Organizing and Advocacy
SEWA is rooted in its ability to organize and lead large scale advocacy efforts to improve working, community, and social conditions. Since SEWA’s members comprise and direct the organizational efforts, SEWA Bharat is able to understand and transmit the issues members face across broad audiences. SEWA Bharat’s size, history, and reach allow large and longlasting change through advocacy and organizing efforts.
- SEWA Delhi: In 2014, The Street Vendors Bill, the first comprehensive national-level legal protection for the livelihoods of street vendors, was pushed through with strong support from SEWA Bharat and partners. This bill was the first of its kind to provide structure around working conditions and protection for street vendors across the country
- SEWA Bhagalpur: After working closely with local authorities, SEWA Bhagalpur developed 2 village health sub-centers that provide over 6,000 with access to healthcare services. In a region with high infant and maternal mortality rates and high rates of communicable disease, the sub-centers provide communities with resources to improve living conditions
Grassroots organizing approach
SEWA Bharat’s grassroots workers (SEWA saathis) first reach out to poor women through Mohalla meetings (community meetings) to spread awareness about the resources and mission of SEWA and also collect concerns and issues that communities face. Saathis identify aagewans (community leaders) to work within their communities. Organizing requires a high level of strategizing, motivation raising and field-level leadership from local teams. SEWA supports women to organize into member-based collectives such as producer groups, cooperatives, trade committees, and producer companies for livelihood support and advocacy, and self help groups and thrift and credit cooperatives for microfinance.
SEWA strengthens women’s individual and collective capacities through trainings, workshops, exposure visits, seminars, and conferences. Specialized trainings have been developed under each program theme such as technical skill building and microenterprise training under livelihoods; financial literacy within microfinance; and show to apply for government schemes under social security and health. Exposure visits for women workers promotes intra- and inter-institutional sharing between SEWA organizations and other agencies, NGOs, and government departments.
Aagewans (those who come forward) are SEWA members who exhibit a natural tendency to take on a leadership role in their community. Aagewans are champions of the SEWA philosophy and are the driving force of SEWA’s organizing and advocacy efforts. They occupy a unique position in the organizational structure and form the link between SEWA staff and the membership base. SEWA’s objective is to build capacity in the aagewans to ensure sustainability of its programs and lead the change within communities.
Advocacy and Legal training
SEWA members participate in advocacy campaigns, by holding demonstrations and rallies to bring their concerns to local and national government and media attention. SEWA Bharat engages with employers and policy makers’ to further their understanding of women workers’ issues and incorporate their needs into policy.
Legal training activities:
- Confidence building; awareness on general issues; information on specific laws and procedures – FIRs, domestic violence, dowry prohibition, right to information, property matters
- Keeping track of government initiatives and bills – SEWA’s community centers collect information on the effectiveness and delivery of schemes women apply for. Ensuring transparency between the beneficiaries and the public institutions helps both parties
- Providing legal information through SEWA Shakti Kendra to ensure easy accessibility of legal knowledge and have resources to take action
- Organizing legal awareness equips women to take action independently