SEWA (Self Employed Women Association) is one of the most successful example of the power of the empowerment of approach to the poverty

PROGETTO SVILUPPO (CGIL) and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affair are funding a three year project for the empowerment of rights of women in the state of Gujarat (India). Indian Academy for Self Employed Women (IASEW) or SEWA Academy is the local partner of the project and is a sister organization of SEWA. IASEW was created in response to the capacity-building needs of poor, self-employed women workers of the informal economy.

The initiative aims to promote full rights, civil and political rights for women, enhancing the communication structure and formation of the association of working women, SEWA, which plays a central role in coordination, promotion, organization and management of training activities at different levels and for different target as large associative network. The specific objective of the project is therefore strengthening the training of human resources of the association, as a tool for the empowerment of women in the family, the village, community, in the political, social and economic environment.

The main activities are:

  • Establishment of a computer-communication hub (Manipur) for the villages, in order to integrate and connect the activities in rural areas with those carried out in urban area;
  • Empowerment of members through training of leaders and managers, with particular attention on Decent Work program for the dissemination of regulations ILO (legal framework and practical applications) on decent work;
  • Training for young women, health-related (basic education, contraception to avoid the frequency of pregnancies, AIDS prevention, etc.).
  • Training on computer systems, communications (radio and video recording laboratories);
  • Primary education (literacy courses) and vocational (technical and professional) trainings.

So far the costs/benefits analysis of project shows that the allocation of financial resources is having a very positive impact on the beneficiaries (the districts of Ahmedabad, communities, villages, rural areas of the state of Gujarat).

At the end of the project (28 March 2013), considering only the educational activities (courses / seminars, internships in Italy, scholarships, purchase equipment for training and various initiatives) to be completed in the third project year, it is expected to cover a target of 4.550 beneficiaries.

Without mentioning the positive effects – which cannot be evaluated in monetary terms – that this project is making on socio-economic conditions (labor rights, health, etc.) of concerned communities and women.

Training wise it can be said in general the project has a significant impact on women and issues of work in the informal sector. In particular, in 2011-12, more than 2.000 women have opened a bank account at the bank of a SEWA and, through small loans (micro-credit), have been able to improve the economic conditions of their own families. Unfortunately, the women lack to understand the importance of identifying themselves as "working women". Thanks to the different trainings, the beneficiaries have increased their awareness as persons who fully participate and assist to the global economy. In addition, the creation of (No. 3) multimedia centers in the villages has achieved approximately 2,500 women, encouraging interactive discussion platforms on general topics relevant to local communities.

Indirectly, the program is having a significant impact on the employment rate of women in the state of Gujarat, which can be estimated - in the third project year - around 700 units.

Considering the overall situation in India, women in the informal economy may be working as home based workers, wage labour or unpaid workers. Since they are largely confined to the home and household matters, their level of exposure to the outside world is limited. A large proportion is illiterate and their political participation is likely either to be low or not well informed.

Among different project activities, great effort and importance are given to literacy program run in the villages as well in the urban areas of Ahmedabad district.

The objective of the literacy training is to help women to be independent by acquiring basic literacy and numeracy. Specifically, the course provides the teaching of how to hold writing tools, drawing lessons, information on alphabet, syllabic, writing and reading, identification of additional signs, numbers and composition of words trough the use of cards, bracelets, boxes of matches, etc. The age of participants varies from 8 to 55. The literacy training is spread over a year and is a long term daily engagement. Classes are held six days a week and for two hours every day. The teachers are recruited from the community itself. Extensive teachers training is imparted to them focusing on development of women members. Monthly meetings are held for teachers and supervisors.

This training has significant immediate impact on women, communities and society.

Article provided by CGIL