SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Ass.), India
Gujarat State women's SEWA Co-operative Federation Ltd. is an organisation working for women in Gujarat and beyond. The federation is the direct result of SEWA's conviction of women's participation in the co-operative movement, registered in 1992. The federation is a part of the larger family of SEWA sponsored organisations. The main aim of the federation is to ensure the active participation of poor women and self-employed women in the co-operative movement to enable them obtain regular work and a steady income through co-operative organisation. Sewa is a member of WFTO (International Federation for Alternative Trade) and NCUI (National Co-operative Union of India), as well as AEPC (Apparel Export Promotion Council).
Gujarat state women's SEWA Co-operative federation's main objectives are to enhance the economic and social development of its present and potential members and to encourage active participation of women in the co-operative movement. The federation strives to enhance their skills by providing education and training in entrepreneurship and provides advisory services and technical support services to its members.
Presently there are about 100 co-operatives in the SEWA federation, categorised as follows; artisanal, land based, livestock, trading, service, and credit co-operatives. Out of these the artisan co-operatives (which are the co-ops that supply Ganesha with products) are concerned with fair trade opportunities for the less privileged and exploited artisan members of the co-operatives. The co-operatives are categorised as per follows and also as groups; Abu dana block printing co-operative; Sabina patch work co-operative; Sachana embroidery co-operative; Puppet group; Ari work group; Crochet group; Tila zari group; Stitching group.
These artisan co-operatives produce traditional handicrafts, accessories, jewellery, home furnishings, garments, stationery items, gift articles, home decors, and puppets. The traditional crafts techniques employed are: block printing; tie and dye or bandhani; shibori; embroidery; ari embroidery; mirror work; patch work; appliqu?®; beadwork; zari tila work; badla work; papier mache; puppetry; screen printing.
For Sewa members, the benefits of membership are many, and keenly felt, since many experienced exploitation by middlemen, prior to accessing SEWA services: SEWA gives its members direct access to training, marketing, financial assistance (SEWA Bank), social security and services of SEWA Federation such as SEWA mahila co-operative bank, and other service co-operatives eg; vimo SEWA for insurance, bal sewa Co-operative for child care, health care co-operative for health and hygiene needs, SEWA Kalakruti and Banascraft for marketing facilities.
As the artisan co-operatives thrive on making new products, so SEWA assists in design development, and helps make products which command their own identity and price. The artisans are paid by fair means above normal paying standards followed by other industries. Not only does the consumer get the product at a fair price but the artisan worker also gets a fair wage. For the future, we plan to open a handicraft park / garments park for the artisan's products, to promote and market them locally.
We recognise the numerous challenges ahead, however. With globalisation, liberalisation and other economic changes, there are both new opportunities as well as threats to some traditional areas of employment. More than ever, our members are ready to face the winds of change. They know that they must organise to build their own strengths and to meet challenges and be very much the part of the mainstream society for which SEWA works towards women's leadership, their confidence, their bargaining power within and outside their homes and their representation in policy-making and decision-making towards which SEWA is supporting the members by capacity building and their own economic organisations.
Being involved with the fair trade market the artisan gets the benefit of the global marketplace and direct marketing, which increases their employment. And the consumer gets better quality, artisan-made products, at a good price.
One last word to consumers in the UK: you are
not only buying authentic, quality, handmade goods, but also giving a regular
livelihood to the women producers. You are changing the producers' quality of
life and bringing prosperity to the family of the poor self-employed.