Our Members - The Self-Employed Women Workers

SEWA is the only national union of Women workers from the unorganized sector in India. SEWA membership consists or four types of self-employed workers.
SEWA’s members are workers who have no fixed employee-employer relationship and depend on their own labour for survival. They are poor, illiterate and vulnerable. They barely have any assets or working capital. But they are economically extremely active, contributing very significantly to the economy and society with their labour. 62% of GDP is accounted for by the self – employed of our country. There are Four types of self-employed women workers:

Vendors and Hawkers

small-scale traders, vendors and hawkers selling goods like vegetable, fruit, fish, egg, other food items, used garments, and other consumable goods.

Most of these women traders sell either on pavements, spreading their goods on burlap along the city streets or by wandering through neighborhoods with baskets on their heads.

Home-based workers

These workers are invisible to the society, literally, in that they work within their homes. These workers can be further classified into Piece-rate Workers and Small Producers.

Some of the workers in this category includes (but not limited to) weavers, potters, bidi and agarbatti workers, papad rollers, ready-made garment workers, women who process agricultural products and artisans.

Labour & Service providers

These workers form the largest section in our economy and they sell their labor and services. This category includes agricultural workers, construction workers, workers in small factories, contract labourers, handcart pullers, head – loaders, domestic workers, tendu-patta pluckers and Waste recyclers.

In addition to these three categories there is emergence of another category of women workers.


who invest their labour and capital to carry out their businesses. This category includes small and marginal farmers, salt farmers, cattle rearers, artisans, gum collectors, cooking & vending etc.

SEWA’s total membership across 16 states in India viz Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Assam, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Kashmir and Nagaland in year 2017 is 14,12,148.

Direct Membership of SEWA8,09,544
Affiliates Membership9,24,651
1Hawkers & Vendors10
2Home-based workers15
3Manual Labourerers Services Providers10
4Producers & Services10

Today, 35% of SEWA’s membership is from the young generation. This is the 2nd and 3rd generation of our founder members that is joining SEWA. To enable this young generation to understand the struggle of the founding members, the impact of SEWA’s work on the lives of its members and the values of SEWA, and to keep SEWA relevant to its young members; with Full-employment and Self-reliance as its main objectives, SEWA initiated its “sustainability campaign” – a campaign focusing on making SEWA, as a union, self-sustaining.

As a firm step towards this, in 2015, SEWA adopted the Membership management system. This has led to complete digitization of SEWA’s membership data. As a result of this, from 2017 onwards, the time and expense incurred in renewing SEWA’s membership has decreased. Additionally, the membership data of previous year would be useful in planning and implementation of new initiatives. Thus, combining technology and thriftiness – SEWA has achieved reduction in wastage of time and money.

When the nation is talking about Digital inclusion, how does an informal women worker go digital? SEWA’s own customized membership management platform – identified as “SEWA online” by its members is an answer to this. Cadre of SEWA’s grass-root leaders and representatives purchased their own tablets and smart-phones and renewed the membership of thousands of members online – accepting membership dues online.

For more details on SEWA’s activities in each of these states, please click on the name of

  • SEWA Madhya Pradesh (SEWA MP)
  • SEWA Uttar Pradesh
  • SEWA Delhi
  • SEWA Bihar
  • SEWA West Bengal
  • SEWA Rajasthan
  • SEWA Uttarakhand
  • SEWA Kerala
  • SEWA Maharashtra
  • SEWA Assam
  • SEWA Meghalaya
  • SEWA Jammu- Kashmir – SEWA-e-Kashmir
  • SEWA Nagaland
  • SEWA Orissa
  • SEWA Jharkhand

Since SEWA is a national union, for national level activities, we have formed a SEWA National Council. The main activities of this council are to increase the spread of SEWA’s membership. run campaigns on issues of members that cut across a large number of memberships, and thus strengthen the union.

In addition to these, the council oversees activities like policy advocacy for resolutions passed by SEWA like Street Vendors Act, Mapping of unorganized sector workers to bring them visibility, Land Campaign, Seed bill, Home-based Workers Act etc. – thus, bringing voice, visibility and validity to informal sector workers at National and international level and being instrumental in framing worker friendly national and international policies.

Whenever SEWA starts its organizing activities in any new state, the members are registered directly under the SEWA National Union. The National Council provides guidance and peer-to-peer support till the member becomes strong enough to register and sustain its own local union. Once the local organization becomes capable of sustainably managing its union activities, it is registered into a local state level union and the local union becomes an affiliate of SEWA Nation Union.

On these lines, SEWA’s members in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Maharashtra and Delhi have registered their own local SEWA unions and these unions are affiliated with SEWA’s National Union.

The remaining 9 states have not yet registered their own local state level unions and hence in these states, members are registered under SEWA National Union directly.