Who is a Self Employed Woman?

Over 90% of workers and producers in India are in the informal economy with no regular salaried employment, no protection from hazardous working conditions, no social security or social safety nets, and are particularly vulnerable to external fluctuations within the economy and the state.

The informal economy is not a separate part of the economy but is closely tied with the formal economy, both for the supply of labour as well as for goods and services. As a result, informal workers are connected to both local and global economies. Women in the informal economy face even more risk than men due to lower wages, more strenuous work, and familial and societal responsibilities.

Founded by Elaben Bhatt in Gujarat in 1972, today nearly 3 million self-employed women across multiple industries have coalesced to form the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) which works to dismantle the economic and societal barriers that have placed women on the periphery of society. By coming together, they have transformed not only their own lives but the lives of millions more by inducing policy changes, not only at the grassroots but also at State and National levels.

Women Leaders

What We Do

Organizing & Grassroots Leadership

Nurturing community leadership to address local issues of trade, entitlements, and rights, contributing towards overall well-being

Skill Development

Supporting skill-building among women and girls to boost employability

Entrepreneurship Support

Facilitating economic empowerment by incubating women-led collective enterprises and micro-entrepreneurs

Financial Inclusion

Informing and empowering women as independent financial actors at the last-mile

Digital Inclusion

Equipping members with digital know-how to sustain work in a post-COVID world

Social Security, Health & Land Rights

Ensuring equal and fair access to services and housing infrastructure to informal women workers.

SEWA Bharat Across India

2.9 million workers are associated with the Self-Employed Women’s Association across 18 states in India. SEWA Bharat is an all-India federation of SEWA Institutions that extends direct support to institutions serving SEWA affiliated women workers in over 8 states of India. SEWA Bharat emerged out of the need to address the SEWA movement’s challenges with geographical expansion and coordination. Based in Delhi, SEWA Bharat directly supports member institutions in 8 states of India including Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Bihar while connecting members with SEWA institutions in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala for knowledge exchange, skill-building, and resource sharing.

Latest Research

Our research encompasses grassroots social enterprises in SEWA as well as various aspects of the lives and livelihoods of informal women workers in SEWA.

Women and Credit

SEWA Bharat partnered with MSC to research women entrepreneurs’ credit journeys and experiences. The report “Women and Credit: Access to Credit for Micro and Small Female Entrepreneurs in India” delves into micro and small women entrepreneurs’ credit journey and explores demand and supply-side factors. The study shares insights on credit requirements, experiences, challenges, and key credit success determinants for individual and collective women-led enterprises. It also shares the supply-side experiences of bankers and other organizations and some good practices supply-side stakeholders implement to mitigate and distribute credit risk.


Research on the women micro-entrepreneurs associated with SEWA.

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Understanding the impact of the pandemic on women workers and their livelihoods.

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Collective Social Enterprises

Investigating the relationship between social enterprises and women’s economic empowerment.

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Organizing & Leadership (SSKs, Aagewans etc)

Collectivisation’s impact on livelihoods, health, security, mobility, and economic empowerment.

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In Her Words

Sangitaben, Aagewan

The last week of June saw more and more migrant workers return to their villages from red zone cities. They were all assigned to quarantine centres for 14 days. Many wouldn’t abide, and were found roaming in their villages.

Aarifaben, Lac Artisan

Traditional lac jewellery is crafted in fire with the original lac extract of a Kusum tree, and is a speciality of Rajasthan. The market share of this artform has shrunk visibly due to the rising demand and supply of chemical lac products.

Rupaliben, Tant Weaver

Rupali behen, is a Tant weaver from Phulia, West Bengal, which is known for its high quality sarees throughout Bengal and the world. A typical day in her life means spending long hours at her loom, sometimes 7-8 hours at a stretch.

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