INTRODUCTION

SELF EMPLOYED WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION (SEWA) is the single largest Central Trade union registered on 12th April, 1972 with a membership of over 1.5 million (2018) poor, self-employed women workers from the informal economy across 18 states in India.

With the Gandian principles of Satya (truth), Ahinsa (non-violence), Sarvadharma (integrating all faiths. all people) and Khadi (propagation of local employment and self-reliance), SEWA has been working for almost 5 decades to improve the livelihoods of poor self-employed women workers from the informal economy, through various initiatives using technology, technical training, microfinance, market linkages, natural resource management etc. across over 125 different trades with the twin goals of

01. Full Employment :

Achieve work security, income security, food security and social security viz. healthcare, childcare, nutrition and shelter and

02. Self Reliance :

Autonomous and self-reliant at both individual and community levels in terms of economic as well as decision making abilities.

To achieve its goals of Full-Employment and Self-Reliance for its members and to facilitate representation, economic empowerment, collective strength & increased bargaining power of its members, SEWA follows integrated approach of

  • Organizing for collective strength
  • Capacity building to stand firm in competitive market
  • Capital formation for risk mitigation & fight poverty
  • Social security to enhance well-being & productivity

This is done through the strategy of struggle and development. The struggle is against the many constraints and limitations imposed on them by society and the economy, while development activities strengthen women’s bargaining power and offer them new alternatives. Practically, the strategy is carried out through the joint action of union and cooperatives.

The union strengthens members’ leadership, their confidence, their bargaining power and their collective strength within and outside their homes and their representation in policy-making and decision-making fora.

The cooperative aspect supports the members by building their capacities – technical, enterprenuerial, managerial and soft-skills and in developing their own economic organisations – where members themselves are owner and managers of their own enterprises. Our experience shows that the foundation for development of women is stronger if it is built on four core pillars of

  • Organizing,
  • Capacity building
  • Capital formation and
  • Building women’s own enterprises.

On these lines, SEWA has facilitated organizing its members in to their own 4813 SHGs, 160 cooperatives, 15 economic federations and 3 producer companies.

For a better future of work, there is a need to strengthen the scaling-up of these worker-owned and managed tiny and microenterprises, which will throw up ample employment and work opportunities for workers in the informal economy.

Given its experience in organizing informal sector women workers and facilitating their economic empowerment, SEWA is being looked upon as a resource organization at national as well as international level. The best practices and the success of the SEWA’s sister-to-sister organizing model which builds the collective strength and bargaining power of women workers; by organizing them into different forms of economic organizations; is replicated in various trades, sectors as well as in countries across the region and globe.

The replication and the upscaling is done by SEWA in affiliation with various stakeholders such as Governments – State, National and International, SAARC, National and International Trade Unions, Multi Lateral Organizations etc. On these lines SEWA has worked towards strengthening the livelihoods of poor self employed women workers in 7 South-Asian countries viz Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Butan and Bangladesh