Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)

SEWA, IndiaSEWA is a trade union registered in 1972, at the initiative and leadership of Ela Bhatt. It is an organization of poor, self-employed women workers. These are women who earn a living through their own labour or small businesses. They do not obtain regular salaried employment with welfare benefits like workers in the organized sector. The unprotected or unorganized labour force of India constitutes 93 per cent of the labour force. Of the female labour force in India, more than 94 percent are unorganized and unprotected. Moreover, their work is not counted and hence remains invisible. In fact, women workers themselves remain uncounted, undercounted and invisible.

SEWA’s main goals are to organize women workers for full employment. Full employment means employment whereby workers obtain work security, income security, food security and social security (at least health care, child care and shelter). SEWA organizes women to ensure that every family obtains full employment. By self-reliance SEWA means that women should be autonomous and self-reliant, individually and collectively, both economically and in terms of their decision-making ability.

SEWA is not just a trade union, it is a movement of several inter-connected types of organizations supporting informal women workers, including cooperatives, social security organizations, savings and credit groups, a bank, a housing trust and many others – all under the SEWA umbrella.

Contact: Ms Renana Jhabvala, National Coordinator
+ 91 79 25506444+ 91 79 25506444 
+ 91 79 25506446+ 91 79 25506446 
Address: SEWA Reception Centre
Opp. Victoria Garden
Ahmedabad - 380 001


Mahila Housing SEWA Trust  (MHT) wins Global Resilience Award sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, Sida and USAID. Read news story.

Edward Webster wrote this paper as a result of research on SEWA including an interview with Ela Bhatt. Part of this paper was included in a presentation he gave at Kassel University where he had been appointed the first Ela Bhatt Visiting Professor. Read Webster's paper about Ela Bhatt

Ela Bhatt, a previous winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award (the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize), gave the keynote address at the 2012 reunion conference of Magsaysay award winners in Chennai, India.  This speech, given by Ela-ben on that occasion, relates to the central theme of Rio+20.  Read Ela Bhatt's keynote address: Green is Local: Local is Peace.

Ela Bhatt, founder of SEWA, is awarded an honorary degree and is commencement speaker at Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (May 2012) read news story  | read commencement address

SEWA produces regular newsletters about their work.

SEWA produces a newsletter, SEWA Rashtriya Patrika, SEWA’s Mouthpiece integrating women workers in national development.

See a presentation and a research paper about SEWA's social protection work.

Read newsletters from SETU Africa, about SEWA projects in Africa.

Read news articles about SEWA.

Read a journal article focused on SEWA in the journal Work, Employment and Society.

Read a National Geographic article, "In the Footsteps of Gandhi", which includes information about SEWA.