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Strengthening Socio-Economic Rights of Women in the Informal Economy: The SEWA Approach in West Bengal and Jharkhand

October, 2020

Women working in India’s informal sector face several vulnerabilities and are often denied decent working conditions and wages. This further exacerbates inequities and pushes them towards high risk poverty. The situation is worse for women belonging to socially disadvantaged castes and communities. Evidence from India and other contexts shows that the working poor in the informal economy, particularly women, need to organise themselves to overcome the structural disadvantages they face. Organisation gives these otherwise marginalised workers the power of solidarity and a platform to be seen and heard by decision makers with the power to affect their lives.

Since 1972, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is working as an organisation of poor women workers and a movement to create better alternatives. SEWA is currently operative in many states across the country and has a membership base of nearly 2 million women workers in the informal economy, comprising domestic workers, street vendors, agricultural workers, construction labourers, salt workers, beedi and papad rollers and such other vulnerable categories. SEWA’s programme in Jharkhand and West Bengal aims to increase the collective bargaining strength of women, particularly those working as agricultural workers, domestic workers and construction labourers (in the former state) and female beedi rollers in West Bengal. The programme aims to improve women’s access to and understanding of basic services, such as health and sanitation, and also increase their ability to demand local accountability through nurturing of grassroots leadership. The study tries to understand the impact that various components of its programme have had on informal women workers in Jharkhand and West Bengal. The women included in the study were predominantly engaged in beedi rolling, domestic work, construction work, agriculture and street vending.


Resource Type Report

Partner Organisation SEWA

Topics Women informal workers, COVID-19

Authors Ayushi Gupta, Kanika Jha Kingra