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Since 1972, SEWA is both an organization of poor women workers and a movement for them to create better alternatives.

SEWA Movement

The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a women’s trade union that was started by women workers in Gujarat (1972) under the guidance of Smt. Ela Bhatt. Originally born out of the Textile Labor Association (TLA), India’s oldest and largest union of textile workers, SEWA is now a globally recognized organization of women workers in the informal economy.

For more, see the history of SEWA on SEWA Ahmedabad’s website.

SEWA’s Philosophical Roots

Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership during textile workers strike in 1917 continues to act as an inspirational model of struggle and development for SEWA today. SEWA’s commitments are:

  • To strengthen women through establishing a common identity as informal workers
  • To keep worker’s rights, needs, visions at the center
  • To empower women as leaders of their own programs
  • To uphold non-violence methods of demonstration

SEWA goals

At SEWA, we organize workers to achieve their goals of full employment and self-reliance through the strategy of struggle and development. The struggle is against the many constraints and limitations imposed on them by society and the economy, while development activities strengthen women’s bargaining power and offer them new alternatives. Practically, the strategy is carried out through the joint action of union and cooperatives.

  • Full employment means work that provides economic security, food security and social security.
  • Self-reliance aims to support women towards being autonomous and self-reliant both economically and in terms of their decision-making ability. Self-reliance is the basis of sustainability that is essential at the individual basis and also for SEWA’s women’s collectives, organizations, and cooperatives.


13 Year Annual Report Annual Report