The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a women’s trade union that was started by women workers in Gujarat under the guidance of Smt. Ela Bhatt in 1972. Originally borne out of the Textile Labor Association (TLA), India’s oldest and largest union of textile workers, SEWA is now a globally recognized trade union of women workers in the informal economy. In order to secure economic, social, and legal rights for women workers, SEWA supports the formation of member-based organizations of poor working-women. The first such organization was the SEWA Bank, followed by diverse cooperatives and producer groups of women with livelihoods as artisans, milk producers and farmers. Later on, women formed service co-operatives like those around health and child-care.
After over 40 years, SEWA has expanded across the country and has become a multistate movement owned by women in the informal economy. By the end of 2016, there were over 1.9 million SEWA members representing 17 states of India. SEWA Bharat’s membership institutions help the movement reach out to vulnerable women working in the informal economy.
For more, see the history of SEWA on SEWA Ahmedabad’s website.
SEWA’s commitments are:
• To strengthen women through establishing a common identity as informal workers
• To keep workers’ rights, needs, visions at the centre
• To empower women as leaders of their own programs
• To uphold non-violence methods of demonstration