Grassroots Leadership2022-04-11T05:48:56+00:00

Community Leaders and Agents of Change

Since its founding, SEWA has relied on a decentralized model to bring together women workers and address their needs. The cornerstones of this decentralized model are grassroots leaders called Aagewans.The term aagewan is derived from Gujarati, and is a portmanteau of the phrase “aage aane waali ben” (the sister who came forward), and essentially describes women who volunteer to represent and lead their communities. A leader among their peers, aagewans share the same precarious conditions as the women they represent. These women however take on the mantle of leadership and self-select into positions of responsibility for their communities, stepping forward to carry on the work that their communities need, and become advocates and grassroots champions for the women around them, and by extension the entire community.

Number of grassroots leaders
Beneficiaries of organising and advocacy work done by grassroots leaders
Trades represented by leaders
Thematic areas of work covered by community leaders

Our Approach

  • Leadership Training: Identifying women who will become leaders is critical to the work SEWA does. Community organisers and mobilisers work within communities to identify women with leadership qualities unique to their economic situations, and actively invest in helping these women become agents of change within their communities. Aagewans are encouraged to build bridges and networks within their local contexts, and lead their communities.
  • Capacity Building: SEWA builds the capacity of leaders through continuous training and handholding support.

Ongoing programs

Aagewan Vikas Program

The Aagewan Vikas program works with new leaders to train them in leadership and facilitation, rooted in the SEWA ideology.

Governance and Entrepreneurial Training

Leaders affiliated with collective enterprises and clusters of microentrepreneurs all undergo entrepreneurial training as well as governance training.


Last Mile Model

How can communities become more participatory in their own governance and thereby bridge the gap between the State and market on one hand and vulnerable populations on the other?

Case Studies

Sangitaben, Aagewan

The last week of June saw more and more migrant workers return to their villages from red zone cities. They were all assigned to quarantine centres for 14 days. Many wouldn’t abide, and were found roaming in their villages.

Tackling Domestic Abuse

The concerns arising through the lockdown are endless;  displacement, hunger, lack of shelter and distress with employment being the most paramount. With everyone held up indoors, there has been a significant rise of domestic violence cases reported across the country. One of SEWA’s community members, Manju Ben reported the same in one of the meetings. She was being abused by her husband and sister-in-law.

A Mask in Need

SEWA members in Misir Gonda, Kanke, in Ranchi, are domestic workers. Most of them were unable to go to work during the lockdown. In the grips of the financial crisis, when even food essentials became hard to come by, masks were a luxury that couldn’t be afforded.

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