SEWA Munger

In 1982, SEWA Bharat began organizing women in Munger, Bihar. In 1983, SEWA Munger was strengthened enough to register as an independent society. Now, the SEWA Munger team drives women’s development across 205 rural villages and 4 urban blocks of Munger impacting the lives of 36,000 members.

SEWA Munger Programs

Key Achievements:

  • Last year, 61 women participated in 1,672 mohalla meetings
  • A cadre of 100 aagewans support Munger
  • Nearly 1,000 women linked with sustainable livelihoods in agarbatti production
  • See a SEWA Success story: Rekha Devi from the agarbatti project

Advocacy: Mahadalit Rights

SEWA Munger brings Informal women workers have specific concerns to government and media attention. Through local and national level meetings, public demonstrations and campaigns, SEWA helps the Government of India understand and meet the needs of women in the informal economy.

Mahadalit Resettlement

Mahadalits are the poorest of the suppressed Dalit-caste. SEWA Bharat has been advocating for their rights of these marginalized groups since 2011. In this project, SEWA Bharat would like to continue their advocacy work for the rights of the Mahadalits in both the districts and lobby with government for their rehabilitation.

SEWA Munger has helped in bringing light to the burning issue of the rehabilitation and has been working to link them with the Mahadalit Awas Bhumi Yojna. In August 2011, over 300 SEWA members and other social activities supported Mahadalits through public demonstration. Now, the district administration has agreed to recognize and act for the Mahadalits. SEWA Munger has given 60 Mahadalit families bargaining power to demand government attention.

Key issue

In 2011, 60 marginalized Mahadalit families were forcefully evicted and pushed to the brink of starvation. This happened despite the fact that in 2007, Bihar became the first state to constitute “Mahadalit Commission” to uplift Mahadalits. The commission fought a tough battle against disbanding of the commission on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. The Chief Minister of Bihar Mr. Nitish Kumar offered land, jobs, and housing for Mahadalits across Bihar, but excluded two major districts: Munger and Katihar.

Around 60 poor and marginalized families in both the districts have been staying in the land of railways since last 4-5 decades. They are the traditional waste pickers and have been carrying this activity since long. In the year 2010-11, an order was issued from the Ministry of Railway to these poor illiterate residents to vacate the occupied land since railways had plans of construction of the rail cum bridge in that particular zone.

See the July 2013 Inclusive Cities article on SEWA Munger’s Mahadalit work.

Livelihood promotion: agarbatti (incense) production

(SEWA Munger women workers engaging in agarbatti (incense stick) scenting in the SEWA women member's owned and operative cooperative called SEWA Shram Sugandhit Producer Company . Photo: SEWA Bharat) (SEWA Munger women workers engaging in agarbatti (incense stick) scenting in the SEWA women member’s owned and operative cooperative called SEWA Shram Sugandhit Producer Company . Photo: SEWA Bharat)

Livelihood opportunities for women in Munger are largely restrained to the domestic space due to cultural and societal barriers. Since women engage in home-based activities and farming, their earnings and contributions to the economy go unrecognized. To address these cultural barriers, SEWA Munger connected women agarbatti production. Women employed in agarbatti production receive full-time employment that does not inpede on their agriculture and home responsibilities.

Agarbatti (incense) Production

SEWA Bharat in collaboration with The ITC Rural Development Trust has been implementing Mission Sunehra Kal in four blocks of Munger district in Bihar since March 2003. The major objective of the project is to promote sustainable livelihoods and income, to build economic institutions and to promote social security measures among women workers of Munger. The program is currently functioning in Munger, Bariarpur, Haveli Kharagpur and Jamalpur blocks of Munger district and reaching around 949 beneficiaries through its Income Generation.

Building women’s institutions

SEWA Munger’s women members themselves own and operate two registered agarbatti production institutions. With 772 shareholders, the SEWA Udyogik Swalambhi Sahakari Samiti (2005) focuses on agarbatti production.

Set up in 2008, the SEWA Shram Sugandhit Producer Company engages women in high-value agarbatti scenting. The agarbatti-scenting cooperative has five directors in its board and 516 members hold shares in the company. This institution is comprised of 20 women workers.

Integrated approach

The agarbatti production project is a strong example of how SEWA aims to integrate its development activities. Women gaining livelihood support through the project are also organized into SHGs to further their financial capacities. Furthermore, particular health camps are run for the agarbatti workers, so that they can live healthy, well-rounded lives.

SEWA Success story: Rekha Devi from the agarbatti project

Three years ago, a violent illness forced Rekha-devi’s husband to leave his masonry work. Strict community values did not permit Rekha-devi to look outside for work, so she began rolling agarbatti at home. This was not enough. Her family had no money to eat for days at a time.

Through mohalla meetings, SEWA Munger women leaders built up trust with the Rekha-devi’s community. Now, Rekha-devi is empowered and earns a significant, recognized, and sustainable contribution to her family’s finances. In 2013, Rekha-devi earned around Rs. 2,500 per month in SEWA Munger’s agarbatti pedal rolling center.

Health and Social Security

(SEWA Munger women members meeting in Munger center to discuss how to better facilitate healthcare and social security for poor women workers. Photo: SEWA Bharat) (SEWA Munger women members meeting in Munger center to discuss how to better facilitate healthcare and social security for poor women workers. Photo: SEWA Bharat)

Poor working women’s health issues are often seriously neglected because of high costs, administrative barriers, overwhelming workloads, and cultural restrictions . SEWA’s health program includes preventative and curative care to ensure that women’s health conditions are addressed.

Health awareness

Jagriti (health awareness) sessions empower women with in-depth knowledge on issues such as mother and child healthcare, nutrition, and health schemes.

  • In 2016, 17,712 people engaged in 723 health awareness sessions

SEWA organizes needs-based health camps with doctors and expert practitioners who bring free treatment directly into communities.

  • In 2016, 11 health camps connected 895 women free pap smear tests
  • 19 people suffering from tuberculosis were cured through diagnosis and treatment 

SEWA health saathis directly refer women to government and private healthcare centres to reduce poor women’s expenditure, and pass on skills and experience for women to lead community members.

  • In 2016, 1,395  referrals to hospitals and clinics
Linking with social security schemes

The Indian government has vast social protection programs, but benefits hardly reach those in need. SEWA connects people to social security by providing scheme information; help with applications, and government liaison support.

  • 7,972 women and men attended informational sessions on various public welfare schemes
  • In 2016, 2,984 government scheme linkages helped people access benefits including pension, caste certification, and various identity cards at 3 community centers around Munger.

Micro-finance

Women in the informal sector lack safe, reliable, and non-exploitative sources of finance. SEWA Munger’s micro-finance program empowers women to become financially literate, have control over their money and assets, and be less vulnerable to financial risks.

Self Help Groups (SHGs)

SEWA SHGs consist of 10-20 women who financially support one another through monthly meetings, savings, internal loan disbursement and repayment. SHGs give women first-time access to capital, inculcate the importance of savings, and build the financial credential to be linked to mainstream banks.

  • 317 SHGs with 4,461 informal women workers
  • SHG savings over Rs. 2.1 crore
  • In 2015, Rs. 64,41,792 worth of loans were distributed
State-level Thrift and Credit Cooperative in Bihar

Banks deny services to low-income and illiterate women, citing a lack of financial credibility, identification, and security. Poor informal sector women workers have used their experiences in SHGs to establish their own state-level financial institution, SEWA Bacchat Aur Sakh Swavablambi Sahkari Samiti Cooperative in 2012. This financial institution caters to the needs of women in the informal sector and helps connect them to credit, savings, and financial literacy training.

  • 4,396 women have cooperative accounts
  • Cumulative savings worth Rs. 13,719,643
  • In 2015, 226 loans were given, amounting to over Rs. 5 crore
Financial Training

Last year, SEWA Bharat launched a new micro-finance training-of-trainers program, empowering 25 girls with the skills to deliver financial literacy workshops. The goal is to create a sustainable teaching-learning environment, where communities teach, learn, and collaborate together.

Special Project: Solar Light Systems

(SEWA Munger solar project is bringing electricity to rural households across Bihar. These households represent some of the poorest in the state, as seen by the thatched straw roof in the picture. Photo: SEWA Bharat. ) (SEWA Munger solar project is bringing electricity to rural households across Bihar. These households represent some of the poorest in the state, as seen by the thatched straw roof in the picture. Photo: SEWA Bharat. )

In 2013 when SEWA Munger began work on solar energy, only 6% of households are electrified. SEWA Munger’s solar project, “Clean Energy and women empowerment through Women-led Energy-Co-operative in Bihar” empowers women as trailblazers of renewable energy in their communities.

solar1

Solar Project activities & achievements:
  • 896 solar panels have been installed in households. 5 women started their own businesses and installed solar panels
  • 183 Awareness camps with 8,501 participants
  • Families save 3-4 liters of kerosene per month, save 80 Rs. per month on mobile charging, and have been able to add Rs. 750 per month to their income due to increased productivity

Meetings

Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2013

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