(SEWA Delhi members gathered in a ‘dharna’ (demonstration) in order to demonstrate the need for a cohesive street vendor policy. The bill was passed and was a huge success for SEWA Bharat’s long-term street vendor advocacy campaign and a huge milestone in securing rights for street vendors across India. Photo: SEWA Bharat).

SEWA Delhi

Delhi is a diverse, mega metropolis and capital of India. Due to its size, growing economy, and relative wealth, many migrants from across the country come in search for work. SEWA Delhi is comprised of  women who work as home-based artisans, construction workers, street vendors, and domestic workers.

Founded in 1999, SEWA Delhi is a registered trust with 26,000 informal women workers across 11 areas of Delhi. SEWA Delhi connects women from low-income areas throughout Delhi to a network of institutions, development programs, and resources. See the SEWA Delhi Website.

SEWA Delhi Programs

Key Achievements:

  • Successfully advocating for the national-level Street Vendors Bill, which passed through in 2014
  • Reinstating of Velodrome market and protection of street vendor’s rights and livelihoods against City’s beautification plans of the 2010 commonwealth games
  • Setting up 7 SEWA Shakti Kendras and running one Government of Delhi Gender Resource Center to facilitate healthcare and social service linkages
  • Developing strong partnerships to help connect poor women to the existing network of quality organizations such as Ganga Ram Hospital, the Red Ross, Lok Swasthya Mandali, VV Giri National Labor Institute, Tate Institute of Social Sciences, Pearl Academy of Fashion, State Bank Academy, and Amity Law School
  • Setting up a women’s financial cooperative within the nation’s capital

Organizing and Advocacy


SEWA Delhi is made up of over 25,000 women workers from across 11 urban slum areas of the capital: Raghubir Nagar, Jahangirpuri, Rajiv Nagar, Anand Vihar, New Ashok Nagar, Mullah Colony, Mustafabad, and Sundar Nagari. SEWA Delhi’s campaigns focus on chronic and systemic trade-based and community based issues.

SEWA Delhi Major Campaigns

SEWA Delhi’s advocacy work has brought first-time legal rights, recognition, and respect for street vendors, domestic workers, and construction workers across the city and India. Through local and national level meetings, SEWA helps the Government of India understand and meet the needs of women in the informal economy.

See the SEWA Delhi Advocacy Flyer from our Annual Report 2013

Street Vendors
Street vendors face risk of violent eviction, demands for bribes, and confiscation of merchandise on top of occupational hazards and long working hours. SEWA Delhi protects the street vendors’ livelihoods by informing policy, liaising with the police, facilitating vendor registration, legitimatizing markets, and fighting for safe and women-friendly facilities.

  • SEWA is a foundering member of the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), the first national-level organization in India to specifically support street vendors.
  • The Street Vendors Bill (2012) – the first comprehensive legal protection for the livelihoods of street vendors – was pushed through in 2014 after advocacy from SEWA Delhi, SEWA Bharat, NASVI, and others.
  • SEWA Delhi women vendors prevented the eviction of Qutub Road Market in the face of Common Wealth Games beautification plans in 2010.
Domestic Workers
The majority of Delhi’s 100,000 domestic workers are migrants with little or no education, making them easy victims of exploitation. Since 2009, SEWA Delhi has worked closely with around 1,600 domestic workers to improve their wages, work terms, and legal protection.

  • Nearly 1,000 social scheme linkages for women workers
  • 1,725 domestic workers have SEWA ID Cards
  • Members successfully secured holidays for domestic workers in 3 areas of Delhi
Construction Workers
The backbreaking manual labor of carrying bricks, mixing cement, digging earth, and breaking stones does not come with any occupational hazard protection, social services, or even job security for women. SEWA Delhi communicates female construction worker issues to policy makers, provides identification cards, registers workers, and makes linkages to government schemes.

  • Registration support to over 3,500 construction workers
  • Reduced the construction worker registration fee from Rs. 265 to Rs. 25
  • SEWA Delhi construction worker member children received scholarships worth Rs. 264,000 in 2013
  • SEWA Delhi and the Labor Commission jointly prepared a road map to register 5000 construction workers.

Livelihood Support

(Women workers of Ruaab. Photo: SEWA Bharat) (Women workers of Ruaab. Photo: SEWA Bharat)

SEWA Delhi’s livelihood program focuses on the vast number of home-based garment workers that are a vital, yet hidden and exploited, workforce for the global fashion industry. SEWA Delhi is home to Ruaab and Loom Mool, two distinctive SEWA-supported entities that demonstrate unique models for ethical garment production and sourcing.

Ruaab SEWA
Registered in 2010, Ruaab SEWA Artisans Producer Company connects women embroidery workers directly to exporters and retailers to who support fair wages and work terms. The aim is to eliminate exploitative middlemen and create transparent supply chains for domestic and international companies. Ruaab SEWA has empowered women to oversee training, sampling, quality control, material distribution, and record keeping. Ruaab’s six production centers are clean, safe, and social work environments for women. Ruaab is working towards creating a fully transparent supply chain and provides producers with control of their industry.

  • 750 women shareholder members
  • Production was worth over Rs. 57 lakh
  • Supplies to high profile brands such as Monsoon, Gap, and Next
  • 414 women from Delhi and 75 Bareilly artisans supplied work in 2013

Ruaab SEWA and the Ethical Trading Iniative

SEWA is a member of the National Home Workers’ Group, promoted by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The ETI is a UK based alliance of retailers, garment companies, trade unions and nongovernment companies which exists to identify and promote good practices in the implementation of company codes of conduct on labor standards.

Loom Mool
Started in 2013, Loom Mool is a boutique brand that promotes a unique ethnical model of transparent garment sourcing and production by linking SEWA producer cooperatives and groups from around the country including SEWA Bhagalpur silk weavers, madhubani and khadi designers (Bihar), Ruaab SEWA embroidery workers, recycled paper product producers (SEWA Kerala), tie-and-dye work members from Jodhpur, and kanthan work by women members in West Bengal.

Skill building, vocational training, and education

(SEWA Delhi girls performing traditional dance at SEWA Youth Festival 2013. Photo: SEWA Bharat) (SEWA Delhi girls performing traditional dance at SEWA Youth Festival 2013. Photo: SEWA Bharat)

Young women and girls from low-income areas in Delhi do not receive adequate or effective education and are limited in their social support networks. SEWA Delhi offers skill and youth development programs that invest in market-demanded technical training, soft and personal development skills, and in mentorship and network creation.

SEWA Delhi Youth Development Projects:

1. SEWA Delhi Polytechnic
Since 2011, SEWA Delhi has set up two polytechnics to fill the gap in quality training institutes that are accessible to the urban poor. Importantly, the SEWA Delhi Polytechnics provide policy makers with a good set of practices and guidelines to promote participation underprivileged girls in technical and vocational education. The center has developed strong partnerships in order to ensure that programs are high quality and nationally recognized. Some major partners include the National Institute of Information Technology, Pearl Academy of Fashion, and National Institute of Open Schooling. A major component of the Youth Development program is to connect girls with jobs and internships through the Polytechnic’s Rozgar Kendra (job placement cell).

  • 157 adolescent girls are currently training in SEWA Delhi Polytechnics (Jan 2014)
  • 227 girls connected to meaningful employment through the Polytechnic’s placement cell, Rozgar Kendra

Polytechnic sub-centers and courses

  • Basic vocational centers where girls gain skills in computers, embroidery, cutting and tailoring
  • Advanced training courses in textile design, graphic design, fashion design, spoken English and personality development, and bank clerical / financial literacy training
  • State Bank Academy: SBA provides training to students for appearing in bank clerical examinations. The students are trained in three main subjects: Mathematics, English and Reasoning, while some classes in Marketing and General Knowledge are also held. These training sessions take place on every Saturday and are conducted by the SBA faculty. Regular tests are also held.
  • Open schooling to prepare girls for class 10 and 12, and coaching to lessen early drop out
  • Rozgar Kendra (job-placement hub) that enables girls to enter the mainstream market through interview-conduct training

Developing Partnerships
SEWA Bharat is currently engaging with a number of different organizations in order to strengthen its youth development activities, namely: NIIT Foundation, NSDC, NIOS, Thimspon Press, Samuel Foundation, Career Launcher, and FICCI

2. SEWA Youth Clubs

Through SEWA’s engagement with youth in vocational training, we recognized the immense potential but also lack of confidence and opportunities available to this group. Youth Club was formed for the young girls associated with SEWA Polytechnic and vocational centres to get involved in activities that build their confidence and keep them associated with SEWA. In the Youth Club, girls learn English, hone profession skills, develop confidence, participate in games and group discussion, and are engaged in current affairs, creative courses, and awareness sessions like legal rights and healthcare.

Due to the success of the Delhi model, SEWA Youth Clubs have been started in Rajasthan’s SEWA Youth Resource Centers and are beginning in Bihar.
At present SEWA has three Youth Clubs in Delhi that run in the SEWA Polytechnic (New Ashok Nagar), Gender Resource Centre (Sundernagri) and Vocational Training Centre (Rajeev Nagar). There are between 20-30 Youth Club members at a time; girls are in the age group of 15-25 years and meet once every 15 days.

Vision and reliability
SEWA Bharat has plans of replicating the similar model in Katihar (Bihar) and Murshidabad based on the demand of the women members in the respective areas as well as the pressing need of skill development programs to enhance the employability of young daughters of poor women.

Community based Micro-finance


The urban environment poses different challenges for poor women to access capital. As many women in the informal sector of Delhi have migrated from other regions, close social networks that are inherent to villages are not as easily replicated in the urban environment. This means that women are highly likely to rely on exploitative moneylenders when they need to take out large sums of money for life-events that occur in any person’s life but come with the risk of severe indebtedness for poor families– i.e. falling sick, child’s education, and traditional events such as weddings.

SEWA Delhi’s Thrift and Credit Cooperative

SEWA began its micro-finance program in Delhi by forming self-help groups (SHGs) across focus-area slums. SHGs were an important initial platform to organise members around a common cause and link them to first-time capital. However, members soon demanded more financial services and opportunities. SEWA Bharat facilitated an exposure visit to the SEWA Bank in Ahmedabad for Delhi’s SHG leaders. After gaining insight to an independently run women’s financial institution, SEWA Delhi’s grass-roots women leaders held mohalla (community) meetings to discuss the potential and garner support for a Delhi-based Thrift and Credit Cooperative.

After much struggle with government registration officials, the “Mahila SEWA Urban Thrift and Credit Cooperative” was set up in 2007. SEWA members proved to officials that the financial capacities and literacy of uneducated women can be built through workshops, meetings, and exposure visits. Now, these grassroots women run a reliable, accessible, and independent financial institution for 7,210 women in Delhi. SEWA bank saathis deliver women-tailored products and services, like door-to-door collection of savings, loans, and interest dues.

  • As of January 2014, SEWA cooperative members have given loans worth over Rs. 44 million
  • Delhi cooperative members have savings worth over Rs. 34 million
Government of Delhi’s Mission convergence and SEWA’s financial literacy

Since August 2011, SEWA Delhi has been partnering with the Mission Convergence department of the Government of Delhi to expand its micro-finance program. Financial inclusion is one of the focus areas of Mission Convergence, with the aim of ensuring this for one-lakh women, spread across all districts of Delhi, by 2016. The plan is to organize financial literacy training sessions for women in order to empower them to make sound financial decisions and to strengthen the operations and financial systems of the cooperative to ensure better service delivery and risk management.

SEWA-UNDP Pilot cash transfer study

This was undertaken to explore possible methods of assured Food Security. Despite having allocated funds for the Public Distribution System (PDS), a sizable amount does not reach the intended beneficiaries. SEWA, with support from the Delhi Government and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), tested the effect of substituting PDS rations by cash transfers for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families so that they have the option to choose either food or cash. Through the study, a policy of choice was recommended for the poor consumers.

Healthcare & Social Security

SEWA Delhi runs an urban model of SEWA Bharat’s health and social security program to ensure the well-being of its members. The main activities aim to provide access to information and health education, strengthen public service linkages, and reduce health expenditure through referrals.

  • Over 1,500 women engaged in 180 health awareness sessions
  • In 2013, 103 health camps connected nearly 5,500 people with free health care like eye check-ups and pap smears
  • In 2013, 368 referrals helped save poor families Rs. 4,11,520
SEWA Shakti Kendras (Empowerment Centers)
Women in low-income areas have difficulty in accessing social security and public welfare schemes due to a lack of awareness, difficulty in navigating application processes, and receiving the benefits due to corruption and inefficiencies. SEWA Delhi operates community centers, known as SEWA Shakti Kendras, in each area SEWA Delhi operates in. Not only do these centers provide resources and linkages to SEWA services, such as microfinance, livelihood, and health resources, but also assist women in completing application forms, answering questions on welfare schemes, and ensuring the benefits reach the intended recipients.

Learn more about SEWA’s Social Security Services here


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

Annual Report

SEWA Bharat Annual Report 2015-2016