, on very low wages and are mostly illiterate. There are no protective laws for them who are economically very active, contributing significantly to the Idndian economy and the society but are nonetheless exploited, discriminated against and marginalized.

SEWA has worked towards their visibility and for integrating them in the mainstream.Their needs, struggle and development have always been central to our objectives. Today, SEWA has 700,000 members located in 7 states of India. In 14 districts of Gujarat alone, SEWA has reached out to around 5 lakh members in both, the rural and urban areas. SEWA believes in the Gandhian philosophy of Satya (truth), Ahimsa (non-violence), Sarvadharma (integration of all faiths, all religion) and Khadi (preparation of local employment and self reliance).

SEWA organized women through its joint strategy of struggle and development. It undertakes several activities based on members needs and priorities. Some of these are union struggles, cooperative economic, organizations, supportive services like banking and credit, health care, child care, shelter, legal-aid, insurance, capacity building, training through Sewa Academy, research and communication services.

SEWA members are the Directors of the SEWA Bank, managers of their cooperatives, leaders of their trade groups, camera persons, designers, and barefoot doctors, engineers, researchers, bankers. They change their own situation for the better and in doing so change society and their own men folk. In the SEWA movement, women are the leaders.

Today, we are very pleased to be users of the digital technologies in reaching out to our members and also new and extensive audiences. We do this through satellite communication, Video SEWA, and our websites. We feel happy to say that our online visitors have grown from a few thousand to 55560 every month.

These interesting developments have encouraged us at SEWA to share our experiences and news that happen at the local level through this newsletter. We hope that this newsletter helps in contributing towards building a knowledge society wherein the poor are able to fully participate and encourage networking of communication.This is our first issue and our effort is to reach you with our news and stories. We look forward to your response and suggestions.

We wish all our readers a very Happy New Year.
 
Namrata Bali
General Secretary
SEWA
 
CONTENTS
 
SEWA News
Awards and felicitations
Celebrations
SEWAscope
Profile
 
SEWA News
 
SEWA CELEBRATES ITS NATIONAL IDENTITY SEWA Mahotsav in Indore  
December 1-3, Indore
 
A Mahotsav (Celebration) for informal women workers? This was made possible for the first time by SEWA’s members all over the country. Over a thousand women workers belonging to different trades of Delhi, Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh thronged at Indore to celebrate the SEWA Mahotsav organized by SEWA Bharat and SEWA Madhya Pradesh.

The SEWA Mahotsav was a three-day festivity comprising of songs and dances and games on the first day, group discussion on the second day, terminating with a rally on the third day. After the rally, the women workers passed resolutions for making their demands to the central government. It was a determined step forward to attain self-reliance and economic independence.

On this occasion, Elaben Bhatt, founder SEWA said, ‘Why shouldn’t we celebrate? It is a tradition at SEWA to celebrate even a small success. Celebrations have always provided oxygen to the SEWA movement. Be it the achievement of the khulla akash mahila bazar (open air women's market) in Bhagalpur or that of the pension scheme for bidi workers in Indore or the retention of water in the ponds made in Gujarat's desert regions – we should celebrate.’

‘We have proved that SEWA is possible beyond the boundaries of Gujarat. Women are same all over the nation – poor, self-employed, wise, alert, brave, and large hearted. The need of solidarity is the same all over – to confront exploitation, injustice, and inequality. Local leadership among women is also seen everywhere. Most of all, we have never been short of organizers who are educated, selfless, and goal-oriented. All we need is to unite and unionize, with a focused commitment, direction, and a vision.’

‘SEWA's vision is economic freedom – I call it the second freedom. Despite the achievement of political freedom in 1947, we are still struggling for economic freedom. Our collective vision, therefore, is to attain the second freedom through constructive struggle and Gandhian ideology.’
 
  Resolutions passed by women workers at SEWA Mahotsav, 2004
  SEWA welcomes the Law on Social Security for Unorganized Workers passed by the State Government of Madhya Pradesh and demands participation of women workers in its implementation.
  SEWA’s membership is more than seven lakhs in seven states and more than fourteen industries. We ask the Central Government  to recognize SEWA as a Central Trade Union Organization.
  The Second National Labor Commission has recommended formulating a law for the workers of the unorganized sector. We ask the Central Government to pass a law for protection and social security of unorganized workers.
  SEWA welcomes the National Policy for Vendors and demands its immediate implementation. In seven states of India viz., Delhi, Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, SEWA demands its participation in the National Policy.
 
SEWA inaugurates Rudi bazaar
Rural women's very own market  
December 8, Sabarkantha
My Rudi, my market
My Rudi, my venture
My Rudi, my money
My Rudi, my license
I am the producer
I am the trader
I am the owner
I am the distributor
My market – my very own market
 
It seemed like a dream come true when SEWA's Rudi bazaar – a market of rural women and by rural women was inaugurated by NABARD Chairperson at Aniyor village in Malpur taluka of Sabarkantha district. The goal of Rudi bazaar is to provide a definite market to rural workers and producers and sell their products at reasonable rates to rural consumers. It increases the employment potentialities in a village and helps the village to become economically stable. According to Elaben Bhatt, founder of SEWA, "We will buy what we produce. Gandhiji always urged to generate employment in villages. Not only have we generated employment, but we have created a market, so that the money of the rural sector circulates within the villages only."

Rudi bazaar has set a pioneering example of cooperative efforts between the government, corporate sector, bank, and a grassroots organization – SEWA. It is a larger than life initiative of SEWA Gram Mahila Haat, the marketing unit of SEWA Rural Development. Massive 3,58,000 women and 4000 groups of 14 districts of Gujarat have joined hands to collect, segregate, clean, package, distribute, and market rural products. NABARD has taken the leadership in training rural women for production and marketing. The Hindustan Lever Company Ltd. has come forward to create the infrastructure and administrative structure of Rudi and to train women in cleaning, grinding, weighing, quality testing, packaging, and labeling the products.
 
 
Rudi Voices

  Sumitraben (Aniyor village): "I have got an employment opportunity through Rudi bazaar. Gram Haat has trained me for cleaning,   weighing, packaging, and labeling rural products."
  Shilpaben (Aakrun village): "I take care of the accounts and sales in Rudi bazaar. Now, people fondly address me as Rudiben."
  Manjulaben (Chopai village):"I am responsible for quality testing at Rudi bazaar. I check for the color, smell, taste, density and   other qualitative aspects of rural products."
  Hansaben (Dabhasi village): “We make packages of food products weighing 25 grams or 50 grams, which are affordable to the   rural folk.”
 
Street Vendors: Still under attack
January, Ahmedabad
 
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has undertaken a systematic campaign to remove the vendors from the traditional downtown of the city. Apparently, a belief seems to prevail that with the riddance of the vendors the city aesthetics will improve. To what extent is this true?

It takes only one visit to understand the employment issues of the vendors. Textile mills are no more and where are new jobs for the poor? The rural poor migrate to the city with a hope to find employment. When they find it difficult to find casual labor, their eyes turn to retail vending for income. They earn about Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 at the end of the day, just enough to give them their daily bread.

If it is true that the vendors crowd the city, then it is equally true that the people in the theatres, hotels, parking lots, shops also crowd the city. Why is it that only vendors are being targeted? Vendors have been traditionally selling in their places for three to four generations now, in the city bazaars like Manek Chowk, Danapith and Jamalpur. Yet, they are being removed from their places. They have survived police beatings and municipal riddance through unionizing. But how can one fight every other day? Now, we will have to go for a permanent solution.

SEWA has been struggling long and hard for the vendors. The struggle, however, seems endless. On SEWA union's appeal, the Supreme Court had permitted the vendors of Manek Chowk to sit in their places, in 1984. Nonetheless, Supreme Court's order is being crushed today. Then after, the Gujarat High Court (in 1987, 1992, and 1999) ordered for the protection of vendors and gave alternative suggestions to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. That too was not followed. High Court had stated that the traffic police should handle the issues of vendors. Again, it was not followed. In 2003, the central government has formulated a National Policy of Street Vendors with the approval of all the stakeholders – the government, police, corporation, and town planners. The Prime Minister had instructed for the implementation of this policy in all states. Does any officer find time to even glance through this policy paper? What about the implementation of this policy then?

Is there an end to the struggle of vendors? The city will have to provide for vending space for poor, self employed women. The city is large. The city dwellers are large hearted. The vendors will find a permanent place for vending.
 
VendorWomen'sCall
"We, ask for a space of two baskets"
 
We, the vendors, sell vegetables, fruits, cutlery, food products, and other things in the city of Ahmedabad. We earn our daily meal from our daily sale. On the roadside, in lanes and by-lanes, and at street corners we occupy space of two baskets or two sheets and sell things of daily necessities at reasonable rates. Do you believe this?

Since a month, the anti-encroachment department of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has been restraining us from vending at our places. Also, they do not hesitate in grabbing and indiscriminately throwing our vending paraphernalia like weighing scale, baskets, and expensive vegetables and fruits. Many a time, our things are crushed under the wheels of the Corporations' heavy vans.

Since one month, we are being harassed and find it extremely difficult to vend. What do we eat? How long can we survive on loans and credits? We have come under heavy debts. In this city, we – women run the households, when the men are jobless. This is the plight of one lakh women vendors in the city.

We, the vendors appeal to the wise citizens of Ahmedabad to help and support the women, who are street vendors.

We are citizens of this city too. It is our right to earn our livelihood through toil and labor. In that case, why are we treated as criminals by the Municipal Corporation? For us, this is sheer injustice. Does the law permit snatching or crushing of labor women's livelihood paraphernalia? The city creates parking space for inanimate vehicles, but we, the living and laboring do not find any space to earn our livelihood. In a campaign to enhance the city aesthetics, when will it cease to look upon as encroachers? When will be we viewed as a part and parcel of the city's business and economy? Can this city not provide space of two baskets for the peaceful livelihood of us, the poor? We appeal to you for finding a permanent solution to our issues.
Leaders of Vendor Women's Union, SEWA.
Shakriben, Kaliben, Shantaben, Paluben, Rewaben, Mayavatiben, Jenabben, Mayaben, Kokilaben,
Ramilaben, Madhuben, Hawliben, Veenaben, Sonalben, Rupaben, Kaluben, Babuben, Maghiben.
 
People's participation fetches water in Aewal  
December 6, Patan
 
A persistent crisis of water for more than 15 years in Aewal village has triggered people’s participation to resolve the crisis. The only source of drinking water in this village of Santalpur taluka in Patan district was a well located in a deserted area of the village. Women were gripped with fear while going to this well for filling water. To fix this problem, a Gram Sabha was called wherein a decision was made to build a pipeline from Jakhotra to Aewal for bringing water to the village. Able leadership of men and women was responsible for this ingenious people’s initiative. With painstaking efforts, women of Aewal began digging the ground and men joined too. Men undertook the task of carrying pipes for about 105 km. in the extreme summer heat. To save on the machine expenses, men and women had to manually break huge boulders while laying the pipeline in the hard terrain. People's participation thus fetched water through a pipeline in Aewal. SEWA’s water committee is the caretaker of the Jakhotra-Aewal pipeline.
 
Rise in wages for incense stick rollers  
December 6, Ahmedabad
 
It is celebration time for SEWA's incense stick rollers. Due to continuous demand and agitation of the SEWA's union of incense stick rollers, wages for incense sticks rolling have been fixed under the Minimum Wages Act by the labor department of the Gujarat state government. In tripartite talks held between SEWA's leaders of incense stick rollers, the state government, and the owners, it was decided to raise the wages of water-based incense stick rolling to Rs.7 per one thousand incense sticks and oil-based incense stick rolling to Rs.7.50 per one thousand incense sticks. This decision was taken in the presence of Assistant Labor Officers of the state government.
 
SEWA once again elected as Vice President
on Women's seat of ITGLWF  
October 4-6, Istanbul
 
To educate, agitate, and organize. These were the primary slogans of the 9th world congress of the International Trade Union of Garment and Leather Works Federation (ITGLWF) held in Turkey, Istanbul in October 2004. It is a matter of honor to announce that SEWA has been once again elected as the Vice President on the Women's seat of the Executive Committee of ITGLWF. It is noteworthy that SEWA had received a special invitation by this congress to talk about the strategies on the massive growth of its trade union from one thousand to seven lakh women members. While a decrease in the membership of trade union has been noted worldwide, SEWA's membership has been consistently increasing.
 
Training program on paper recycling
October 1, New Delhi
 
A three-month training program was organized on the recycling of waste paper at the paper plant of Miranda House College. SEWA's members have been associated with this training project granted to Miranda House College by the Department of Science & Technology. Women, after the completion of training are now working at the plant on the basis of monthly income, thus achieving SEWA's goal of self reliance and complete employment.
 
Awards & Felicitations
The President bestows prestigious award to SEWA
October 7, New Delhi
 
The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academics and Management was bestowed to SEWA. The President, Shri Abdul Kalam conferred this award to Elaben Bhatt on October 7, 2004 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She was accompanied by SEWA's self employed women at the Bhavan.
On receiving the award, Elaben said, ' I feel proud of receiving this award. Shastriji's slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan showed his love for the nation and his faith in rural people. He had appointed a Reform Commission for effective administration. Our experiences of the SEWA union have taught us that while people are struggling to develop we too have to make administrative adaptations and validate the concept of management. It is our effective management that has enabled us to operate a trade union of about 7 lakh women and a bank for 2.5 lakh women. To manage the federation of producers' associations of nine districts is a major challenge. The development of 58 chawls in the city of Ahmedabad depicts management's unique strategies. Conducting research to convince policy makers that the nation's workers do not function under one owner or under the same roof is the most difficult task for which we require an exclusive mindset. Nonetheless, poor, self employed women have united to pave ways for development. This award is the recognition of these self reliant women's constructive work and has provided motivation for moving ahead. I thank you for raising our self confidence.'
 
Miraiben Chatterjee appointed on the Advisory Board of National Commission on Enterprises for Informal Sector
December 9, New Delhi
 
Miraiben Chaterjee, coordinator SEWA Social Security has been appointed by the Ministry of Small Scale Industries, Government of India on the Advisory Board for the National Commission on Enterprises for Informal Sector. The Commission will be a watchdog for the informal sector and will recommend measures considered necessary for bringing about improvement in the productivity of these enterprises, generation of large scale employment opportunities on a sustainable basis, particularly in the rural areas, enhancing the competitiveness of the sector in the emerging global environment, linkage of the sector with institutional framework in areas such as credit, raw material, infrastructure, technology up gradation, marketing and formulation of suitable arrangements for skill development.
 
Honesty and efficiency of SEWA's health workers appreciated  
November 6, Ahmedabad
 
The Councilor of Vejalpur Municipality has congratulated SEWA's health workers for efficient waste management of dry and wet garbage. It was a day of appreciation and honor for the honesty of SEWA's health workers of ward no.10. In particular was appreciated the honesty of Bhartiben Vaghela, a health worker of this ward. On finding a wallet having Rs.1500 from the garbage of Ramtirth society, she had promptly returned it to the owner. Earlier, Vejalpur Municipality had also felicitated SEWA's health workers Puriben Vaghela, Pushpaben Parmar, and Amarben Parmar for efficient door-to-door collection of dry and wet waste and maintaining a clean Vejalpur.
 
SEWA's TB DOT worker felicitated  
September 23-24, Ahmedabad
 
SEWA's TB DOT worker, Shashiben Laad, was jointly felicitated by Indian government's Central TB Division and Gujarat State Health and Family Welfare Department in an exhibition for public awareness on tuberculosis. She has been giving her services to the young and the old, to men and women as a TB DOT worker of SEWA's public health cooperative. Lalitaben has administered TB medicines to 150 patients from the year 1999 to 2004.
 
Celebrations
Diwali-Id celebrated together  
November 18, Ahmedabad
 
It was nature’s way of promoting a message of communal harmony by putting in a consecutive appearance of Diwali and Ramzan Id on the calendar year, this time. SEWA took upon this unique opportunity and celebrated Diwali and Ramzan Id together at its Shantipath (Way of peace) Kendras in Ahmedabad. More than 60 women gathered to celebrate Diwali and Id together at the Gomtipur Shantipath Kendra. Not only did they explain to each other the importance of celebrating the two festivals but they also expressed that Eshwar and Allah are but one. And of course, how could they forget preparing traditional sweets and eating them together.

The Eidgah Shantipath Kendra under the Asarva Bridge, here, witnessed an unusual sight of Hindu and Muslim women collectively celebrating the 27th Ramzan fast. About 70 Hindu and Muslim women got together and cooked delicacies for the celebration of Ieftar on this Ramzan day. The women said that this area is considered as an extremely sensitive one from the point of view of communal violence. Earlier, they feared visiting each other's chawls, but now due to SEWA's active involvement, a feeling of togetherness has prevailed among the people of two communities.
 
Chanda Niwas inaugurated
October 25, Ahmedabad
 
SEWA's new building Chanda Niwas was inaugurated with an all-religion prayer. This building is named after one of SEWA's co-founders, Chandaben Jagaria. Chandaben, an old clothes vendor has contributed extensively in building the SEWA Union and the SEWA Bank along with Elaben Bhatt. Reminiscing on her memories, Elaben said, 'Chandaben was my special colleague. Despite having very young children, at that time, she was an extremely committed and enthusiastic organizer of the union of self employed women.'
 
SEWAscope  
SEWA-IFAD Exposure Dialogue Program  
 
Ahmedabad: SEWA organized an Exposure Dialogue Program (EDP) for International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Gujarat. The overarching goal of this EDP was to expose the participants to the lives of poor but self employed women and to understand how she struggles to overcome poverty and insecurity. The participants actually lived with the woman and her family to become aware of their concerns and capabilities. Representatives of IFAD and officials of Gujarat government’s Labour Department participated in this program.
 
Teacher training for BalSEWA  
 
Kutch: A ten-month training for 20 teachers initiated in the first month of the year, 2004 was completed in October 2004. The teachers have been trained for starting a BalSEWA kendra in Kutch.
 
Training for disaster mitigation
 
Kutch: Two-day training was organized by Disaster Mitigation Institute at Nalia center of Kutch on September 30 and 31 to make preparations for disaster mitigation, in which 27 SEWA members of seven villages participated. A similar training was also organized on October 8 in which 18 members of five villages participated.
 
Bytes and megabytes........ 
 
Kutch: A training program on basic computer usage was initiated at Kutch district's Nalia center of SEWA in the month of September. The major focus of this training was basic computer operations and use of computer in daily life.
 
Workshop for agricultural workers by SEWA's legal unit  
 
Ahmedabad : SEWA’s legal unit organized a workshop in Vatva, Vastral, and Singarva for women agricultural workers to disseminate information on welfare schemes for agricultural workers. Officials of Gujarat State Labor Department gave information on the Minimum Wages Act, Medical Assistance Scheme, Janshri Insurance Scheme for accidental and natural death and assistance in accidents.
 
Water rally in Mehsana  
 
Mehsana: A water rally was organized in the Nandasan village of Kadi taluka located in the district of Mehsana. The rally participants were the Gram Panchayat, Nandasan Primary School, SEWA's Ganeshpura, Mehsana office and the Vanalaxmi Cooperative. During the rally, the participants voiced slogans of Save Water and Remove Waste. Women and children stopped at houses where they saw waste accumulation and urged people to clear the waste and make drainage pits for liquid waste disposition, which would in turn help in the prevention of malaria. Since the water in this region contains high levels of fluoride, the rally participants also taught people how to fill water pots to prevent disease caused due to fluoride excess in water.

Profile
  I am Laxmiben Teta Pattani. I was born as the second child in a family of four brothers and three sisters in the city of Ahmedabad, about twenty five years before India's independence. We lived in a hut near the Asarva Lake. My childhood was neither carefree nor happy; rather it was burdened with responsibilities. Yes, there was a school nearby in Patelwadi, but I could only study up to standard three, because of my family's dire poverty. My father's income as a mill worker was inadequate to run a big family. My mother although earned regular income for the family as a vegetable vendor, her recurring asthma attacks forced me to share this responsibility with her, since I was ten. At that young age, I would get up at five in the morning, make tea and breakfast, wash clothes at the lake, cook food, and then go to the Manek Chowk market to sell vegetables at nine o'clock. I earned 75 paisa to 1 rupee per day, which helped to supplement the family income. I continued contributing to the family income till I was married.
I was married at the age of 19 to Tetabhai Hemraj Pattani. After marriage, I lived in a hut in Amdupura with my husband and in-laws. My husband's work as a substitute textile worker yielded intermittent income. It was me who had to play the role of breadwinner, which I did as a vegetable vendor at Manek Chowk.

Life after marriage was the most difficult periods of my life. As I did not have a child till 7 years of marriage, my husband used to beat me up terribly and scream, 'You are like a black cat! What do I do with you?' My brother-in-law and sister-in-law also would beat me awfully. Once, while I was pregnant, my sister-in-law hit me on my belly and accused me of stealing 10 kilograms silver.
 
She filed a police complaint and I was thrown behind the bars for three days. But, I was not to be written off that easily. I argued my case strongly in the court of law and made it difficult for them to prove me guilty. While I was awaiting the court's verdict, I had told my husband that if he wished to continue the marriage, he would have to testify in the court of law that I was innocent and that I was severely beaten by my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and mother-in-law. He did so. Soon after, I and my husband started living separately in a shack next to my in-law. But they continued to harass me and my children.

Then after, I shifted with my husband and children to a broken hut located next to a latrine in Harijan Chawl. I spent the next 18 years of my life in this place. Here, the Harijans treated me as their daughter. This made me very happy. I worked hard in my business of vegetable vending at Manek Chowk and managed to save money. I deposited my daily savings of Rs.5 with Methiben, an elderly lady at the Harijan Chawl. This way I saved a lot of money and bought 220 grams of gold and several silver coins. Unfortunately, however, my husband sold the entire gold and silver to satiate his addiction for liquor.

Meanwhile, in my business of vegetable vending the harassment of police and municipal corporation's officials was increasing. We, the vendors were many a times perceived as thieves, looked upon as a hindrance to the traffic, and road encroachers. Once, while I was selling vegetables at Manek Chowk, the police came and beat me badly accusing me of illegal encroachment of the road. At the very moment, Valjibhai of Textile Labour Association (TLA) happened to pass by. He took me to Elaben Bhatt, who at that time was the Head of the Women's Wing of TLA. She was also working for the issues of head loaders and used garment dealers during the same time. Later, on an appeal from women workers Elaben formed SEWA, the Self Employed Women's Association, a trade union of women workers in 1972. I remember we five – Chandaben, Sumanben, Anandiben, Elaben and myself conducted meetings in the Victoria Garden at Ahmedabad to strengthen the union. For six months, I stopped doing my business and invested my time and money for making the union. I and Sumanben toiled day-in and day-out to unite the women vegetable vendors. We went from house to house pursuing women to become a member of the union, and talking to them about the union's strength, and its implications. In this manner, we could inspire 500 to 700 women within a month to become a member of the union. I was offered a bribe of Rs.5 lakh to leave this union. Firmly rejecting the offer, I told the concerned person that I had given my word to Elaben and would not change from my stand, come what may.

In 1977, the police officials particularly came to Manek Chowk and forced us – the vegetable vendors to vacate the place. The police would beat us frequently and brutally thus preventing us from vending at our places, where our families had been sitting since generations. To protest against police brutality, we, the vendors of SEWA held a protest demonstration and took out a procession, as a result of which police brutality decreased and the Municipal Corporation demarcated places for the vendors to sit. Nonetheless, the forces against us were growing very strong.

We, at SEWA then decided to move the Supreme Court to fight for our rights. In 1982, a case was filed in the Supreme Court against the Municipal Commissioner, the Police Commissioner, and the state of Gujarat. Since I was one of the petitioners in this case, I had also gone to Delhi in an air plane along with Elaben to fight our case in the Supreme Court. I had presented my case powerfully in front of the bench of judges. I argued that in Ahmedabad, one finds space for parking scooters and cars but poor people like us do not find place for the parking of our stomachs. The shop owners sell at ease sitting in a chair and under the fan. On the other hand, the street vendors do business with a child tucked in one arm and harsh sun above the head. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation's representative asked me to stop speaking. But I openly told him, that it was he who had demanded a bribe of Rs.5000 to 7000 for settling my case. The bench of judges listened to our case carefully. After a long fight, we won the case. All of us danced with joy that day! We returned home victorious! For three days after the case was won, I had not eaten a morsel of food, as I had a bond to fulfill – to honor my Goddess with sweets and then eat food. Elaben had also not eaten anything. There could be nothing more fulfilling than this victory as we had got it after being hit by the police wands umpteen number of times.

Based on the Supreme Court's ruling, the vendors were allotted a place on the terrace of the building of Manek Chowk fruit market for business. We agreed, but only conditionally. We asked for the provision of services like water, toilet, bathrooms, and a lift. The corporation, however, denied these. Also, Elaben felt that our business on the terrace will subside, as the number of buyers on the terrace would reduce. We therefore, continued vending on the streets of Manek Chowk. I was into the business of vegetable vending till I was 70 years old. Today, at the age of 85 years, I am involved in other business such as trading of goods and applying mehndi in fairs, despite three severe attacks of asthma. But, I am happy and satisfied and live with my son who has taken up my business of vegetable vending at Manek Chowk. My three other sons and four daughters are also settled in their lives.
 
Self Employed Women's Association
SEWA Reception Centre, Opp. Victoria Garden, Bhadra, Ahmedabad - 380 001. India.
Phone : 91-79-25506444 / 25506477 / 25506441, Fax : 91 - 79 - 25506446, Email :mail@sewa.org
     
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