the gender and disaster sourcebook

a resource of GDN

Sourcebook Home > Good Practice: Gender And Risk Reduction Projects > Self-Employed Women's Association [SEWA]
ICON: Good Practice: Gender And Risk Reduction  Projects Good Practice: Gender And Risk Reduction  Projects
> Women's Initiatives
> Organizational Section

Self-Employed Women's Association [SEWA]

As described on their website, SEWA is a trade union registered in 1972 on behalf of uncounted, undercounted and invisible women, more than 94% of whom labor in the unorganized and informal economy. SEWA projects build on and reflect the labor movement, the coop movement and women’s movement. They have active and sustained projects for capacity building and self-help through women’s banks, health care and law projects, media skills, child care, campaigns to organize women in particular sectors, and disaster mitigation and response. SEWA’s campaigns for training women in construction techniques, offering disaster insurance policies, and developing women’s leadership skills at the grassroots level have made them a vital link for poor women affected by slow- and rapid-onset disasters.

SEWA’s focus on economic empowerment and capacity development helps low-income women resist the effects of disasters of all kind. One example is the VIMO insurance program which (as described on the website) “is an integrated insurance program aiming to provide social protection for SEWA members to cover their life cycle needs and the various risks they face in their lives, through an insurance organisation in which they themselves are users, owners and managers of all services. Crises such as illness, widowhood, accident, fire, communal riots, floods and other such natural and man-made calamities result in loss of work, income and assets for poor working families.

SEWA’s network of village-based self-help groups positions them to promote risk reducing practices at the household level and respond immediately to disastrous events. In the aftermath of the 2001 Gujarat quake they undertook emergency operations including district, block and village level assessments, relief distribution and livelihood reconstruction programs.

The Jeevka gender-sensitive livelihood reconstruction project is described elsewhere in the Sourcebook. Opposition to it from governmental authorities and SEWA’s response is discussed on their website.

On the SEWA website users will also find short profiles useful for training or community education, such as the illustrated profile of SEWA members affected by the 2005 flooding in Gujarat.

Based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, SEWA frequently partners with the Disaster Mitigation Institute which is also based in Ahmedabad. For more information: SEWA Reception Centre, Opp.Victoria Garden, Amedabad 380 001 India. Tel: +(91-79) 5506444; Fax: +(91-79) 5506446 ; Email:; Website:

Key words: Women's group, grassroots, women's group, livelihood, mitigation, empowerment, practice