SEWA in Bihar

SEWA has transformed hundreds of communities across Bihar since 1983 addressing systemic social and economic barriers that prevent women from reaching parity. SEWA provides solutions that strengthen health and social security access, create employment and economic opportunities, develop market-demanded skills, increase access to renewable energy sources, and include women in digital and financial resources across the state.

SEWA in Bihar is comprised of home-based artisans, handloom weavers, domestic workers, farmers and agricultural producers, construction workers, vendors, and domestic workers. SEWA works in several cities and districts across the state providing inclusive and equal opportunities for women across the informal sector. SEWA is present in Bhagalpur, Katihar, Purnea, Patna, Vaishali, and Munger. Across Bihar, SEWA offers holistic solutions to economic and social development gaps.

  • Organizing and Advocacy
  • Livelihoods
  • Skill and Youth Development
  • Health and Social Security
  • Community-led Microfinance
  • Agriculture

Find out more about the programs in each district below

Organization and Advocacy

Organization and advocacy are key to SEWA’s efforts. Women in the informal sector suffer from a lack of bargaining power as producers and invisibility as citizens. Additionally, women operate SEWA provides organization and collective strength to shape policy and create institutions that solve trade and community based problems at local, state, and national levels.

SEWA organizes women in order to grow and establish women-led institutions and lead advocacy efforts that shape the social and economic context at local and state-levels. SEWA’s organizing efforts in Bihar have developed several cooperatives that protect and promote local industries, provide financial services, and access to energy to women across the state. Additionally, advocacy in Bihar has led to the establishment and protection of minority rights, including the Mahadalits, led to the establishment of health centers and other public institutions, and have created national dialogue around industries, such as domestic workers.

SEWA invests and works through local leadership to galvanize and organize women. SEWA operates through Aagewans, local leaders who are recognized by their communities and help identify, lead, and provide solutions that their communities identify. Aagewans are a part of a large network of SEWA grassroot leaders that redefine and reshape informal sector women’s roles in the workplace, home, and society at local, national, and international levels.

Livelihoods

SEWA in Bihar strengthens livelihood development through a mix of enhancing the production capacity of workers,  developing cooperatives and institutions, and creation and diversifying local job markets. SEWA protects and promotes traditional production techniques and products.

Enhancing the Productivity of Workers

Women working in the informal sector are limited by the size and diversity of the markets that they operate in. SEWA strengthens market linkages for existing trades and employment activities in the area. SEWA in Bihar ensures that products and traditions of communities are strengthened and are not lost.

Agriculture
Agriculture is important to the employment and economy for the majority of communities in Bihar. The majority of workers in the agriculture industry are typically employed as small land producers and hired labor, earning extremely low wages and are often forced into subsistence farming.

In Munger and Bhagalpur, SEWA strengthens the capacity and production of farmers through skill development and linkages to mechanized inputs. SEWA offers skill training on a variety of topics, such as soil testing, production techniques, and resource management to enhance productivity.

Strengthening the Market for Domestic Workers
The wages of domestic workers are often limited by skill and bargaining power domestic workers possess. The majority of the 4 million domestic workers in India perform low-level and basic skilled work. SEWA in Bihar is a part of a national collective of domestic workers organized by SEWA institutions in Delhi and Kerala. Being members of a collective provides domestic workers in Bihar a large and strong support network that allows women to negotiate for higher wages and better working conditions. Additionally, SEWA in Bihar trains and equips domestic workers in Patna with skills, such as midwifery, first aid, and elder care, to improve their marketability and potential to earn higher wages.

Development of Cooperatives

Women in the informal sector often negotiate, produce, market, and sell as individuals. SEWA develops and oversees cooperatives that promote and protect artisan and traditional products through the development of cooperatives. Cooperatives allow women to produce at scale, market and sell products collectively, and have a platform to make decisions within their industry.

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. Handloom weaving is a major employer in Bhagalpur and is a family endeavor. Women are heavily involved in the pre and post production of silk fabrics. Wages have become inconsistent and lower for the artisans who rely on the craft for an income due to a combination of mechanization and no regulation within the garment 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 information and products.

Diversifying Local Job Markets

SEWA connects women with new job and employment opportunities that expand and diversify local job markets.

Solid Waste Management Model
SEWA’s SWM system provides women in Katihar with the responsibility of promoting clean spaces through employment opportunities. SEWA employs women to go door-to-door collecting waste and cleaning city streets, and promoting clean habits in their communities. Additionally women are responsible for maintaining designated waste dumping sites, sorting material, and selling compost to farmers in the area.

Skill and Youth Development

Throughout Bihar regressive and gender discriminatory practices create large barriers for women and girls to enter employment, pursue educational opportunities, and attain equal standards of living as men.  In order to overcome these difficulties, SEWA offers skill and youth development programs.

Skill Development Programs

SEWA offers several skill development programs that provide participants with market demanded skills and knowledge. SEWA provides these skill trainings in Purnea, Patna, and Katihar, providing young women and girls with knowledge on fashion design, cosmetology and sales, and computer training. SEWA’s skill programs also emphasize soft and personal skill development to help young women grow the confidence, personal awareness, and support network to not only find a job, but define a career.

Computer Literacy Skills in Purnea

In Purnea, SEWA Bharat took over the responsibility of running the “Computer Education and Information center” which was started by the Department of Education in   Purnea.  This is a two months course on IT training which bridges the digital divide  between men and women and rural and urban populations. Additionally, this course provides the necessary skills for young women to pursue a career or education in computer and IT sectors.

Kusha Yuva Program: Unlocking Katihar’s Entrepreneurial Potential

In Katihar, SEWA  has partnered with  The Bihar Skill Development Mission (BSDM) to run a skill development model called the Kushal Yuva Program which enhances the soft, entreprenurial, and technical skill training of particpants under the age of 25. KYP provides participants a range of personal and professional development skills that are not only valuable to potential employers, but also provide participants the skills and toolset to launch their own businesses.

Youth Development Programs

Young women and girls are faced with gender discrimination and are at risk for highly regressive and destructive acts, such as child-marriage and female infanticide. Additionally, female and reproductive health rarely are taught to young women and are cultural taboos. Women and girls are put at risk to pre and post natal complications, isolation during menstruation, and gynecological conditions, such as toxic shock syndrome and infection. SEWA provides young women and girls with the social networks, resources, and information to protect themselves from regressive ideas and actions.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: Creating Gender Parity in Vaishali

Vaishali suffers from one of the state’s worst gender sex ratios. Due to infanticide and discrimination against female children, Vaishali remains one of the most discriminatory areas in the entire state. SEWA provided young women with the support network, guidance, and mentorship needed to break these barriers and create change from within communities. SEWA organized over 600 girls into 30 youth groups. These groups provided a support network and accountability groups that provided girls with the strength to prevent child marriage and begin to demand parity in education, employment, and treatment in the home and society.

Click here to watch a summary of SEWA’s work in Vaishali

Social Security and Health

Health and social security services often due not meet the needs of the most vulnerable. Due to information, service, and resource gaps, low-income and marginalized populations in India often do not receive equal access to social security, welfare, and health services. SEWA ensures social security and health services are delivered equally and fairly to women in the informal sector. SEWA addresses the systemic gaps that prevent women from using and benefitting from health and social security services. 

Social Security

Welfare schemes and social security programs are intended to support and protect families who are unable to meet basic material and financial standards. However, due to systemic issues, such as illiteracy, unawareness, immobility, corruption, and cost, many of these services do not reach the intended recipients. SEWA ensures these services reach women and their families who need it the most through two strategies: awareness generation and service delivery. SEWA works directly in the communities to provide information, assistance, and resources to make sure social security and welfare programs reach and benefit low-income, marginalized communities.

In each district, SEWA operates community centers called SEWA Shakti Kendras (SSKs). These centers provide women with information on available resources, assistance in completing applications, and assurance of delivery of these schemes. Through the SSK, outreach and awareness campaigns reach communities to overcome information gaps. The SSKs are a permanent resource that women in communities can come to to learn and leverage resources and SEWA services to address economic, social, and legal issues that they face.

Health Programs

Low-income communities suffer from poor health conditions due to limited preventative and treatment care. Due to poor health, these families are more likely to spend more of their earnings treating and addressing health emergencies. Unfortunately low income families, who are at more risk of suffering from health conditions, do not have equal access to health services. The Indian healthcare system is overcrowded, under-resourced, and does not have the supply of specialists and trained professionals to meet demand. Additionally, for poor and rural communities, health facilities and resources are often too far, too difficult, or too expensive.

SEWA leads interactive health sessions in communities across Bihar that identify chronic and reoccurring health conditions. SEWA provides information on how to treat and prevent conditions, such as malnutrition, pre and post-natal care, family planning, menstrual hygiene, and water sanitation. SEWA also helps women be able to identify symptoms of illness early and provides them with information on how to access care, providing linkages to hospitals, health centers, and other services.

Additionally, SEWA brings healthcare services directly to communities through health camps. SEWA operates and coordinates health camps, providing free diagnostic services and treatment on conditions, such as tuberculosis, spinal conditions, poor eyesight, and gynecological issues that are conducted by medical professionals. SEWA also ensures direct referrals to hospitals and health centers that cannot be treated at the health camp directly.

Community-led Microfinance

Women in Bihar are limited in their access to financial services and traditional banking institutions. Access to services, such as savings accounts and loans, are critical to protecting, managing, and growing assets. In Bihar, SEWA’s microfinance program empowers women as independent financial actors giving them resources to save, invest, and protect their earnings through a state-wide financial cooperative and self-help groups.

SEWA Bihar Thrift and Credit Cooperative

SEWA Bihar’s Thrift and Credit Cooperative is self-managed and run by women at the grassroots level. The leadership, management, and direction are all run by and for the women who are shareholders and account owners. Women in the Thrift and Credit Cooperative invest and grow the cooperative through shares and are able to access a diverse set of services, including loans and private savings accounts, and manage a portfolio of investments.

Bijli Mobile App: Bringing Bihar Online

Mobile banking has revolutionized the way Indians conduct business, access financial resources, and manage their banking services. Mobile banking has allowed individuals to pay, transfer, and deposit money with just a few presses on their phones. The ability to quickly and remotely conduct transactions has sparked economic growth and business.

SEWA dismantles the access and knowledge gaps that prevent communities from accessing mobile banking systems. Through a proprietary mobile app, Bijli, SEWA has created a digital solution for over 13,000 account holders in rural areas in Bihar. Members are able to quickly conduct transactions with their accounts through the application, which offers them a quick, transparent, and accurate way to bank. Find out more about Bijli here.

SEWA Self-Help Groups

SHGa are small, economical, homogeneous, affinity groups of rural poor who contribute to a common fund to be lent to their members as per the group decision. SEWA’s SHGs provide women with a support and accountability network. SEWA’s SHG model helps unite and strengthen community development in Katihar, Bhagalpur, and Munger.

Financial Literacy

In addition to financial services, SEWA addresses the financial literacy gap. SEWA equips women in Bihar with the knowledge and skills to leverage and use financial services to protect, manage, and grow financial assets. SEWA regularly runs financial literacy sessions within communities to make women financial leaders within their households and communities. By using SEWA’s services through the Thrift and Credit Cooperative and SHGs, women are able to put the lessons into practice to grow and shape their financial assets.

Solar and Renewable Energy

SEWA Bharat began by providing the basic lighting and energy needs of people in Munger and Bhagalpur Districts of Bihar by installing solar home light systems in rural households. SEWA’s solar and renewable energy program has since developed into a women-led and operated institution called Sarthak. Sarthak provides home lighting and energy sources to households across Bihar. Women in Sarthak market, sell, install, and service products throughout communities across Bihar. Sarthak has reached 5,000 households.

Access to energy provides women and their families with economic, educational, and social benefits. Many women, who work inside the home are able to work longer productive hours and diversify their sources of income. Sarthak has led to the diversification of local markets, allowing women to provide phone recharging services, power sewing machines for tailoring shops, and power stalls into the night and early morning. Additionally, energy systems allow families to live more comfortably, powering lighting for protection against intrusive pests and insects, allowing children to study longer, and providing energy for fans to help curb heat exhaustion.

Agriculture

The economy of Bihar is overwhelmingly driven by agriculture. SEWA’s agriculture interventions in Bihar overcome market, information, and leadership gaps that prevent economic upward mobility for women employed in the sector. Women farmers’ production capacity is limited by input and production techniques and their lack of recognition within the industry. SEWA in Bihar helps farmers through two main techniques:

Enhancing Agriculture Techniques

Many farmers in India use traditional production techniques. SEWA connects farmers to farming schools and leads informational sessions to learn efficient production techniques, such as soil testing and crop rotation, and resource management, such as effective irrigation and pesticide techniques. Additionally, women gain training on mechanized inputs, such as tractors and zero-tillage machines. By providing women in communities with specialized knowledge, women become knowledge leaders and are able to mentor and assist producers within their communities.

Creating Access to Inputs

Many small-scale producers do not have access to mechanized and efficient inputs. SEWA connects farmers to production capital, such as zero-tillage machines, tractors, wells, through custom hiring centers, called SEWA Sahara Kendras. Women in communities pool together resources to purchases these inputs. Women are then able to rent out and use these inputs to improve productivitiy.

Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2015-2016

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