Posted on:15-10-2011 12:32:52

The Self Employed Women’s Association’s (SEWA) a trade union in India for women workers in the informal sector, and its microfinance arm, SEWA Bank, combined multiple sources of financial investment, safety nets and support for poor working women. Microfinance-plus aimed directly at empowering women in the state of , by taking a comprehensive approach to strengthening their livelihoods; ensuring their financial security; and addressing their rights, health and social concerns. Since its inception, SEWA microfinance-plus services have reached more than half a million women in India, providing them with access to information and rights as workers, increasing their income, and contributing to their individual- and household-level well-being. It has also provided women with a greater sense of self confidence and the ability to negotiate their concerns at home and in the community. SEWA yielded many of these achievements even amidst limited growth in the Indian economy during the 1970s and 1980s when national investments in infrastructure development; gender-equitable legal reform; law enforcement; and changes in financial, labor and trade markets were limited and variable. The innovation’s design and evolution owe much to its female founding champion, Ela Bhatt, but also to successful partnerships between the women’s movement, government, private sector and international agencies. SEWA’s women members have also played a central role in shaping and diffusing the innovation of microfinance-plus.

Source: Chen, M. (2005). Towards Economic Freedom—the impact of SEWA. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA Academy.

Chen, M., and Snodrass, D. (2001). Managing resources, activities, and urban risk in India: The Impact of SEWA Bank. Washington, D.C.: Assessing the impact of micro-enterprise services.

Schuler, S., Hashemi, S., and H. Pandit. (1995). Beyond Credit: SEWA’s Approach to Women’s Empowerment and Influence on Women’s Reproductive Lives in Urban India. Arlington, Virginia: John Snow Inc. Research and Training Institute.

Source: This story is taken from a document by Anju Malhotra, Jennifer Schulte, Payal Patel and Patti Petesch, 2009, ‘Innovation for Women’s empowerment and Gender Equality,’ published by International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

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