Livelihood Security – SEWA’s
Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA ) is
not merely an organisation, but a powerful movement to empower women
through the creation of sustainable livelihoods. Read on...
approach to rural organizing is area specific and demand driven or
need based. The members are organized around a common issue or need
of the communities/ members. SEWA designs the programme by
strategically linking with existing Government programmes or
schemes, thus organizing village level primary groups/ co-operatives
of workers, and district level federations of workers/ producers.
This process of rural
organizing leads to building local workers' organizations and
generates alternative employment opportunities.
Currently, SEWA has a
membership of 1,80,209 members in 11 districts of Gujarat. The
members have been organized into 605 producer groups/ co-operatives,
3000 savings and credit groups, and 20 village Watershed
Associations. The above primary village organizations have federated
into eight district federations/ associations.
It is essential to
understand why SEWA has, in the first place, initiated livelihood
security programmes. It was observed that, amongst SEWA’s rural
members, the labour was surplus but less employment opportunities.
The first and foremost need of members was finding alternative
employment. SEWA thought of initiating area-specific economic
activities, based on local skill base and resources. Many of these
activities were land-based: poultry farming, nursery-raising, animal
husbandry, salt farming, gum collection, vegetable cultivation,
watershed activities, dairy development and fodder production as
well as mushroom cultivation. Different types of craft such as
applique work, beading, mirrorwork, Ari work, Pako embroidery,
Rabari embroidery, etc. were also encouraged. Village level primary
groups of producers, which then federated into district level
associations initiated these livelihood security activites. Once the
economic activities were established and stabilized, SEWA provided
supportive services such as banking (savings and credit programme)
and capacity building, both at the technical and managerial levels,
to its members.
However, for the past three
years, Gujarat has been severely affected by natural disasters. The
earthquake of 2001 only exacerbated the effects of the crippling
drought that played havoc with the lives of people of this region.
The poor workers of informal sector were pushed deeper into the
clutches of poverty. Many of them were forced to migrate to
semi-urban and urban areas. SEWA members demanded work rather than
only relief, during the drought and earthquake and showed their
eagerness to earn their own livelihood through their skills and
initiatives. In order to reduce risk and vulnerability of its
members, SEWA initiated disaster mitigation measures through
SEWA’s interventions –
rebuilding of livelihoods
During the drought of
2000, SEWA implemented several innovative programmes as part of the
drought relief activity. As drought proofing measures, SEWA took
different approaches. In Kutch, craft activity was tried out as a
means of livelihood, while in Surendranagar, salt activity proved to
be the livelihood providing activity. In Banaskantha, entire
regional development was taken up, including crafts, salt and
fodder. The work in various areas of artisan support programme,
forestry programme, masonry training programme and rainwater
harvesting work generated around 2.75 lakh man days of work for
around 10,000 families. Just when SEWA was consolidating its drought
proofing efforts, Gujarat experienced the worst ever earthquake.
SEWA immediately initiated the economic rehabilitation programme for
the earthquake affected members and their families. Some of the
major economic and social interventions of SEWA to restore
livelihoods of its members, with people’s participation are
highlighted below. These interventions have consolidated community
solidarity, provided alternative employment and have contributed to
children’s education and women empowerment.
Livelihood Security Fund
The three worst affected
districts of Kutch, Surendranagar and Patan have, in the last
decade, experienced floods, epidemic of malaria, two successive
cyclones, two successive droughts, and an earthquake. SEWA, based on
its past ten years of experience in building regional development
programmes in these disaster prone areas, designed a livelihood
security strategy for disaster preparedness and mitigation. SEWA
decided to set up a "Livelihood Security Task Force", comprising
representatives from the Government of India, NGOs and experts in
the areas of disaster mitigation and rehabilitation. Based on this
plan, a "Livelihood Security Fund" would be made operational. This
would act as a vulnerability and risk reduction measure for poor
communities and provide livelihood security through sustained
economic programmes, based on local skills and resources. The Fund
would be treated as a "Revolving Fund or Working Capital" for each
district, towards the production of craft, salt and fodder goods.
Craft as Livelihood Security
More than 15,000 artisan
families live in the districts of Kutch, Patan and Surendranagar.
SEWA initiated craft production for immediate relief to artisans.
Temporary shelters were provided and each artisan family was
provided with a craft bag with necessary raw material for one week.
Every week, spearhead teams collected the finished goods and
provided a new craft bag for the next week. Artisans were given spot
payments of Rs. 40 per day. The revenue generated was to the tune of
Salt pans in the deserts
had been damaged by the earthquake, thus affecting salt
crystalisation. Salt farmers had incurred heavy losses. Entire
saltpans had to be rebuilt as early as possible. It was estimated
that salt farmers would need a working capital of Rs. 30,000 per
farmer so that they could level the land, rebuild salt pans, brine
wells, install pump sets and prepare the pans for evaporation and
crystallisation. SEWA geared up to help salt farmers restart salt
farming activities and they were able to reap at least one salt
harvest by May 2001.
houses were damaged by the earthquake. SEWA, with the inputs of
expert organisations such as the Disaster Mitigation Institute and
the People’s Science Institute, Dehradun, designed monsoon, cyclone
and earthquake resistant houses of 11 ft X 20 ft dimension. The cost
of each dwelling unit was Rs. 55,000, out of which 70% was a grant
to the family. SEWA involved communities in the reconstruction. The
approach was to have owner driven housing reconstruction programmes.
This would also generate local employment. SEWA initiated a two
month technical training programme in masonry and construction work.
Trainees were provided a stipend of Rs. 40 per day. Local
communities were also trained in developing appropriate building
materials, such as micro concrete roofing tiles.
This included levelling
of land and revival of bore wells. The small and marginal
farmers would be provided with scientific agricultural kits
containing improved variety of seeds, tools and equipment, prepared
in collaboration with the Rural Technology Institute, Gujarat and
the Gujarat Agriculture University.
Reviving and Regenerating
SEWA’s water campaign
team mobilised local communities and technical training to local
people in the revival of bore wells, the construction and deepening
of ponds and the construction of roof rain water harvesting
structures. Most of the water harvesting structures were
reconstructed before the onset of summer.
SEWA insurance insured
at least 50,000 women in the three affected districts. Spearhead
teams of local women leaders in all districts were consolidated.
These women promoted insurance services in their villages and served
as a link between their communities and SEWA insurance, helping the
insured with claim applications and procedures. Small trainings were
also organised in the villages to promote and encourage women to
seek insurance coverage. The concept of insurance was elucidated.
Amongst other livelihood
building activities, SEWA initiated non-formal schools for the
education of children. It introduced "Aakashganga" and
earthquake preparedness trainings for children. Decline in
nutrition status followed the earthquake. SEWA set up low cost
mobile ration shops managed by women. Earnings of women through
crafts and training stipends were partially given in kind – i.e.
foodgrains and other food items in "Shakti Packets", SEWA’s ongoing
food security programme. SEWA thus tried to build up and maintain
acceptable nutritional levels. Monitoriting and promotion of
health was also undertaken by SEWA members in villages. Forty
women obtained intensive primary health care training. Spearhead
teams of barefoot doctors were built up, to provide primary care and
The table below gives a
brief summary of SEWA's major economic interventions and revenue
The entire effort of
livelihood building by SEWA was collaborative and participatory.
This implicated grassroots, member based organisations, technical
support organisations and resource agencies. The implementation of
its livelihood security measures was undertaken through village
level micro planning and district-wise implementation by district
level associations (the Kutch Craft Association, the Banaskantha
DWCRA Association, the Surendranagar Mahila and Balvikas Mandal).
Technical support organisations such as SEWA Bank, Mahila Housing
Trust, SEWA Academy, Disaster Mitigation Institute, SEWA-AMA Centre
and Resource Organisations, notably the People’s Science Institute,
The Gujarat Institute of Development Research and NCAER, Dastakar
and NIFT were also mobilised. The entire institutional arrangement
and implementation strategy constituted SEWA’s integrated approach
towards developing a model of sustainable development with disaster
mitigation and livelihood building as its goal.
The SEWA Movement
The SEWA movement is
committed to mainstreaming of the people’s sector. It is a movement
for economic freedom of poor self-employed women so that they may
enter the economic mainstream and markets by organising their
strength. It does this through sponsoring membership-based
organisations at local, state, national and international levels –
self-help groups, co-operatives, mandals, etc. There are about 1300
such small village or mohalla level organisations, 85 co-operatives
and 11 district federations.
* General Secretary
Self Employed Women’s
Opp. Lok Manya Tilak Baug
Bhadra, Ahmedabad – 380 001
Phone No: 0091-79-5506446
Fax No: 0091-79-5506446
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
(in Indian Rupees)
(in Indian Rupees)
Craft as a
livelihood security programme
Fodder Bank - to
strengthen animal husbandry