Organizing and Collectivizing Women
SEWA is a member-based organization. Its members, women workers in the informal sector, are the heart and focus of its efforts. SEWA strengthens the community of women workers and their families in the informal sector by uniting and organizing.
As women workers engage and collectivize for local action, they become visible as workers. Through the process of building their organization they are able to facilitate processes to advance their rights and livelihood options. SEWA is able to understand and transmit the issues members face across broad audiences, from a local to a national perspective. All of SEWA’s programs, from health to microfinance, rely on the strong unity and identity that SEWA develops through the organization.
SEWA’s Direction and Approaches Reflect the Needs of its Communities
Building Local Leadership
The emergence of women leaders and the development of their abilities is a major focus of the organization. Keeping the local/mohalla groups united and responsive to needs of the members is the responsibility of the leaders/aagewans. As leaders grow in their abilities they also advocate for rights and take up the issues they face at local levels and in their trades.
A number of fulltimers and other professionals assist in strengthening women’s individual and collective capacities through training, workshops, exposure visits, seminars, and conferences. Specialized training has been developed under each program theme such as technical skill building and establishing of microenterprises to enhane livelihoods; financial literacy within microfinance; and assistance to avail government schemes under social security and health. Exposure visits for women workers promote intra- and inter-institutional sharing between SEWA organizations and other agencies, NGOs, and government departments.
Shifting from Offline to Online
During COVID, most organizing efforts shifted online (instead of coming to a halt). Various types of digital training happened, via different SEWA institutions to equip members with the digital know-how required. Aagewans were given digital training to operate WhatsApp, Zoom, and Google Meets. This digital capacity building for some women – helped them in collecting, mobilizing, and organizing other women. In short, spread over 19 states of India, the SEWA movement tries to develop a ‘sangharsh aur nirman’ process to sustain the life and livelihood of informal women workers.
Navniti: A New Direction
Young girls of Suri village in Almora, and Bikaner in Rajasthan, are part of the film based on the Navniti programme, meaning “new direction”. This film, which focuses on building youth as agents of positive social change, was directed by Prabuddha Paul for SEWA Bharat.
Youth, especially young girls, from rural communities remain cut-off from social forums due to lack of awareness, exposure to public platforms and low mobility. Our aim through the Navniti programme is to work with young girls in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal through a dual approach – by increasing their engagement in social issues within and outside their communities; and skill building that can improve their access to services, including healthcare, nutrition and education