(Women in discussing during SEWA Bhagalpur mohalla meeting.)

SEWA in Bhagalpur

Bhagalpur’s history is rooted in silk and handloom production. However, the last 20 years have seen economic and social unrest, resulting in religious and ethnic turmoil. SEWA has worked in Bhagalpur since 1983 and is comprised over 45,000 women who work as weavers, agricultural producers, home-based producers, and construction workers.  SEWA Bhagalpur has unionized informal women workers and has provided livelihood and employment support, microfinance services, health, and linkages to social security services.

Main activities in Bhagalpur


  • Organizing 104 SHGs that connect over 1000 women to financial services
  • Connecting over 100 silk weaving families with sustainable livelihoods


advicacy-bhagalpur Women in the informal sector do not have a platform to engage with the government to voice their diverse concerns. SEWA Bhagalpur is a vehicle for women to liaise with policy makers and get their concerns addressed. Through meetings at the local, state, and national level, and demonstrations and rallies, SEWA helps the government understand, protect, and meet the needs of women in the informal economy. SEWA Bhagalpur works to address community-based and trade-based issues through public policy and civic involvement.

Advocating for local health facilities
Rural areas often suffer from inadequate access to health resources and services. SEWA Bhagalpur’s members met with the local Village Health and Sanitation Committees to ensure the government activated two village health sub-centres. These centers provide affordable and nearby access to over 6,000 people.


livelihood-bhagalpur Since liberalization, Indian handicraft producers and artisans have had to compete with global industries and companies. There has been a reduction of wages and incomes for producers due to increased mechanization and increased competition globally, endangering traditional handloom production techniques that have been the bedrock of Bhagalpur’s history and culture.  SEWA  supports women’s livelihoods by helping them organize into trade committees and cooperatives, creating direct market linkages, and connecting them to diverse development programs. In Bhagalpur, SEWA members have established and run a cooperative of silk weavers.

SEWA Silk Weaver’s Cooperative
In 2010, SEWA Bhagalpur helped informal women workers set up their own Cooperative called SEWA Saheli Bunkar Sahkari Samiti Limited to develop sustainable livelihoods and revive the hand-loom based silk weaving industry. Handloom weaving is a major employer in Bhagalpur and is a family endeavor. Women are heavily involved in the pre and post production of silk fabrics. Wages have become inconsistent and lower for the artisans who rely on the craft for an income due to a combination of mechanization and no regulation within the garment industry. SEWA’s cooperative model gives women product ownership, access to micro-finance and control over business.

  • Currently, 100 weavers are supporting their families through the SEWA Saheli Cooperative
  • SEWA’s Loom Mool is a new cooperative-linking initiative that connects Bhagalpur’s silk weavers to Delhi’s Ruaab embroidery center, creating an ethical and sustainable supply-chain. See the Loom Mool Facebook for more information and products.
Supporting Bidi Workers
For many women whose husbands travel to urban centers for work, bidi (local cigarette) rolling is the only viable source of income. Unorganized women without education are easily exploited in the bidi industry. SEWA Bhagalpur organizes bidi workers to strengthen collective bargaining and protection.

  • 4,950 bidi rollers are members to SEWA in Bhagalpur
  • 200 bidi worker ID cards made to give women access welfare schemes
  • One eye-care and occupational health camp brought 200 bidi rollers free check-ups


microfinance-bhagalpur Women in the informal sector lack safe, reliable, and non-exploitative sources of financing. They are very vulnerable in the face of economic shocks, environmental risks, and unexpected life events. SEWA organizes workingwomen into self-help groups (SHGs) so they can pool their financial resources together. SEWA also connects women to cooperatives for greater access to financial services. As banks often deny services to low-income and illiterate women, SEWA builds women’s fiscal capacities through financial literacy trainings, exposure visits, and workshops.

SEWA SHGs consist of 10-20 women who financially support one another through monthly meetings, savings, internal loan disbursement and repayment. Through SHGs, women access capital, reduce their dependency on exploitative moneylenders, inculcate the importance of savings, and build the financial credential needed by mainstream banks.

  • SEWA Bhagalpur’s micro-finance program has 46 SHGs with 692 women members
  • SEWA Bhagalpur SHGs saved of Rs. 18,28,672
  • In 2016, 182 loans worth 4,469,223 were given amongst poor women in Bhagalpur, helping them finance business, home maintenance, and education.
State-level Thrift and Credit Cooperative in Bihar
Banks often deny services to low-income and illiterate women, so in 2012 SEWA Bharat supported members in opening their own state-level financial institution, SEWA Bacchat Aur Sakh Swavablambi Sahkari Samiti Cooperative. This cooperative offers targeted solutions for women in the informal sector and is owned by women. Safe and reliable sources of capital and adequate understanding of how to manage finances are important in alleviating and removing poverty traps and debt that perpetuate poverty.

  • 2,507 women have cooperative accounts
  • Cumulative savings worth Rs. 3,41,780


health-bhagalpur Women face the greatest social, economic, and administrative barriers to healthcare. Poor working women’s health issues are often seriously neglected because of daunting costs and administrative barriers, overwhelming workloads, lack of information and knowledge, and cultural restrictions. SEWA Bhagalpur addresses these gaps by offering preventive and treatment solutions.

SEWA’s health program starts with preventative care through jagriti (health awareness) sessions that empower women with in-depth knowledge on issues such as maternal and infant healthcare, nutrition, and relevant government schemes. At the treatment level, SEWA members in Bhagalpur organise free health camps with doctors and expert practitioners to deliver health services right in communities of need. SEWA health saathis directly refer women to government and private healthcare centers and pass on the skills and experience for women to lead community members.

  • 13,723 women and girls were provided with educational sessions that addressed misconceptions and myths of family planning and menstrual health
  • Over 3,365 women   participated in specialized women’s health workshops in gynecological care and sexual and reproductive health in 2016
  • In 2016, 718 referrals connected the poor with government and private healthcare

In addition to health gaps, social security and welfare programs often do not reach the intended recipients due to lack of awareness, corruption, illiteracy, immobility, and difficult and complicated application processes. SEWA provides direct access to welfare services and ensures their delivery through community centers called SEWA Shakti Kendras.

Social Security
The Indian government has a vast number of social protection programs, but benefits hardly reach those in need, due to low literacy rates, immobility, and bureaucratic inefficiencies. SEWA Bhagalpur improves the existing social security system by informing women on relevant schemes, helping them fill in forms and liaise with the government, and advocating for more relevant services.

  • , SEWA Bhagalpur has linked over 1,500 members to government and public welfare schemes
  • 5 social security camps with 580 participants in urban areas of Bhagalpur in 2016-2017


SEWA Bharat is constantly looking for new, innovative  project opportunities. Please write to us at archana@sewabharat.org to partner with us.

Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2015-2016