SEWA members in Bikaner District, Rajasthan. The SEWA movement began with Papad rollers (pictured) in Bikaner district in 2001, and now has grown to over 20,000 members across 5 districts.

SEWA in Rajasthan

In 2001, SEWA Bharat partnered with the Central Labor Ministry to conduct research on home-based workers engaged in Bikaner’s papad industry. The study revealed the poor social and economic working conditions of women workers. SEWA Bharat began organizing women in Bikaner, and since then SEWA in Rajasthan has become a registered union with over 54,540 members from Ajmer, Alwar, Bikaner, Dungarpur, Jaipur and Jodhpur.

Key Achievements:

  • Engaged poor women in advocacy around livelihoods, education, sanitation
  • Over 10,000 social security scheme linkages since 2008
  • Expanded to 85 communities across five districts covering members involved in home-based work, such as papad making, bangle making, hand embroidery, and bidi rolling.

Organizing

SEWA Bharat reaches out to poor women by helping them realize a common identity and goals according to their livelihood and place of living. SEWA Bharat continues to form area-wise trade committees with women from the informal sector involved in construction work, street vending, domestic work, and artisan craft production. SEWA Bharat is empowering women to be leaders of their local trade committee and run bi-monthly meetings in order to identify issues and solutions. Importantly, SEWA Bharat works closely with the Labor Department in relevant districts in order to get informal women workers recognized and provide regulation to their work.

  • 1,1180 women have joined trade committees in 2015
  • 44 aagewans have risen to work closely within their communities and lead community interventions

Key trades organized

  • Bikaner: papad rolling, street vending, home-based workers
  • Jaipur: domestic workers, street vendors, bangle-makers, and construction workers
  • Jodhpur: bandej (tie and dye) artisans

Advocacy campaigns

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SEWA Bharat runs a number of advocacy campaigns across Rajasthan in order to improve the living and working conditions of women in the informal sector. SEWA maintains strong relationships with government agencies to achieve sustainable policy changes.

Minimum Wage and Sustainable livelihoods (Jodhpur)

Without formal recognition from the government, informal women workers are forced to accept devastatingly low wages. SEWA is working closing with relevant government departments, contractors, and holding tripartite meetings to secure minimum wages for tradition bandhej (tie and dye) workers in Jodhpur.

Strategy for securing fair wages

SEWA is working closely with women who are tie-and-dye workers in Jodhpur. Based off the success that SEWA facilitated for papad roller’s inclusion on the minimum wage list of Rajasthan, SEWA is now organizing tripartite meetings with government agencies and workers in order to solidify minimum wages for tie-and-dye workers.

Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) (all districts)

In 2010, the RTE Act came into effect promising free and compulsory education to any child between the age of 6 and 14. Two important demands of the RTE Act are that schools should be within a radius of 1-3km from where any child lives, and 25% seats in government schools must be reserved for students from economically weak sections (EWS). A study carried out by the government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program in Rajasthan found that 12 lakh children were out of school – of these 7.13 lakh children were girls.

SEWA is pushing RTE implementation forward by:

  • Awareness building
  • Forming member committees to survey the existence of government schools within 3km of children’s place of residence
  • Partnering with private schools to link them with parents from EWS and ensuring that the government provides reimbursement for every EWS admission taken by private schools.
  • Connecting with Rajasthan Patrika’s and Dainik Bhaskar’s Education Section to bring SEWA advocacy on RTE into the spotlight
Sanitation Campaigns (Jaipur and Jodhpur)

The 69th report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) ranked Rajasthan among the bottom five states with the least access to drinking water and toilets in rural areas. Solid waste management systems are also strikingly low, with only 28% of rural and 61% of urban areas having any proper arrangement for garbage disposal.

SEWA Bharat’s Sanitation Strategies:

  • Partnership with Nagar Nigam to ensure daily pick up of garbage and daily road sweeping
  • Strengthening relations with the SEWA Mahila Housing Trust (MHT) to provide gutter loans to members and ensure sanitation around where they live
  • Linking up with NGOs that are working on, and building awareness around sanitation
  • Developing well-founded research on district’s waste disposal system with the Urban Planning section of the Rajasthan Patrika and Dainik Bhaskar platform

Youth Development

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The adolescent poor in Rajasthan come from extremely conservative, patriarchal societies. Due to cultural restrictions, girls may not be able to leave the house and are often restricted from finishing education. SEWA Bharat grassroots leaders are conducting in-depth community engagement in order to encourage skill building for girls and circumvent the barriers that prevent girls from participating in the workforce.

In 2013, SEWA Youth Resource Centers opened as a high-quality, safe, and affordable opportunity for girls from poor families to engage in skill building. The SYRCs run 6-month market relevant courses in computers, open schooling, fashion design, and beauty culture. In 2016, 807 girls engaged in courses in SYRCs.

SEWA Bharat’s youth development strategy:
  • Identify areas of interest with students and employers
  • Provide market relevant classes in fashion designing, beauty culture, and basic computers
  • Reserve Saturday’s for the development of Soft Skills such as spoken English, art, reading, awareness building, and self defense
  • Facilitate exposure visits for students to various career and education opportunities
  • Build relationships with local employers to facilitate mainstreaming into the market
  • Hold job fairs to bring employment opportunities directly to poor girls
  • Develop strong partnerships with quality training institutions and facilitate girls enrollment
  • Hold competitive exams to prepare girls
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Pooja, 23, comes from a struggling community in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, but she has managed to get training, a job placement, and earn a steady monthly salary in a local beauty parlour through SEWA Bharat’s SYRC (SEWA Youth Resource Center).

Pooja’s story is of a determined young woman up against many economic and social barriers. Both Pooja and her family value education, and she pursued further studies. However, like many in her community, Pooja was married young and had her wedding when she was only 17.

Pooja’s Story Pooja's Story

She went to university in Ajmer, Rajasthan, and after successfully graduating with a Bachelors of Arts; she went to live with her in-laws. While it is tradition for girls to begin taking over the house after marriage, Pooja wanted to work in beauty culture. To excel, Pooja knew she needed to undertake further training, but faced many barriers to moving ahead. Not only did her in-laws deny her support, but even more inhibitive were the costs that the majority of institutes were charging – up to Rs. 15,000.

Through SEWA outreach, Pooja came to know about the SEWA Youth Resource Center’s (SYRC) diverse and affordable skill building classes. The SYRC offers poor adolescent girls the opportunity to develop marketable skills that make them ready for employment. The center’s quality teachers also help girls enhance soft skills like spoken English, personality development, and time-management that make girls more competitive and ready for the real world. Pooja was able to convince her in-laws that the course would not only help her, but also benefit the entire family.

Pooja enrolled in the beauty culture course at the SYRC. She learned practical skills and developed the confidence to visit local beauty parlors and see how work happens. Pooja says, “After visiting other parlors, I had lots of questions about the machines they use. I was able to ask my teacher at the SYRC and get answers to all my questions.” She says that the support and “love” that she found from her mentors and peers was extremely motivating and unlike what she had experienced in any schooling.

The SYRC also sets girls up with local job placements. SEWA grassroots leaders connected Pooja with a job at Grace Spa and Saloon, a beauty parlor five minutes walk away from the SYRC. Pooja says that she felt “well prepared” for the position, and says that in particular, “the SYRC training in facials and waxing was the most useful in the job.”

Perhaps most importantly, Pooja’s employer, Rasha Singh, is happy with the quality of girls coming out of the SYRC beauty-training program. She says that, “The girls have a very good nature. They do good work and do not say, ‘I can’t or won’t do it’.” Mrs. Singh, who has been in the business for 13 years, has had employees before that would steal from her and this is why she decided to hire from SEWA Bharat. Mrs. Singh said that “SEWA Bharat is an NGO you can trust, so I hired girls from there. Before I was hiring them from private companies, but they stole beauty products, [particularly] at one exhibition she held.” Mrs. Singh was so supportive of the course that she agreed to come in expert training to the other students to help prepare them for employment, said that she would “hire girls from the [SEWA Bharat] program again.”

Pooja is earning Rs. 2,500 per month and hopes to open a beauty parlor of her own. Of this money, she gives Rs. 1,000 to her in-laws, keeps Rs. 500 for her monthly expenditure, and saves the final Rs. 1,000 for her future. Pooja says, “The only thing else I want to say, is that girls need to have skills in their hand. Girls should be independent.” Pooja is a role model in her community, and despite the many barriers she has faced, is on-track to pursuing her dreams.

Social security in Rajasthan

The government’s social security schemes are not reaching thousands of people in need. SEWA Bharat aims to improve the efficiency and outreach of government social security programs through its close grassroots membership.

Activities
  • SEWA Shakti Kendras
  • Social security camps
  • Livelihood based scheme linkages
    • Members are organized by trade and are connected to relevant schemes such as bandhej artisan cards that are a crucial step for women to access entitlements like healthcare, scholarships for their children’s education, and loans to promote their work
  • Awareness sessions in healthcare, social security, and legal rights
    • Access to direct support through doctors, lawyers, and the state legal aid team
Social security and health achievements
  • Over 18,000 social security scheme linkages for members and their families from 2008-2015
  • SSKs opened in Jodhpur and Jaipur in 2013
  • 31 awareness sessions helped 250 women receive artisan cards and 1200 women receive Aam Admi Bima Yojna

Self Help Groups

SEWA Bharat’s microfinance program in Rajasthan is focused on organizing women into self help groups (SHGs). Women members meet every month to contribute to regular savings.

  • 93 SHGs with 1,395 women members in Bikaner
  • Total savings worth Rs. 7,147,600 in 2016
  • Total loans taken worth Rs. 5,554,300 in 2016
  • 910 women have gained financial literacy training

Meetings

Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2013

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