Self-Employed Women’s Association
= Based in India: "The largest organization of informal workers anywhere in the world. SEWA, a union of 1.5 million members and a federation of cooperatives with over 300,000 members".
"The largest organization of informal workers anywhere in the world. SEWA, a union of 1.5 million members and a federation of cooperatives with over 300,000 members offering services such as child care and insurance, is headquartered in Ahmedabad but operates all across India, organizing poor women workers in the informal economy." (https://platform.coop/stories/we-are-poor-but-we-are-many)
"SEWA union launched in 1972 with a small group of women who wanted to secure micro-loans to start their own businesses. Having been told they were “not bankable” by the nationalized state banks at the time, founder Ela Bhatt helped them learn to launch their own bank. By pooling their resources, and with contributions as little as ten rupees from many women in the community, SEWA established its own cooperative bank in 1974 with 100,000 Indian Rupees, or slightly more than 1377 U.S. dollars. The women began to recognize their own power. Ela Bhatt’s first book was consequently titled “We Are Poor but So Many.” Next, the women turned their attention to reducing medical expenses, as they were proving to be an obstacle to the women paying back their loans. Within a few years SEWA created a healthcare cooperative, which now provides affordable medicine. More and more enterprises continued to develop under the cooperative model. And while SEWA focused first on organizing urban women, they eventually also expanded into rural areas.
Today, Sewa Federation is comprised of 106 cooperatives, working in industries such as milk production and financial services, prescription medications and garment manufacturing. Importantly, Sewa Federation is a multi-denominational enterprise with women from various religious backgrounds: Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jainist, and Buddhist. Sewa offers a range of services: from education to catering, childcare, and other services. The key to SEWA’s success has been its integrative approach, centering an entire ecosystem of co-ops around the needs of poor self-employed women in the informal economy." (https://platform.coop/stories/we-are-poor-but-we-are-many)
- "Learn more about SEWA’s unique approach through this report from the International Labor Organization (ILO)", http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/cooperatives/publications/WCMS_624147/lang--en/index.htm