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Delhi’s informal economy workforce remains unrecognized despite being an important economic driver in the nation’s capital. Since 1999, SEWA has been organising women in order to bring them out of the shadows, support their livelihoods, and lift themselves out of poverty. SEWA Delhi began with a group of vegetable vendors in Jahangirpuri  and has since expanded to over 53,200 informal members. SEWA Delhi’s membership is a diverse group of street vendors, construction workers, domestic workers, and home-based workers across 11 areas of the city.

SEWA Delhi enhances the lives of members through an integrated approach, uplifting and empowering women and communities through:

  • Organizing: SEWA Delhi encourages the growth of grassroots leaders by providing legal and leadership training as well as encouraging local meetings to discuss community issues.
  • Advocacy: SEWA Delhi organizes the collective concerns of members and connects the women to government platforms to change and improve legislation. Some recent examples are the Street Vendors Bill of 2014 and registered 3,500 construction workers with the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board since 2008
  • Livelihoods: SEWA Delhi runs a producer company, Ruaab, which employs close to 500 home-based workers. In addition to market wages and stable employment opportunities, Ruaab workers receive skill training and access to domestic and international markets.
  • Skills and Education: SEWA runs several Youth Programs in Delhi to give girls appropriate skills to be gainfully and fulfillingly employed as well as connect girls to local college student mentors and professionals
  • Social Security and Health: SEWA Delhi informs members of social benefits and provides them the resources to receive government benefits, such as pensions, voter ID cards, and birth certificates. SEWA Delhi also offers health clinics and camps to prevent and treat illnesses
  • Community Microfinance: SEWA Delhi encourages members to save and build assets through the cooperative bank, which help women become more financially literate and give access to credit at fair rates.

Worker Story: Sitara

sitara1For migrant workers in Delhi, a new life is a welcomed change. But it comes with startling challenges. When Sitara and her family left their village in Uttar Pradesh, she never imagined the difficult living conditions they would face in Sundernagari, a former slum area on the outskirts of East Delhi. In the summer, the government water supply is cut, the ‘urban village’ residents are forced to drink from borehole tubing from the ground, and a sewage trench surrounding the colony is used for defecation.

On top of poor living conditions, economic stability is precarious and exploitative employment is the norm. Sitara’s husband, Nasir, found work as a daily wage labourer, but while expenses were regular, his work was not. Sitara needed to find a way to support her husband and four children. However, like many village women, Sitara had barely any schooling and no formal job training. She began embroidery work for irregular contractors who would pay her low piece rates. Despite supplementing the family’s income, Sitara found that her family was still suffering.

In 2005, SEWA Bharat opened a center for women embroidery workers. SEWA outreach workers approached Sitara about joining the centre, but faced a common list of problems encountered when organising poor women: the women’s lack of confidence, fear, and skepticism. Without training and education, poor informal women workers are frozen in the shadows of the mainstream market.

SEWA’s grassroots empowerment model helps given women like Sitara role models, confidence, and opportunities. Sitara joined SEWA’s embroidery center and began to earn a fair rate for her embroidery work – more than double what contractors paid. Sitara now supplements her family’s income by Rs. 2,500-3,000 per month. Sitara is also a shareholder in SEWA’s embroidery cooperative called the SEWA Ruaab Artisans Company. Sitara has tapped into SEWA’s diverse development activities and has three savings accounts in SEWA Delhi’s Thrift and Credit Cooperative.

Sitara’s advancement extends beyond economical and financial improvements; she now is confident and empowered. Sitara says, “Since working for SEWA, I feel like I am able to express myself.”



13 Year Annual Report Annual Report