From Development to Empowerment: The Self-Employed Women's Association in India

  • Rekha Datta


Since the 1970s, development experts have increasingly focused on how development policies and strategies affect women in developing countries. In recent years, the emphasis has included empowerment, which increases women's decision-making capability and well-being. This essay is an account of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in India, a trade union for self-employed women since 1972. It analyzes the strategies that SEWA has used to mobilize and empower self-employed women in India, using materials and data collected on a field visit in 1998.

Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) empowerment trade union cooperative SEWA Academy 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Afshar, Haleh ed. 1998. Women and Empowerment: Illustrations From the Third World. New York: St. Martin's.Google Scholar
  2. Beneria, Lourdes. 2001. “New Employment Patterns, Informalization, and Women's Work.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, Vol. 15, No. 1, Fall.Google Scholar
  3. Bhatt, Ela R. and Bishwaroop Das. Undated. Mainstreaming The Informal Sector Women. Ahmedabad, India.: SEWA Academy.Google Scholar
  4. Boris, Eileen and Elisabeth Prugl, ed. 1996. Homeworkers in Global Perspective: Invisible No More. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Bookman, Ann and Sandra Morgen. 1988. Women and the Politics of Empowerment. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Boserup, Ester. 1970. Woman's Role in Economic Development. New York: St. Martin's.Google Scholar
  7. Bystydzienski, Jill M. 1992. Women Transforming Politics: Worldwide Strategies for Empowerment. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Calman, Leslie J. 1992. Toward Empowerment: Women and Movement Politics in India. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  9. Creevey, Lucy. 1986. Women Farmers in Africa. New York: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Datta, R. and J. Kornberg Ed. 2002. Women in Developing Countries: Strategies of Empowerment. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Ong, Aihya. 1987. Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline: Factory Women in Malaysia Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kabeer, Naila. 2001. “Conflicts Over Credit: Re-Evaluating the Empowerment Potential of Loans to Women in Rural Bangladesh,” World Development, Vol. 29, #1.Google Scholar
  13. Kabeer, Naila. 1994. Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought. New York: W.W.Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  14. March, Kathryn March and Rachelle Taqqu. 1986. Women's Informal Associations in Developing Countries. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  15. Moser, Caroline Moser. 1993. Gender Planning and Development: Theory, Practice, and Training. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Nanavaty, Reema. 1994. We Can, We Will: Women's Empowerment and DWCRA Program. SEWA Paper Series, Working paper No. 3. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA Academy.Google Scholar
  17. Oppong, Christine. 1987. Seven Roles of Women: Impact of Education, Migration and Employment. Geneva: International Labor Office.Google Scholar
  18. Rose, Kalima. 1992. Where Women are Leaders: The SEWA Movement in India. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, a division of Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Rowbotham, Sheila and S. Mitter Ed. 1993. Dignity and Daily Bread: New Forms of Economic Organising among Poor Women in the Third World & the First. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Samarsinghe, Vidyamali. 1993. “Puppets on a string: women's wage work and empowerment among female tea plantation workers of Sri Lanka,” Journal of Developing Areas, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 329–40.Google Scholar
  21. Sen, Gita and Karen Grown. 1987. Development, Crises and Alternative Visions: Third World Women's Perspectives. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  22. SEWA 2000. Annual Report. Ahmedabad, India: Shri Mahila Trust, SEWA.Google Scholar
  23. SEWA 1999. Annual Report. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA.Google Scholar
  24. SEWA 1998. Annual Report. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA.Google Scholar
  25. SEWA Academy. 1996. Evaluation Study of Literacy Classes run by SEWA Academy. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA Academy.Google Scholar
  26. SEWA 1997. Annual Report. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA.Google Scholar
  27. SEWA 1995. SEWA, 1995 Study. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA.Google Scholar
  28. SEWA Academy. 1988. Shramashakti—Report of the National Commission on Self-Employed Women and Women in the Informal Sector. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA Academy.Google Scholar
  29. SEWA Academy. Undated. SEWA Bank. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA Academy.Google Scholar
  30. Sinha, Sanjay, Joh Samuel and Ben Quinones. “Microfinance in India: Adjusting to Economic Liberalization.” 2000. In Joe Remenyi and Benjamin Quinones Jr. Microfinance and Poverty Alleviation. London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  31. Tinker, Irene and Michelle Bo Bramson ed. 1976. Women and World Development. Washington, D.C.: Overseas Development Council.Google Scholar
  32. Varma, A.P., Rehman, M.M., and Chauhan, Poonam S. 1994. Women Labor in India. Noida, India: V. V. Giri National Labor Institute.Google Scholar
  33. Video SEWA Information Bulletin. Undated. Ahmedabad, India: SEWA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rekha Datta
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceMonmouth UniversityWest Long Branch

Personalised recommendations