(SEWA Saundarya saathi (community waste-worker) engaged in solid waste management project that aims to bring backwards caste women with dignified employment, welfare, and economic opportunities.)

SEWA in Katihar

Since 1983, SEWA has provided over 9,000 women in Katihar, Bihar with access to economic and development programs and organization and advocacy support. SEWA in Katihar is comprised of agricultural producers, home-based artisans, domestic workers, and construction workers.

SEWA Katihar Programs

Key Achievements:

  • As of the end of 2016, 9,000+ women workers are SEWA members in Katihar
  • SEWA Katihar is present in 127 villages across 4 rural wards and 45 urban blocks in Katihar
  • Community efforts are led by 40 local women as aagewans

Livelihood Support:

Solid Waste Management Project

(Saundarya saathis from SEWA in Katihar’s solid waste management project. Photo: SEWA Bharat) (Saundarya saathis from SEWA in Katihar’s solid waste management project. Photo: SEWA Bharat)

Katihar offers few economic opportunities for women. Professions that women typically work in are characterized by insufficient wages, labor intensive, and job insecurity. Women do not have the ability to consistent and adequate wages to save, invest, and be protected from economic shocks. As a result of poor wages, families and communities suffer from low rates of education, poor health, and out-dated gender and social roles. SEWA Bharat organizes women for greater leveraging power and collective identity, creates direct market linkages on women’s behalf, and connects women workers to diverse development programs. SEWA Bharat supports two main livelihood programs in Katihar that provide women and communities with dignified work: one in solid waste management, and another recently launched project in bamboo production.

Solid Waste Management (SWM)
Swacch Katihar, Swasthya Katihar (Clean Katihar, Healthy Katihar) Katihar has no proper solid waste management (SWM), resulting in over 15 tonnes of daily waste pollution in the streets, drains, and communal areas. On 8th March 2010, a state level convention of women workers was organized with the hon’ble Chief Minister Sri Nitish Kumar in attendance as the Chief Guest, in order to discuss livelihood building opportunities and SWM. In 2010, SEWA Bharat launched the Swacch Katihar, Swasthya Katihar project to develop a sustainable model of door-to-door waste collection. SEWA’s SWM model helps women secure meaningful employment, meet local needs, and take care of the environment.
SWM Project Achievements
  • 47 women have been given meaningful employment
  • In 2013, the number of houses covered increased to 4,000
SWM Model
SEWA’s SWM system aims to be a replicable model for future Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects. The issue of Solid Waste Management is not limited to merely Katihar. This model can be extended to other small areas of Bihar therefore contributing more to productive environment conservation.

  • Door-to-door service provision by Saundarya Saathis (waste pickers): Primary waste collection from households, drain cleaning and sweeping
  • Waste segregation: wet and dry waste are separated and recyclables are collected for extra income
  • Secondary collection by men: using tricycles and tractors, men collect segregated waste
  • Proper waste disposal: segregated waste is delivered to designated landfill sites provided by the KMC
SWM Project Purpose
  • PROVIDES DIGNIFIED EMPLOYMENT: Poor and vulnerable Waste Collectors gain means of employment through this initiative, a reliable, steady income and a dignified job.
  • PROMOTES CLEAN AND HEALTHY CITY LIVING: Our model promotes awareness of the health benefits of proper waste management, and encourages city residents to join us in keeping the city clean and healthy.
  • EFFICIENT WASTE MANAGEMENT SOLUTION: By avoiding waste accumulation, SEWA helps prevent further pollution or decaying of the environment.
  • REDUCES POVERTY AND INEQUALITY: By providing a source of financial stability, our model helps improve the existing quality of life and aims to link members and their children to other services like that of micro-finance, vocational training, health and safety training. Targeting the persistent discrimination, SEWA actively employs Dalits in order to help them emerge from their imposed social status.
  • CHANGING ATTITUDES AND CONTRIBUTING TO BETTER CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY: events are held to keep local residents abreast of the environmental concerns and its remedies.

Bamboo Artisans

Katihar is home to migrants from neighboring West Bengal who have specialized in bamboo weaving. SEWA Katihar has strengthened economic linkages for home-based bamboo weavers by connecting them to SEWA’s cooperative in Delhi, Ruaab. Ruaab markets and sells these products under a private label, Loom Mool to buyers across India and across the globe. Additionally, SEWA has provided loan and financing programs for artisans to help expand and grow their businesses.

Micro-finance: Self Help Groups and Bihar’s State-level Cooperative

Women in the informal sector are economically vulnerable because they lack safe, reliable, and non-exploitative sources of financing. SEWA first organizes women into self-help groups (SHGs) that help low-income women pool their resources. SEWA women members also start up, manage, and operate their own cooperatives for greater access to financial services. As banks often deny services to low-income and illiterate women, SEWA fills the gap by building women’s fiscal capacities through financial literacy trainings, exposure visits, and workshops. SEWA Katihar offers SHG models and a financial cooperative to help strengthen and open women’s access to finance.

Self Help Groups (SHGs)

SEWA SHGs consist of 10-20 women who financially support one another through monthly meetings, savings, internal loan disbursement and repayment. Through SHGs, women gain access to capital, which reduces their dependency on exploitative moneylenders; gain an understanding of the importance of savings, through financial literacy training; and build a collaborative approach to investment in the community.

  • SEWA Katihar’s micro-finance program has 6 SHGs with 64 women members
  • In 2015, SEWA Katihar SHGs had savings of Rs 247,950
  • SHGs gave 170 loans worth Rs. 1,54,100, supporting women to finance business, education, and healthcare
State-level Thrift and Credit Cooperative in Bihar
Banks deny services to low-income and illiterate women, citing a lack of financial credibility, identification, and security. Poor informal sector women workers have used their experiences in SHGs to establish their own state-level financial institution, SEWA Bacchat Aur Sakh Swavablambi Sahkari Samiti Cooperative, in 2012. This financial institution caters to the needs of women in the informal sector and helps connect them to credit, savings, and financial literacy training.

  • 1,549 women have  accounts in the cooperative
  • Cumulative savings worth Rs. 48,22,175 (2016)
Enhancing Digital Access Through FinTech Solutions
Digital banking services have transformed the way people deposit, transact, and access their financial resources. However, there is a growing gap between those with access and those without access to these digital tools. Gender, rural, and literacy barriers prevent vast segments of the population from accessing online and digital banking tools. SEWA Katihar helps change this paradigm through a proprietary mobile app, Bijli, that is operated by Bihar’s Thrift and Credit Cooperative. This app connects over 13,000 account holders to digital banking solutions that allow transparent, quick, and accurate transactions to be made. Bank saathis operate mobile tablets and help train and educate women on mobile banking services


Healthcare Promotion and Social Service Linkages

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, and cultural restrictions. 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 curative level, SEWA members in Katihar organize 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.

2016 Health program Achievements
  • 1679 people attended 48 health awareness sessions in Katihar
  • 5 women’s hygiene care camps facilitated free first-time pap smear tests for 137 women
  • 1029 referrals brought informal women workers directly to healthcare

Social Security

The Indian government has a vast number of social protection programs, but benefits hardly reach those in need due to illiteracy, immobility, unawareness, and bureaucratic inefficiencies. SEWA is improving the existing social security system in Katihar by informing women on relevant schemes, helping them fill in forms and liaise with the government, and advocating for more relevant services. Katihar has two community centers to provide information and assistance to provide women and communities with access to government and public schemes.

  • In 2016, 4589 women received linkages to public schemes
  • 900 patients were directly connected to government hospitals
  • 1,494 women attended 45 awareness sessions on menstrual hygiene

Youth and Skill Development

Underprivileged girls are trapped in a cycle of poverty due to lack of accessible, market-responsive, and skill-enhancing opportunities. Since 2007, SEWA has provided classes in Katihar based on student’s needs, and helps facilitate employment through building their confidence, experience, and capacities. SEWA’s skill and youth development programs provide participants a combination of market-demanded technical training, soft and personal skill development, and social support and mentorship.

  • In 2015, 392 girls engaged in SEWA’s skill building program in Katihar gaining market-relevant skills
Computer Training
Unlike children from upper or middle-class backgrounds, underprivileged girls do not regularly use important pieces of technology, particularly computers. SEWA Bharat’s computer course in Katihar trains girls in the basics of computer usage and how to use vital software programs like MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint, so that they too are part of India’s growing future.
In partnership with the Bihar Skill Development Mission, SEWA Katihar invests in nurturing and promoting Katihar’s next generation of business leaders. The KYP program provides participants with a combination of digital, personal, and entrepreneurial skill development to diversify and strengthen businesses and local economies. SEWA Katihar is a key ally in this mission training participants and providing access to SEWA’s network of services and resources.


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