Organizing and Advocacy
SEWA is rooted in its ability to organize and lead large-scale advocacy efforts to improve the working, community, and social conditions. SEWA is a member-based organization, meaning its members are at the heart of its direction, focus, and efforts. SEWA is comprised of its members and its members are SEWA.
By working at a grassroots level across India, SEWA is able to understand and transmit the issues members face across broad audiences, from a local to a national perspective. SEWA’s size, history, and reach allow large and long-lasting change through advocacy and organizing efforts.
Since SEWA’s origin, SEWA has strengthened communities and informal sector working women by uniting and organizing. All of SEWA’s programs, from health to microfinance, rely on the strong unity and identity that SEWA develops through organization. SEWA’s direction and approaches reflect the needs of its communities.
- SEWA Delhi: In 2014, The Street Vendors Bill, the first comprehensive national-level legal protection for the livelihoods of street vendors, was pushed through with strong support from SEWA Bharat and partners. This bill was the first of its kind to provide structure around working conditions and protection for street vendors across the country
- SEWA Bhagalpur: After working closely with local authorities, SEWA Bhagalpur developed 2 village health sub-centers that provide over 6,000 with access to healthcare services. In a region with high infant and maternal mortality rates and high rates of communicable disease, the sub-centers provide communities with resources to improve living conditions
Grassroots organizing approach
All of SEWA’s efforts and programs begin at the grassroots level and rely on organization of its members. SEWA works through local leadership and volunteers to help identify chronic gaps, mobilize communities towards solutions, and
SEWA relies on local grassroot leaders and volunteers to help identify and drive SEWA’s efforts. SEWA’s volunteers (SEWA saathis) first mobilize their local communities for regular community meetings called Mohalla Meetings. During these meetings, community leaders (aagewans) spread awareness of SEWA’s resources and missions as well as collect and answer any difficulties or questions that members of the community face.
Through the regular and strong organization, SEWA institutions, such as cooperatives, banks, self-help groups, producers’ companies and collectives form. SEWA’s role is to manage and help oversee these solutions’ growth and empower communities to take ownership.
SEWA strengthens women’s individual and collective capacities through trainings, workshops, exposure visits, seminars, and conferences. Specialized trainings have been developed under each program theme such as technical skill building and microenterprise training under livelihoods; financial literacy within microfinance; and show to apply for government schemes under social security and health. Exposure visits for women workers promotes intra- and inter-institutional sharing between SEWA organizations and other agencies, NGOs, and government departments.
Aagewans (those who come forward) are SEWA members who exhibit a natural tendency to take on a leadership role in their community. Aagewans are champions of the SEWA philosophy and are the driving force of SEWA’s organizing and advocacy efforts. They occupy a unique position in the organizational structure and form the link between SEWA staff and the membership base. SEWA’s objective is to build capacity in the aagewans to ensure the sustainability of its programs and lead the change within communities.
The Last Mile Model: Exploring Decentralized Forms of Governance by Women Community Leaders
Read the report that talks about SEWA’s model of grassroots leaders who bridge the gap between the State and communities.
Advocacy and Legal training
SEWA members participate in advocacy campaigns, by holding demonstrations and rallies to bring their concerns to local and national government and media attention. SEWA Bharat engages with employers and policy makers’ to further their understanding of women workers’ issues and incorporate their needs into policy.
Legal training activities:
- Confidence building; awareness on general issues; information on specific laws and procedures – FIRs, domestic violence, dowry prohibition, right to information, property matters
- Keeping track of government initiatives and bills – SEWA’s community centers collect information on the effectiveness and delivery of schemes women apply for. Ensuring transparency between the beneficiaries and the public institutions helps both parties
- Providing legal information through SEWA Shakti Kendra to ensure easy accessibility of legal knowledge and have resources to take action
- Organizing legal awareness equips women to take action independently
SEWA Bharat is constantly looking for new, innovative project opportunities. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to partner with us.