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.
SEWA Munger Programs
- Advocacy: Mahadalit Rights
- Livelihood promotion: agarbatti (incense) production
- Health and Social Security
- Special Project: Solar Light Systems
- Last year, 61 women participated in 1672 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
SEWA is constantly striving to expand its network to empower more women informal workers towards full employment and self-sustainability.
- To expand to 33,500 members
- To open 2,000 women’s co-op accounts
- To connect 4,000 households and 20,000 people with solar lighting by 2015
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.
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 do recognize and act for the Mahadalits. SEWA Munger has given 60 Mahadalit families bargaining power to demand government attention.
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 called 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
Livelihood opportunities for women in Munger are largely restrained to the domestic space. Women go unrecognized for income- contributions through farming or home-based activities. SEWA Munger has connected with agarbatti production to further their economic empowerment.
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.
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 ten women producers are the shareholders of the company. This institution is managed by Chief Executive Officer and supported by a stock and quality in charge and 20 women workers.
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.
- In 2013, nearly 500 agarbatti rollers gained access to free health check-ups and specialized treatment in gynecology and optometry.
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
Poor working women’s health issues are often seriously neglected because of high costs, administrative barriers, overwhelming workloads, and domestic responsibilities. SEWA’s health program includes preventative and curative care to ensure that women’s health conditions are addressed.
Jagriti (health awareness) sessions empower women with in-depth knowledge on issues such as mother and child healthcare, nutrition, and health schemes.
- In 2013, 25,000 people engaged in 485 health awareness sessions
SEWA organizes needs-based health camps with doctors and expert practitioners who bring free treatment directly into communities.
- In 2013, 16 health camps connected 674 people with free health care.
- 53 people helped to fully treat tuberculosis
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 2013, 1699 referrals to hospitals and clinics saved low-income families Rs. 39,71,200.
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.
- 8,925 people have been connected to RSBY
- In 2013, 1,142 government scheme linkages helped people access benefits including pension, caste certification, and various identity cards.
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.
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.
- 326 SHGs with 4,500 informal women workers
- SHG savings over Rs. 1.2 crore,
- In 2013, 1,715 loans were distributed amounting to Rs. 77,68,507 last year.
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.
- 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
Last year, SEWA Bharat launched a new micro-finance training-of-trainers program, empowering 25 girls with the skills to deliver financial literacy workshops. In 2014, each vibrant young woman will extend financial literacy to at least 30 women from their own communities.
- In 2013, over 530 women participated in 15 micro-finance trainings in Munger.
Special Project: Solar Light Systems
In Bihar, only 6% of households are electrified. SEWA Munger’s solar project, “Clean Energy and women empowerment through Women-led Energy-Co-operative in Bihar”, was initiated on June 15th, 2013 empowers women as trailblazers of renewable energy in their communities.
- 51 Self help groups formed
- 183 Awareness camps with 2,299 participants
- 3 technicians fully trained
- 407 households connected to solar energy
- One fully operational independent Women’s Energy-Co-operative working as service provider. The main activities of the energy co-operative will be:
- Opening 3 service centers in three districts selling, installing and servicing energy system.
- Customized solar lighting and mobile charging systems serving 4000 households benefiting over 20,000 people.
- Developing 50 micro women entrepreneur-owned energy service centers providing mobile phone charging & lighting services on rental in 50 different villages and small towns.
- Developing 20 technical services associates to provide maintenance services to end-users.
- Partnering with 3 financial institutions in the area.
- Training 500 bankers on solar financing
- Develop awareness material in local language and conduct awareness camps.