Case Studies

Stories of Change Through Livelihoods

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Transforming the Weaving Industry through Leadership

Manika ben, Master Weaver, Fulia, West Bengal

“I want to be an example for other weavers that they have control over their career and I also want to be an example for other contractors to treat weavers with the respect and fairness they expect.”

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“My husband works in Kerala for higher wages. For the last few years, I’ve been responsible for our two daughters, few livestock, and my in-laws. I started weaving when my first daughter was 3 years old. I’m the first weaver in my family, so I’ve been learning as I go. I wanted to earn more while my husband is away so I’ve been a master weaver for the last 8 years. I’ve been able to hire two women weavers. It’s been great—I’ve been training them and giving them some tips that I’ve learned along the way. It’s rewarding to see them grow—in fact, they’ve been teaching me a few new techniques they’ve picked up from neighbors.

We typically sell to contractors, but I’ve been memorizing the different patterns and styles. In my free time, I design my own pieces and sell them from what I’ve learned. It’s a lot of fun designing and making my own pieces. I sell them independently or give them as gifts. I also encourage my weavers to make their own pieces when we don’t have any orders to fulfill.

I take every chance to learn. Some day I want to become a contractor. I want to be an example for other weavers that they have control over their career and I also want to be an example for other contractors to treat weavers with the respect and fairness they expect. I’m working towards that goal.”

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Turning Income into the Ultimate Investment

Narzana ben, Embroiderer/Student, New Delhi

“I am still chasing after my own dream of becoming a teacher—a history teacher.”

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I’m the second oldest of 10. My father passed away when I was young and I’ve been taking care of my siblings since I was in school.

I was hesitant to join SEWA at first as a member of the cooperative. I had worked for one contractor for 3 years and knew him well—I didn’t know how I would benefit from working with a group of people I didn’t know. But it was a decision that helped to change my family—I knew that working for contractors only provided a low and unfair wage. So I took a chance and joined SEWA.

My income increased 50% in the first few months of being a part of Ruaab. Since I was one of the more experienced workers, my wage has tripled in the last 5 years. Today my family also holds six savings accounts with SEWA’s microfinance cooperative which has allowed me to take loans to invest in my family’s livelihood activities.

I don’t work for contractors anymore. I have taken my higher wages and invested them in my family and in myself. I completed my political science degree at Delhi University and have taken so much pride in what I was able to accomplish. I have also taken classes at the SEWA Youth Resource Center (SYRC) to improve my embroidery skills and computer skills. I take a lot of pride and hope I can be a role model to my younger siblings.

I am a shareholder of RUAAB and have become very confident in my skills in embroidery and hopeful for the future of my siblings. I am still chasing after my own dream of becoming a teacher—a history teacher.”

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Gaining an Identity Through Service

Gayathri ben, Master Weaver, Fulia, West Bengal

“People don’t call me ‘Wife of my husband’ or ‘Daughter of my father’, they use my name. It’s given me more of an identity in the community.”

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“Before marriage, I never weaved before. I was curious and wanted to learn how to operate the loom myself. At first, I would just watch my husband weave: how he would sit at the loom, how he would load the shuttle, how he would operate the peddles. He’d let me practice and once I got the hang of it, I didn’t want to stop.

Once we had our daughter, I had another purpose to weave. I wanted to make sure my daughter would have an education and a comfortable future. The interest I had in weaving and designs quickly became the means to provide a future for my daughter.

I became a master weaver shortly after weaving professionally. We took a loan to buy an extra loom for a woman that I employ. The responsibility of providing for my daughter and providing work for my employee motivates me to work harder and weave better. Whenever I negotiate with the contractors, I make sure that we both get fair wages. If the wages are too low or not enough for her, we don’t move forward with the order. We work as a team—and we both have fun weaving.

I want to expand my business more and hire some more women and hopefully work with larger contractors. That way we not only have more income, but we have more products to weave! I can see SEWA’s changes in our community and with me personally. I’m also an ageywan and love helping others solve problems. For me, people don’t call me “Wife of my husband” or “Daughter of my father”, they use my name. It’s given me more of an identity in the community.”

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Sitara’s Story

Sitara, a Ruaab SEWA home-based worker, says,

“Since working for SEWA, I feel like I am able to express myself.”

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For migrant workers in Delhi, a new life is a welcomed change. But it comes with startling challenges. When Sitara and her family left their village in Uttar Pradesh, she never imagined the difficult living conditions they would face in Sundernagari, a former slum area on the outskirts of East Delhi. In the summer, the government water supply is cut, the ‘urban village’ residents are forced to drink from borehole tubing from the ground, and a sewage trench surrounding the colony is used for defecation.

On top of poor living conditions, economic stability is precarious and exploitative employment is the norm. Sitara’s husband, Nasir, found work as a daily wage laborer, but while expenses were regular, his work was not. Sitara needed to find a way to support her husband and four children. However, like many village women, Sitara had barely any schooling and no formal job training. She began embroidery work for irregular contractors who would pay her low piece rates. Despite supplementing the family’s income, Sitara found that her family was still suffering.
In 2005, SEWA Bharat opened a center for women embroidery workers. SEWA outreach workers approached Sitara about joining the center, but faced a common list of problems encountered when organizing poor women: the women’s lack of confidence, fear, and skepticism. Without training and education, poor informal women workers are frozen in the shadows of the mainstream market.

SEWA’s grassroots empowerment model helps given women like Sitara role models, confidence, and opportunities. Sitara joined SEWA’s embroidery center and began to earn a fair rate for her embroidery work – more than double what contractors paid. Sitara now supplements her family’s income by Rs. 2,500-3,000 per month. Sitara is also a shareholder in SEWA’s embroidery cooperative called the SEWA Ruaab Artisans Company. Sitara has tapped into SEWA’s diverse development activities and has three savings accounts in SEWA Delhi’s Thrift and Credit Cooperative.

Sitara’s advancement extends beyond economical and financial improvements; she now is confident and empowered. Sitara says, “Since working for SEWA, I feel like I am able to express myself.”

By building women’s leadership and connecting them to finance and skill building, SEWA Bharat enables women to make positive changes in their communities. SEWA members have brought local impacts through advocacy campaigns. In 2013, members in Dehradun successfully advocated for cleaner public restrooms.

Stories of Change Through SEWA Shakti Kendras, Advocacy, and Health

 

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Strength Through United Communities

Namita ben, Livestock and Agriculture Worker, Fulia, West Bengal

“Now that I’m connected with SEWA, I feel that community strength has expanded to other villages across the district. If we work together, who knows what we can accomplish!”

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“My community has always been a source of pride and support. We work together, learn from each other, and help one another during tough times. This isn’t the wealthiest area, but we all work together to make things better.

Its important for me to invest and strengthen that community as best I can. I have two kids—even though they may not realize it—they will also rely on and contribute to the resources of our community and family. I joined SEWA as an aagewan because I wanted to make sure our neighbors, our family, and our future are stronger, more secure, and have opportunities to grow.

I raise livestock and weave when I can—but I really love my role as an aagewan. As a community leader, I am humbled and proud to be a point of information and provide as much help as I can for this community. The SEWA office is quite far for us to reach particularly, but the training I’ve received has helped me provide answers to my neighbors and connect them to services that they need. So far my neighbors have received Weaver Cards and have attended eye camps. Many people here are weavers—often working in poor lighting and long hours. Usually the eyesight is a problem—without it, precision and quality suffer. It was really rewarding to help mobilize and connect my neighbors to eye camps, because I know they need it. It was such a thrill to see their excitement and motivated me to do more. For example, many family members and neighbors of mine have applied to a SASPFUW—a public scheme to help weavers—but no one has heard back. Through SEWA, we found other communities in the area were facing a similar problem, so we mobilized and demanded a response from local authorities.

Now that I’m connected with SEWA, I feel that community strength has expanded to other villages across the district. If we work together, who knows what we can accomplish!”

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Unlocking Dreams Through Education

Ameen ben, Delhi

“If women don’t go to school they face hardships—I am really happy our daughter wants to become a doctor. I hope her dreams are accomplished—we need more women in hospitals as doctors.”

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“We had dreams to send our daughter to a good school—I dropped out of school in class 3 and my husband never attended school. We knew that free admission and education can be accessed in private schools—but we didn’t know how to start the process. We approached SEWA’s Shakti Kendra (SSK) to see if they could help us and they helped us fill out the paperwork and explained to us which schools would be best for our daughter. Now we are so happy and proud of her.

She loves writing the ABC’s in her notebooks—English is her favorite subject. She learned a poem in school and now she wants to become ‘Doctor Babu’. She wants to spend her time at school rather than stay at home even!”

“If women don’t go to school they face hardships—I am really happy our daughter wants to become a doctor. I hope her dreams are accomplished—we need more women in hospitals as doctors.”

Stories of Change Through Skill and Youth Development

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Creating an Inclusive Society for the Next Generation

Akshi ben, Student, Delhi

“I want to prove to society that a girl can become something and do what she wants to do.”

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“I decided to do the course in Job Preparedness and English because my friends had already done a computer course with SEWA and they recommended it. My mother is a teacher so she let me do the course because she encourages me in my education. I have learnt a lot on the course, including basic computer skills and English language skills.But importantly, I gained a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness.

In the future, I want to become a teacher like my mother. I hope to teach computer skills, and I would like to start by teaching young children then move on to teach older children. Now that I have completed the course, I think it will allow me to stand on my own two feet and take these skills forward. I feel hopeful that the course will help me become something in the future, and I will be able to pursue my career goals.
Having a successful career is important to me because my parents have two daughters and no sons, so I want to prove to society that a girl can become something and do what she wants to do. In my family, every other girl has a profession and a platform to stand on. If they can do what they want to do, then why can’t I? I have been encouraged by my community because other girls are achieving their goals and choosing education rather than marrying young. This means when I choose to pursue education I get a positive response from my community, and they encourage me to stand on my own two feet.”

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Pooja’s Story

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).

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“I got married while in university and I was lucky I was able to finish my degree. It is tradition for the wife to take over the house after marriage—but I wanted to work in beauty. I needed more training and hands on experience to find a job—my in-laws strongly disapproved and I faced a lot of discouragement from my husband’s family. But this was my dream and I wanted to pursue this for my family’s future and myself.
I learned about SEWA and their and the skill development classes they offered—it was almost too perfect to believe because I could afford it and finish the classes each day in time to fulfill my household duties. I remember at the start of the program having so many questions on the machines and techniques beauty parlors were using when we visited local shops—and now I’m using them every day.

I found a job, a dream job, at a local beauty parlor and am saving a third of my income so that in the future I can open my own parlor and support my family independently. I found a lot of support and love from my mentors and peers that motivated me each day—it was unlike anything I experienced in any schooling. The only thing else I want to say is that girls need to have skills in their hand. Girls should be independent.”

Sabramem Case Study jodhpur

Sabramem is a bandej worker, mother of three, SEWA aagewan, and most importantly, an active role model for women everywhere regardless of class, caste, or religion. Sabramem is engaging in two SEWA skill-building courses to enhance her capacity to be financially independent and open her own business. Sabramem is also benefitting through the SEWA Shakti Kendra’s social security support system for poor working-women.

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Stories of Change Through Community Led Microfinance

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Turning a Passion into a Business

Pooja ben, Store Owner, Dehradun, Uttarakhand

“Now I’m able to take control of my income, pay off our household expenses easily and pursue a passion of mine”

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“I live in a Dehradun—a hilly, mountainous region in Uttarakhand, with my daughter, son, and husband. My husband used to sell vegetables, traveling to the large local market. Like many farmers, a large amount of our vegetables wouldn’t be bought and would go to waste and rot—we would lose a lot of money and hard work. So my husband became a security worker in a mall, where he was able to learn a monthly wage. I also took a part-time job as a polio agent where I dropped medicine off throughout the area. The difficult terrain and heavy box took a toll on me physically and took the whole day. It was a really difficult job for part-time wage.

On one of my days to work, I saw a SEWA center and immediately felt a part of a large community and identity of women like me, all working together to improve the futures of themselves and children. I joined a self-help group and started to save 100 Rs. each month—that’s quickly added up and now I have confidence and security that a better future for me and my family can be built off my savings.

About three years into the self-help group, I took a loan and started my own small shop for women’s accessories close to my house. It was a passion of mine to sell accessories like necklaces, earrings, cosmetics and skin creams and now I’m able to take control of my income, pay off our household expenses easily and pursue a passion of mine. Make sure to visit if you are near!”

Meena Devi’s Story

 

Meena Devi, 52 year old, Munger

Meena Devi, 52 year old, Munger

Case of Bihar- Micro Credit

Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2015-2016

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