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In Ahmedabad resides a trade union with a difference. The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is an organisation of self-employed women workers from across the country that acknowledges and addresses the needs of income, food and social security of those women who earn a living through casual labour or small, unregistered businesses.

Over 94% of the female workforce in India is in the unorganised sector. This means that their contribution is considered all but non-existent and that there is a glaring indifference towards their needs, insecurities and even towards their very identities.

SEWA is working towards filling that void by exercising their two-pronged strategy of Full Employment and Self-Reliance. Their services to those women who work in the unorganised sector include supportive ones such as savings and credit accounts, health care, child care, insurance, legal aid, capacity building and communication services. These are provided at the doorstep of the women in a decentralised and affordable manner. Further, these supportive services are, in themselves, a source of self-employment. For example, midwives charge for their services and crèche workers collect fees for taking care of young children.

At SEWA, the belief in the Power of 49 in terms of the woman’s role in society is inherent. Women are considered the determinants of culture, values, and plausibly, of the future of the nation. The clarity of thought in SEWA’s objectives and the team’s single-mindedness towards achieving them is truly an example of the power that the women of this country possess.

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