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Responsible travel in India empowering the women of SEWA

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In our constant endeavour to engage with and support genuine organisations, in India the Explorations Company through its charitable foundation Philanthropy Plus, is supporting SEWA, a trade union that supports and empowers self-employed women from underprivileged sections.

How is SEWA empowering self-employed women of Gujurat and beyond?

SEWA is the Self-Employed Women’s Association, an accomplished trade union established in 1972 by Ela Bhatt which has been working to organise, support and empower self-employed women workers from underprivileged sections.

This organisation is very close to our hearts and over more than two decades, we have personally seen the remarkably positive change it has managed to bring to the lives of its members. Elaben, as she is lovingly called by the members of SEWA, has received global recognition for her work with several national and international awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Right Livelihood Award and the Padma Bhushan – India’s third-highest civilian award.

Of the female labour force in India, more than 94% are in the unorganised sector. These women earn a living either through hard labour or by running small businesses.

Although this number is substantial, these women and their work have remained unaccounted for, depriving them of the security and benefits enjoyed by the workers in the organised sector and leaving them completely vulnerable, marginalised and exploited.

Since its foundation in 1972, SEWA has been working at the grass root level to empower underprivileged women workers through education, training and social and economic support. Most of the members come from an extremely deprived rural background and face tremendous economic as well as social challenges.

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Over the years, SEWA has succeeded in creating a support mechanism that has enabled its members to become completely self-reliant. The organisation operates a microfinance bank offering savings and credit facilities, health and childcare co-operatives, various entrepreneurship initiatives amongst rural artisans as well as a range of training and development programmes.

From a very modest beginning in the state of Gujarat, today the organisation supports more than two million women across the subcontinent. However, its largest base remains at home in Gujarat. The most significant and positive upshot is that SEWA’s members, many with young families, are able to afford basic education for their children, enabling their future generations far better prospects for growth and better social standing.

Today the women artisans have set-up their own company - SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre and are able to earn a sustainable livelihood using their traditional embroidery skills and also market their products under Hansiba brand.

This has significantly reduced their dependency on agriculture and now the women are able to take charge of their families and counter critical issues including domestic abuse, alcoholism and social inequality.

Those interested in textiles can visit the main Trade Facilitation Centre in Ahmedabad or the villages in Patan and Kutch to interact with the artisans and learn more about their unique heritage. Similarly, the organisation works very closely with women artisans in Lucknow specialising in intricate chikan embroidery work.

We feel strongly that SEWA and other similar organisations change so many lives. Our aims are to help them in their efforts not just financially but also by promoting awareness by way of travel philanthropy. Wherever you are planning to go next, we would be delighted to discuss how you can incorporate into your plans a cause that you are passionate about. We like to call it “travelling with a heart”.


How can I make a donation?

There are many more ways you can help towards our goal. We understand that your giving is important to you and we want you to do it in the way that suits you. If you would to find out about more ways you can support the SEWA, please contact our Individual Giving Manager at [email protected] and find out how we can make the best of your generous contributions.

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