(Women in discussing during SEWA Bhagalpur mohalla meeting.)

SEWA in Bhagalpur

Since 1983, SEWA Bhagalpur has unionized informal women workers through advocacy, livelihood support, micro-finance, healthcare promotion, and social service linkages. SEWA has 40,008 women worker members across 104 villages in 52 wards of Bhagalpur.

Main activities in Bhagalpur


  • Organizing 104 SHGs that connect over 1000 women to financial services
  • Connecting 100 silk weaving families with sustainable livelihoods
  • Reaching over 6,000 people through health awareness in 2013 alone

SEWA Bhagalpur aims:

  • To extend SEWA to 50,000 women workers
  • To train over 1,100 women in financial literacy
  • To refer over 1,000 women directly to healthcare



Women in the informal sector do not have a platform to engage with the government to voice their diverse concerns. SEWA Bhagalpur is a vehicle for women to liaise with policy makers and get their concerns addressed. Through meetings at the local, state, and national level, and demonstrations and rallies, SEWA helps the government to understand, protect, and meet the needs of women in the informal economy.

Advocating for local health facilities

From 2009 to 2013, SEWA Bhagalpur women met with local Village Health and Sanitation Committees to ensure the government activated two village health sub-centres, helping 6,000 people gain access to healthcare.

See the story here (link to PDF Bhagalpur health case study document)

Background to health facilities

In rural and often in urban India as well, the primary health center (PHC ) is the first, and sometimes only, point of contact with the government health system. Rural populations are highly dependent on these establishments. It acts as a referral unit for 6 Sub-Centers that provide people with basic drugs for minor ailments. PHCs also refer cases to the Community Health Centers or CHC (30 bedded hospital) and higher order public hospitals located at sub-district and district level.

1 to 20,000 people in hilly, tribal, or difficult areas and 1:30,000 people in plains
Each PHC has 6 indoor/observation beds.
1 for every 5,000 people in plains and 1:3000 people in hilly, tribal / backward areas
Mandatory staff at least one Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) / Female Health Worker and one Male Health Worker
The state of Bihar has 1,165 sub centers



In the present competitive global business environment, unskilled workers are being squeezed to produce more for less, and traditional livelihoods are being thrown to the wayside. SEWA Bharat supports women’s livelihoods by helping them organize into trade committees and cooperatives, creating direct market linkages, and connecting them to diverse development programs.

SEWA Silk Weaver’s Cooperative
In 2010, SEWA Bhagalpur helped informal women workers set up their own Cooperative called SEWA Saheli Bunkar Sahkari Samiti Limited to develop sustainable livelihoods and revive the hand-loom based silk weaving industry. SEWA’s cooperative model gives women product ownership, access to micro-finance and control over business.

  • Currently, 100 weavers are supporting their families through the SEWA Saheli Cooperative
  • SEWA’s Loom Mool is a new cooperative-linking initiative that connects Bhagalpur’s silk weavers to Delhi’s Ruaab embroidery center, creating an ethical and sustainable supply-chain. See the Loom Mool Facebook for more.
Supporting Bidi Workers

Bidi (local cigarette) rolling is the only viable source of income for thousands of women who’s husbands have left to find employment opportunities in major cities such as Calcutta and New Delhi. Unorganized women without education are easily exploited in the bidi industry. Even unifying women is perceived as a threat to their sole source of income.

  • 4,950 bidi rollers are members to SEWA in Bhagalpur
  • 10 bidi trade committees met 53 times in 2013
  • 200 bidi worker ID cards made to give women access welfare schemes
  • One eye-care and occupational health camp brought 200 bidi rollers free check-ups



Women in the informal sector lack safe, reliable, and non-exploitative sources of financing. They are very vulnerable in the face of economic shocks, environmental risks, and unexpected life events. SEWA organizes workingwomen into self-help groups (SHGs) so they can pool their financial resources. SEWA also connects women to cooperatives for greater access to financial services. As banks often deny services to low-income and illiterate women, SEWA builds women’s fiscal capacities through financial literacy trainings, exposure visits, and workshops.


SEWA SHGs consist of 10-20 women who financially support one another through monthly meetings, savings, internal loan disbursement and repayment. Through SHGs, women access capital, reduce their dependency on exploitative moneylenders, inculcate the importance of savings, and build the financial credential needed by mainstream banks.

  • SEWA Bhagalpur’s micro-finance program has 104 SHGs with 1164 women members
  • Last year, SEWA Bhagalpur SHGs saved of Rs. 18,67,828
  • In 2013, 182 loans worth 5,66,354 were given amongst poor women in Bhagalpur, helping them finance business, home maintenance, and education.
State-level Thrift and Credit Cooperative in Bihar

Banks often deny services to low-income and illiterate women, so in 2012 SEWA Bharat supported members in opening their own state-level financial institution, SEWA Bacchat Aur Sakh Swavablambi Sahkari Samiti Cooperative.

  • 1,022 women have cooperative accounts
  • Cumulative savings worth Rs. 16,81,695
  • In 2013, 226 loans were given, amounting to over Rs. 3.2 crore
  • 342 women from Bhagalpur joined the cooperative in 2013.



Women face the greatest social, economic, and administrative barriers to healthcare. Poor working women’s health issues are often seriously neglected because of daunting costs and administrative barriers, overwhelming workloads, and domestic responsibilities.


SEWA’s health program starts with preventative care through jagriti (health awareness) sessions that empower women with in-depth knowledge on issues such as maternal and infant healthcare, nutrition, and relevant government schemes. At the curative level, SEWA members in Bhagalpur organise free health camps with doctors and expert practitioners to deliver health services right in communities of need. SEWA health saathis directly refer women to government and private healthcare centers and pass on the skills and experience for women to lead community members.

  • In 2013, 6,089 marginalized people gained vital health information in 200 health awareness sessions
  • Last year, over 400 informal workers participated in specialized women’s health workshops in gynecological care and sexual and reproductive health rights
  • In 2013, 1317 referrals connected the poor with government and private healthcare
Social Security

The Indian government has a vast number of social protection programs, but benefits hardly reach those in need. SEWA Bhagalpur improves the existing social security system by informing women on relevant schemes, helping them fill in forms and liaise with the government, and advocating for more relevant services.

  • To date, SEWA Bhagalpur has facilitated 1,635 linkages with government schemes
  • 3 social security camps with 278 participants in urban areas of Bhagalpur


Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2013