Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) founded by Smt. Elaben Bhatt in 1972 is a member-based organization of 2.5 million poor women workers from informal economy across 18 states of India; with its largest membership in Gujarat. SEWA also has its presence in neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. SEWA’s strategy involves working around the achievement of twin goals of (a) Full employment - employment that provides work, income and food security and (b) Self-reliance – economical & decision-making. By organizing these women workers to attain full employment, SEWA helps them to become autonomous and economically self-reliant, both individually and collectively, including in terms of decision-making ability. To achieve its goals SEWA follows an integrated approach (a) Organizing for collective strength, (b) Capacity building to stand firm in competitive market, (c) Capital formation for risk mitigation & fight poverty and (d) Social security to enhance well-being & productivity SEWA’s journey of nearly five decades has followed a joint action of union and co-operatives. Through the trade union, SEWA organizes informal sector women workers to bring them voice, visibility, and validity as a worker. Through the cooperative movement, SEWA organizes its members based on their skills into their own economic organizations – collectives / cooperatives / federations / microenterprises and producer companies. Members are not just workers, but owners and managers of their own microenterprises. This leads to capital formation and asset creation, economic empowerment, and increased bargaining power, thereby bringing these members into the mainstream economy. Today, SEWA is a family of member-owned economic organizations that provide livelihood security and reduce vulnerability with more than 3200 SHGs, 110 cooperatives, 15 economic federations, 3 producer companies. The structure is similar to a banyan tree that spreads its branches.


SEWA’s Vision of SWARAJ

Millions of workers in independent India are yet to enjoy Poorna Swaraj meaning full Freedom.

Freedom is enjoying self-reliance both economic and mental, in thinking and in decision-making. In our experience, this is not possible without full-employment.

Full-employment means that every household enjoys basic food security, has access to clean water, clothing and shelter. They should be able to afford these from their own earnings. They should also obtain social security, including health care, child care, insurance and pension.

SEWA will continue to struggle till she achieves full-employment. This will be SEWA’s main goal.

SEWA members will work together to obtain full-employment by organising, and through non-violent struggle and constructive action.

SEWA’s core values are and will continue to be integrity, communal harmony, social justice and simplicity.

SEWA’s strategy is to organise women workers into unions and cooperatives or collectives, for self-reliance.

Through organising, women workers will have voice and their work be more visible. Their contribution to the nation’s economy will be valued.
Full freedom will be achieved when women workers lead their families and communities.

This is SEWA’s vision.

Reema Nanavaty

General Secretary, SEWA

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