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SEWA Delhi members gathered in a ‘dharna’ (demonstration) in order to demonstrate the need for a cohesive street vendor policy. The bill was passed and was a huge success for SEWA Bharat’s long-term street vendor advocacy campaign and a huge milestone in securing rights for street vendors across India. Photo: SEWA Bharat.

SEWA Delhi

Delhi’s informal economy workforce remains unrecognized despite being 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 them out of poverty. SEWA’s work in Delhi began with women vegetable vendors in Jahangirpuri area.

While organising began in a small locality, other women soon joined as they shared common livelihoods, concerns, and goals. SEWA Delhi now covers 11 areas of the city including: Jahangirpuri (North Delhi); Raghubir Nagar, Sonia Vihar (West Delhi); Sunder Nagari, Gokulpuri, Rajiv Nagar and New Ashok Nagar (East Delhi); Anand Vihar (North-East Delhi), Nand Nagri, Mulla Colony and Mustafabad.

Sewa Delhi Key Achievements

  • Becoming registered as an independent trust in 2007
  • Building a membership base with over 50,000 informal women workers
  • Establishing a women owned and operated financial institution called the Mahila SEWA Urban Thrift and Credit Cooperative
  • Contributing to successful passing of Street Vendors Bill

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.”

SEWA Delhi’s network of over 50,000 women have access to leadership building, finance training, and other social security programs that enable women to make positive changes in their communities.

SEWA Delhi advocacy for the rights of women workers in the informal sector is connected to the nation-wide advocacy of SEWA Bharat. SEWA Delhi is a crucial part of a wider SEWA movement to empower poor women workers around India.


13 Year Annual Report Annual Report