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Ela Bhatt and Her SEWA

March 31, 2013  by: Xavier  Points: 8   Category: Inspirational Stories  Earning $0.20   Views: 825

Ela Bhatt, a woman social worker in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, has done a great service to the poor self-employed women of unorganized sector with her organization, SEWA.


In the world there have been always some persons who see the suffering of others and decide to do something for the betterment of their lives. Among such persons a kind and courageous woman of Gujrat, Ela Bhatt, has done something which has benefited thousands of women workers of the unorganized sector. Many of these women are milkmaids, vegetable vendors, housemaids, head loaders and some of them are even hand cart pullers. Pulling hand carts and carrying heavy load on head needs more physical labor, so these are considered to be a jobs more suitable for men.
Ela Bhatt was the head of the Women's Wing of the trade union named Textile Labour Association(TLA), when a group of migrant women working as cart pullers approached her to do something for them. These women literally lived on the streets. While surveying their condition Ela also met women employed as head loaders and learnt about their low and erratic wages. She was filled with sympathy for these women and founded SEWA in December 1971. SEWA, which is an acronym for Self Employed Women's Association, has rendered yeoman's service to the women laborers of the unorganized sector. "Sewa" is a Hindi word meaning service, a word also used in many other Indian languages with the same meaning. SEWA has become a synonym of service to poor self employed women with many of its sister organizations. Some of the services offered by SEWA are as follows:
1. SEWA has a banking system which provides loans to the member women. The loans can be returned in easy monthly installments.
2. The member women are provided with necessary knowhow required in their chosen field of work. For example the milkmaids are taught how to take care of their cattle, what and how to feed them, how to manage their budget etc. The vegetable vendors are taught to keep account of their profit and loss, purchase and sale techniques and preservation methods.
3. The illiterate among them are taught to read and write. They are taught to handle their passbooks without anyone's help. This has given them a sense of pride as they can sign their own name while depositing or withdrawing money from the bank.
4. The member women learn child care, health and hygiene, family planning in the supportive atmosphere of their sister members.
These and many other kinds of service are rendered by SEWA and its sister organizations. Today, member women number over a million, who bless the name of SEWA for the improvement it has brought in their lives. Ela herself was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for her work in 1977. This placed SEWA in the limelight of international recognition. It gained the support of World Bank which wishes similar type of work done in underdeveloped and developing countries.


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