Women workers in the informal economy are exploited by middlemen, are paid irregularly and below minimum wages, face hazardous working conditions, and are vulnerable to the brunt of economic shocks. In India, informal sector workers produce for local, domestic, and international markets and provide goods and services that clothe, feed, build, and maintain India.
There are several major barriers that constrain the potential earnings of women who work in the informal sector: highly specialized and low-valued skillsets, inability to penetrate and diversify markets, inability to produce at scale, and weak bargaining power. SEWA works to create transparent value chains, strengthen the livelihoods, and diversify the employment opportunities for women in the informal sector through three complementary approaches:
- 5 SEWA Bharat supported women’s run producer companies and cooperatives around India
- 1,976 poor women workers empowered as shareholders
- 3,121* SEWA Bharat members earned fair wages through diverse livelihood programs(*Total: 60 silk weavers + 150 Katihar saundarya sathi (community waste collector) + 1,386 agarbatti (incense) worker+ 450 Delhi-based artisans for Ruaab SEWA + 75 Bareilly-based artisans for Ruaab SEWA + 1,000 women farmers in Uttarakhand)
- Wages worth Rs. 1,69,95,700 earned by SEWA Bharat women cooperative members
Careers, earnings, and economic mobility of women informal sector are limited by low levels of education and constrained skillsets. SEWA invests in the technical, business, and entrepreneurship skills of informal sector workers in order to increase their wages, diversify their work, and expand their employment opportunities.
Domestic workers are often migrants and women from marginalized communities who work in the homes of their employers, usually in urban areas. The NSSO estimates that there are over 4 million domestic workers in India, who work as full-time, part-time, or live-in workers. Since they work in the homes of their employers, domestic workers are extremely vulnerable to poor working conditions, sexual assault, low wages, and no welfare protection.
SEWA protects domestic workers against these injustices by investing in technical and soft skills of domestic workers and by organizing and advocating for their rights. The salaries and job placement of domestic workers often depend on their skillsets. More diverse and demanded skillsets will ensure higher salaries and a better employer for domestic workers. SEWA invests in the technical and soft skill training for domestic workers in Patna, Delhi, Kerala, and Cuttack equipping members with elderly care, midwifery, and basic first aid skills. Additionally SEWA helps domestic workers to promote and market these skillsets to employers to increase their wages and work in safe, dignified working conditions. Additionally, SEWA has organized domestic workers across India and is a member of the National Platform of Domestic Workers. Through this platform SEWA has contributed to and submitted legislation for the protection of domestic workers.
Strengthening Market Linkages
Informal sector workers sell their goods and services to limited markets, decreasing potential earnings and leading to irregular employment. Informal sector workers are often limited by their locality and inefficient marketing campaigns. Often, informal sector workers rely on labor intensive marketing strategies, particularly personal references, to sell their products and services.
- Organizing Workers: Often marketing and producing as individuals, informal sector workers are limited by their locality and personal networks. Local areas become saturated with producers, making it difficult to increase earnings and find new customers. SEWA organizes workers to market, negotiate, and sell collectively in order to amplify and broaden the market reach of producers.
- Connecting Producers to Markets: Informal sector workers contribute to global and national markets, however producers only sell directly to local contractors and middlemen. Contractors and middlemen sell these products and services to larger buyers, reducing the wages of the producers. SEWA connects producers and workers to the consumers and buyers to ensure the value in the value chain stays with the producers themselves.
Cooperative and Social Enterprise Development
- Women in the informal sector do not have legally binding working relationships with their employers, often work irregularly or are paid on daily wages, and have difficulty in producing and marketing their products at scale. SEWA promotes and develops institutions, such as cooperatives and social enterprises, that allow producers, such as agricultural producers, home-based artisans, and handloom weavers, across India to market, sell, and achieve full-employment. SEWA works to protect and promote traditional crafts, clothing, and local products that have been the bedrock of the Indian culture and economy. SEWA also creates fully transparent supply chains. SEWA establishes forward and backwards linkages to link producers throughout production chains.
All stages of production in the garment supply chain–from the production of raw materials, to the creation of textiles, to the final finishing and embroidery–is done within India. India is simultaneously one of the fastest growing and largest contributors to the global garment industry.
The global garment supply chain relies heavily on the work of informal sector workers. Brands, retailers, and local sellers sub-contract work to middlemen and export houses. Middlemen then distribute work to producers, who work in either small factories or inside their homes. Working through multiple layers of middlemen and subcontractors, producers work in unregulated conditions and are vulnerable to hazardous working conditions, sweatshop environments, and low wages.
SEWA connects producers throughout the garment supply chain to brands, retailers, and boutiques across India and across the globe. SEWA manages a cooperative of handloom silk and cotton weavers in Bhagalpur, Bihar and a producers’ company of home-based embroidery artisans in Delhi. SEWA links these two institutions and their producers to each other. Hand-loom textile producers in Bihar supply the fabric to home-based artisans in Delhi who then cut, finish, and embroider final pieces. SEWA strengthens the forward and backward linkages of these institutions and creates a fully transparent, ethical supply chain. Each piece is hand-crafted and sold directly from the producers to the consumers, brands, and retailers through a private label called Loom Mool.
Find our more about Loom Mool and it’s products by visiting its website today.
SEWA Bharat manages the following cooperatives and social enterprises:
- Organic Spice and Chili Production in Almora, Uttarakhand
- Home-based embroidery work in Delhi
- Handloom textile production in Bhagalpur, Bihar
- Agarbatti (incense) production and Scenting in Munger, Bihar
Click here to learn more about SEWA’s Livelihood solutions.
|Institution name||Location||Product(s)||Production members||Shareholder members||Production (Rs.)|
|SEWA Udyogik Swabalambi Sahakari Samiti, Ltd. (2005)||Munger, Bihar||Raw incense (agarbatti) sticks||1,337 women||722 women||Rs. 92,42,259|
|SEWA Shram Sugand- hit Producer Company Ltd. (2008)||Munger, Bihar||Scented incense (agarbatti) sticks||49 women||228 women||Rs. 2,51,636|
|SEWA Saheli Bunkar Sahkari Samiti Ltd. (2010)||Bhagalpur, Bihar||Handloom textiles, silk||60 people (30 SEWA members + husbands)||101 women||Rs. 11,89,855|
|Ruaab SEWA Artisans Producers Company Ltd. (2010)**||Delhi, National Capital Region||Embroidery, women’s clothes, accessories||450 Delhi-based + 75 Bareilly- based artisans||750 women||Rs. 57,49,389|
|SEWA Ekta Automonous Producer Co-op Society (2013)||Uttarakhand||Organic spices (chilli, tumeric, etc.)||1,000 farmers||125 women||Rs. 1,27,000|
SEWA Bharat is constantly looking for new, innovative project opportunities. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to partner with us.