The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a labour union of poor self-employed women workers in the informal economy. Since its inception in 1972 by Smt. Ela Bhatt in Gujarat, SEWA has actively employed women with no employer or fixed employer-employee relationship. These women are often not represented by traditional trade unions, and their methods of organisation cannot be employed in a sector in which the work and employers are not recognised.
Several organisations are a part of the SEWA movement, including the SEWA Cooperative Bank, which was established in 1974 at the initiative of women and several others such as: State Mahila SEWA Co-operative Federation Limited and Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHST). Through these, SEWA has worked both at the grassroots level as well as in influencing policies at national and international level.
The SEWA Movement has expanded strongly over the past 40 years and now has a membership of around 17 lakhs spread over 9 states