Publications and Reports



Anusuya captures in Hindi, anecdotes, opinions, and stories of struggles, resilience, and achievements of SEWA women across 10 states. The publication aims to sensitize and reorient media to the needs of women in the informal economy. Women of different trades in the informal sector face health, economic, and social consequences due to the pandemic’s effects on India’s economy, health systems, and infrastructure.


1 January 2021 16 January 2021 16 February 2021
1 March 2021 16 March 2021 1 April 2021 16 April 2021
16 May 2021 1 June 2021 16 June 2021 1 August


Impact of the Second Wave and Lockdown on SEWA’s Informal Sector Women: A Short Summary

This exploration was a quick study that aimed to understand the impact the second wave of the pandemic and the consequent 2021 lockdown brought about on SEWA members of the informal economy; with reference to their livelihoods, savings, and income, their experience with the COVID – testing and vaccination and other facets of their life which have been affected by the pandemic. The study was conducted with 300 SEWA members across five Indian states during the month of May and the questionnaire was conducted through phone calls by SEWA Bharat’s team of grassroots researchers.



Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy Amongst Women In The Informal Economy

Across rural and urban India, women in the informal economy are subjected to misinformation and fear-mongering when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The cost of vaccination seems to be too high for many; convincing these women can have multiplying effects on India’s drive to universally immunize. The article explores their attitudes, perceptions, and challenges in getting vaccinated.




Evidence Review of COVID-19 And Women’s Informal Employment

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WIEGO, and SEWA Bharat reviewed the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on informal women workers. The executive summary cited how the decline of paid work for women risks negatively impacting not only basic economic security but also women’s ability to influence decisions at the individual, household, and community levels.

The evidence review highlights key actionable points for policymakers to prioritize women informal wage workers and women-run informal enterprises. These points aim to promote their social & economic recovery by linking them with government relief schemes. You can read the report here.




Supporting Women’s Collective Enterprises in Informal Sector

This article in Feminism in India opines on women’s collective enterprises and how they can enable job growth and promote female labor force participation, which has been on a steady decline in India for the past few years. Read the article here to know about the collective enterprises model.





Community Leaders and Decentralised Governance: Tales from the SEWA Field

Women community leaders have played a critical role to reach out to the most vulnerable and marginalized populations during the pandemic. This has resulted in decentralized units of governance where decisions are made at the community level in a collective fashion including diverse stakeholders. Read more about SEWA Bharat’s experience in building and working with community leaders published in IDS Bulletin here.


Collective Entrepreneurship Can Do Wonders for Women in India

Alongside democratizing decision-making and offering security nets, collective social enterprises have given women the space to innovate and experiment with their entrepreneurial inclinations, thereby allowing rural women to enter non-traditional spaces and livelihoods. Read the primer about the status of collective social enterprises on The Bastion.





Regularising Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi: Well-Intended but Not Enough

A recent regularisation scheme promises to improve the tenure security of about 5 million Delhi residents. But how inclusive is the scheme and does it keep pace with the realities on the ground? Read the article to find out our critical take on Pradhan Mantri – Unauthorised Colonies in Delhi Awas Yojana.








SEWA Anubhuti: A Podcast Series

A grassroots podcastSEWA Anubhuti is a podcast initiative that imagines bringing the voices of our members, their lives, stories, struggles, and resilience to the outside world. You can listen to the podcast here.









Report of the SAMI Committee


India requires Standalone Microinsurance (SAMI) Companies, which focus solely on the needs of medium and small businesses, to turn them into successful enterprises. SAMIs will also protect low-income individuals against risks like death, accidents, and illness.

The Committee on Standalone Microinsurance (SAMI) Companies, chaired by Mirai Chatterjee (Director, SEWA Social Security) studied key issues and provided recommendations in its report on SAMIs.

The committee which was convened in February 2020 by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) included officials from IRDAI, Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), Quantum Mutual Fund, Office of Insurance Ombudsman in Bhubaneshwar, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), etc.


You can read the report here.



Roadmap for Women’s Economic Empowerment

In partnership with UN Women


The UN High-Level Panel Secretariat was hosted within UN Women with support from the United DFID, Government of the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). India was represented on the panel by Ms. Renana Jhabvala, President, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), and Chair, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). UN Women and SEWA were both part of the High-Level Panel and had joined hands to give life to the recommendations of the panel, identifying the seven drivers for women’s economic empowerment (WEE).

This report ‘Roadmap for Women’s Economic Empowerment with a Focus on Women in Informal Economy and Agriculture’ operationalizes the HLP’s Call to Action through evidence-based recommendations from the ground. It focuses on women in agriculture and the informal sector, identifying key concern areas in labour force participation, employment opportunities, unpaid work, the feminization of agriculture, access to resources, and gaps in organizing women workers.

You can read the report here.




Impact of Digital Assets on Women in the Informal Sector


In this study ‘Understanding the Impact of Digital Assets on Women in the Informal Service Sector,’ Sattva, in partnership with UN Women and SEWA Bharat, studies how digital assets enable women to reach wider markets, directly attain work opportunities, access information/communication avenues, and skilling resources.

Recent studies suggest that the digital revolution will address the unorganized sector’s inefficiencies, formalize work engagements, and increase employment/ income-generation opportunities available to women. This report analyses how digital mediums can enable women’s mobility in the service sector and throw light on various barriers and enablers impacting the adoption of digital assets by women.

You can read the report here.



The City Makers



Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) completes 25 years in 2020. To commemorate the occasion, Renanaben Jhabvala and Bijal Brahmbhatt write about the incredible journeys of poor women who have changed the cities they inhabit. The book tells stories of courageous women who live in informal settlements who acted to bring about change at the personal, community and, city levels, and the Mahila Housing Trust that supports and empowers them. It is now available for purchase online and in bookstores.








Anusuya captures in Hindi, anecdotes, opinions, and stories of struggles, resilience and achievements of SEWA women across 10 states. This edition of Anusuya covers SEWA communities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women of different trades in the informal sector face health, economic, and social consequences due to the pandemic’s effects on India’s economy, health systems, and infrastructure.


August 2020
 July 2020
September 1, 2020
September 16, 2020
October 1, 2020
October 16, 2020
November 1, 2020  November 16, 2020
December 1, 2020
December 16, 2020   June 16, 2021



Solar and renewable energy


In 2018, DFID India conceptualized an initiative to improve the participation of women in the solar sector workforce. They designed a project with SEWA Bharat and other partners to skill unemployed youth(a majority being women) in NP Kunta, Anantapur district, one of the backward regions in Andhra Pradesh.

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Anusuya – June 2020 (Hindi)

Anusuya June 2020


The June 2020 edition of Anusuya covers SEWA communities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women in the informal sector face health, economic, and social consequences due to the pandemic’s effects on India’s economy, health systems, and infrastructure.

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Employment Opportunities for Women in India’s Growing Financial Sector

India’s financial services sector has been among the fastest growing sectors in the economy, a trend that is likely to persist given the diverse opportunities that continue to emerge as the sector expands. There clearly exists potential employment for first-generation educated women from the informal sector who aspire to be gainfully employed in financial services. However, women’s share in employment  in Scheduled Commercial Banks remains at a dismal 22 percent and 12 percent in microfinance institutions. This paper aims to identify the opportunities available for women in India’s financial sector, and the obstacles they face in accessing them, both from the demand and supply side. The study has been undertaken by the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA_, which has, for years been working to improve women’s access to financial services in India, particularly for women who work in the informal sector and are in need of finance. It draws on multiple, small area studies that SEWA has conducted in different parts of India on barriers women face to accessing funds, as well as qualitative interviews commissioned as part of the World Bank’s Skill India Mission Operation (SIMO). Finally, the paper presents recommendations aimed at improving occupational choices and
employment for women in financial services in India.

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Piloting Basic Income: A Legacy Study 

micro-financeIn 2012-13, an unconditional and universal basic income was tested in a pilot study carried out  in a tribal village in Madhya Pradesh.  The pilot covered 127 households consisting of 756 individuals, and was evaluated through comparison with another tribal village with very similar socio-economic characteristics, containing 97 households and 608 individuals. In one tribal village, Ghodakhurd, for a period of 12 months, Rs.300 was paid to each adult and  half of that amount to children. In the control tribal village, i.e., Bhilami, none was paid any basic income. The complex outcomes of the pilot were evaluated by a set of  three comprehensive surveys, complemented by detailed ‘case studies’. These showed that the basic income induced a series of changes that added up to being transformational. In brief, the basic income had a strong positive welfare impact, in terms of living conditions, nutrition, health and schooling, and a strong economic impact, in terms of increased earned incomes, more work and productive labour and more assets. It also had both an equity impact as well as an emancipatory impact, in terms of reducing debt, increasing savings, enabling more people to respond to financial crises, and gaining the ability to make decisions for themselves.

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 Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India by Sarath Davala, Renana Jhabvala, Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Guy Standing



The book draws on two pilot schemes conducted in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, in which thousands of men, women and children were provided with an unconditional monthly cash payment. The book draws on a series of evaluation surveys conducted over the course of 18 months in which the main pilot was in operation, supplemented with detailed case studies of individuals and families.

It looks at the impact on health and nutrition, on schooling, on economic activity, on women’s agency and on the welfare of those with disabilities.

Above all, the book considers whether or not a basic income could be transformative, in not only improving individual and family welfare but in promoting economic growth and development, as well as having an emancipatory effect for people long mired in conditions of poverty and economic insecurity.

For a copy of this book, please email


 A Little More, How Much It Is..Piloting Basic Income Transfers in Madhya Pradesh, India

Screen Shot 2020-06-09 at 7.55.37 PMThe Madhya Pradesh Unconditional Cash Transfers Project (MPUCT) is an innovative pilot testing the potential that such transfers hold for addressing vulnerabilities faced by low income Indians. It is the first time that unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) have been subject to such a detailed assessment in India. The results of the pilot should assist those trying to reach a balanced judgment on whether or not UCTs can be incorporated into Indian social protection and economic policy.

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An Experimental Pilot Cash Transfer Study in Delhi

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To allow the choices and voices of poor households to be heard in the debate on cash transfers, SEWA conducted a small pilot study with the support of Government of Delhi and UNDP.The essential design was to allow some households in the sample the choice of equivalent cash transfer into a bank account in place of rations. These households then could not draw rations during the period of the pilot. Those receiving the cash transfer and those who continued in the current system were then interviewed and surveyed so their consumption patterns, and their views on cash transfers and rations, could be compiled and analysed. A number of lessons were learnt from our pilot study, and these inform our assessment of cash transfers.

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Accelerating Women’s Economic Empowerment in India Event Report

WEEIndiaIn 2016, the United Nations’ General Secretary set up a High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment (UNHLP), with the objective of making action-oriented recommendations on how to improve economic outcomes for women, promoting women’s leadership in driving economic growth, and galvanizing political will power. In order to adapt the insights from the panel to the Indian context, SEWA Bharat and the International Innovation Corps at the University of Chicago jointly hosted a roundtable discussion in April 2018, to consider emerging findings and deliberate on the questions that follow. The discussion brought together civil society, philanthropists, researchers, and international organizations, to discuss key questions pertinent to women’s economic empowerment. Insights and questions that emerged from the discussion are highlighted in this event report and video.

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This monograph is based on the findings of the Gujarat Social Income and Insecurity Survey (GSIS) conducted in 2007-08 amongst a sample of 1,407 respondents in Ahmedabad city and Surendrangar district. The GSIS explored the components of social income – an expanded definition of income, in which a person’s socio-economic security is the composite of several sources of income and support that includes private investments, employer benefits, community transfers and state benefits. Since twenty percent of the households sampled was SEWA members, the GSIS also gave SEWA the opportunity to measure the impact of our efforts, to determine how joining SEWA makes a difference.

The survey revealed a picture of life for workers in Gujarat, best characterized as insecure, except for the minority in salaried employment. Average incomes of workers have remained low at Rs. 127 per day, with women earning only 40 percent of that earned by men. We found that nearly two out of every five people were not able to procure enough food for their household. Infrastructure is certainly improving in Gujarat, although housing and sanitation amongst the poor remains a serious gap. In this environment, it is not surprising that crisis is ubiquitous: almost 80% of households faced a financial shock in the past year. In crisis, workers primarily depend on the community, with little support from employers or private investments for casual or non-salaried workers. Entitlements from the State, despite a wide array of schemes, remain ‘clogged’ in bureaucratic distribution channels.

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Advancing Cooperation among Women Workers in the Informal Economy: The SEWA Way

Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 2.02.00 PMThis report aims to provide an understanding of the challenges and opportunities for cooperatives and other SSE units in empowering women workers in the informal economy, with a specific focus on SEWA’s experience. It is based on individual interviews and focus group discussions with select cooperative leaders and members and also uses select studies presenting the forty-year experience of SEWA with cooperatives.

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On Sale: The Invisible Costs Behind the Price Tag

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The global garment supply chain is a worldwide production line of informal workers across many industries. To produce a single t-shirt, men, women, and children provide labor in farms, villages, and cities across the world. “On Sale” is an in-depth look into the global supply chain and the social and economic effects it has on the workers, environment, and consumers. This resource also provides a look at what SEWA is doing and how you can take steps in creating more transparent and sustainable production across the world.

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Energy Access and Women’s Livelihoods

Energy Livelihoods TitleWhile the level of poverty plays a key role in determining the access to energy sources, usage of a particular kind of energy source can perpetuate poverty. According to the International Energy Association, over 400 million people in India (36% of the total population) live without reliable electricity While several studies have delved into impact of energy access on quality of life of women, very few have looked into productive use of energy in women’s lives, particularly into how it impacted their livelihood. The ‘Energy Access and Women’s livelihoods’ study was planned to explore the matter in greater detail. The goal of the study is to promote the inclusion of women in the energy access supply chain by adoption of a gender-centric approach, and to strengthen inclusion of gender in energy plans, programs and policies at the local, regional and national level.

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Clean City, Decent Work: An Inclusive and Innovative Solution for Managing Waste

Waste management is a critical issue in India especially in rapidly expanding towns and cities where existing infrastructure and systems for dealing with waste are non-existent or inadequate. Faced with rapid population growth, poor governance, a lack of public awareness and limited funds, cities are struggling to find a way to responsibly manage ever increasing amounts of waste.

This report is intended for policy makers and practitioners involved in waste management and urban governance. It aims to document the challenges in Katihar district of Bihar, provide an overview of the SEWA model that has been developed in response to these problems, to outline the strategies and process deployed and to give an honest account of the challenges faced. It ends with an overview of future plans and with wider policy recommendations for waste management solutions.

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Deepening Financial Inclusion – Evidence from Two States – A SEWA-UNDP Initiative

SEWA conducted this study that largely covers the current status of financial literacy and financial inclusion in two states namely, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The study was focused on three aspects of financial inclusion that could lead to financial deepening viz. existing structures and level of financial literacy bringing out the need and necessity for it; existing level of financial or banking inclusion including usage of banking and other regulated products at an optimal cost and; use and understanding of different financial products profile including SCRIPT (Savings, Credit, Remittances, Insurance, Pensions and Transfers).

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Shram Jeevani: Women in the Informal Economy in Bihar

In an effort to make the hard working informal women labor in Bihar visible as workers, as enterprises and as contributors to the state and the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), SEWA Bharat in association with Government of Bihar conducted a study across the state.

The report was a cumulative approach to understand and recommend a decentralized approach to uplift and recognize the contribution and issues of women in informal labor.

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The Challenges of Maintaining Hygiene in Rural Bihar

Given widespread insecurities in water, latrine, and bathroom access a study was conducted to understand how these insecurities effect personal hygiene practices of poor women and girls in rural areas of Bihar. The study was carried out in 3 rural districts of Bihar (Bhagalpur, Munger, Katihar) to understand women’s daily and menstrual hygiene practices. 100 women and girls were surveyed and 6 focus group discussions (FGD) conducted. It focuses on hygiene practices of women not simply in their roles as mothers and caretakers of the sick and elderly but as individuals whose personal health, safety and dignity are also deeply impacted by WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) insecurities.

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