SEWA India – Feminism in Action

Posted by Irresponsibility

If I paid any attention to my mother’s exhortation to “not say anything at all” if I can’t say something nice Irresponsibility would be a pretty sparse affair. I take her point, however, that it is important to give air to the good stuff — if and when you find it.

India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
is one of the good things. Founded in 1972 by Ela Bhatt, a groundbreaking woman lawyer, the SEWA organises and provides credit, health insurance, pensions and other essential safety net services to hundreds of thousands of self-employed Indian women. There is a nice article in the IHT about it, well worth reading.

I only wish they had chosen a less patronising title than: A hand that lift’s India’s downtrodden women; it makes it sound like these hard-working women are beggers. They aren’t, they are workers; and SEWA isn’t a charity, it’s a trade union. Ela Bhatt, addressing the UN General Assembly, said:

In my experience, the link between poverty and growth is decent work. Decent work means full employment at the household level; it builds the local economy and strengthens a community. Employers are constantly searching the globe for cheap labor; but the jobs they create abroad cannot build a
society, or even a sustainable economy. Special economic zones are nothing but glorified laborcamps; they force migration and the break down of families and society.

SEWA‘s members are not looking for a ‘hand up’, they are creating the futures with their own hands. All they asking is the first world not fuck them over with oppressive economic policies.


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3 thoughts on “SEWA India – Feminism in Action

  1. Yes, Ela Bhatt and SEWA are seriously inspirational. And what she says about decent work is of course true. One of the many barriers to women getting decent work,though, is that they carry a disproportionate burden of unpaid household work (finding and carrying drinking water and fuel etc) and thus even if they could find “decent” paying work, they don’t have the time to do it. Correcting infrastructure shortfalls – giving people easy access to clean water and fuel for starters – is a necessary precondition for widespread opportunity for women.

    OK. I’ll step off my soapbox now. Thanks for being the first commenter on my blog. If I knew how to send you a gold star, I would.

  2. Pingback: Agendered » Blog Archive » SEWA - Feminist Action in India

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