The Self-Employed Women's Association of India

Development through Co-operatives

Organising workers into co-operatives is a viable alternative given the reality of the self-employed. Within a co-operative, the worker is herself the owner, she owns means of production, she directly links with the buyer or consumer eliminating the middleman and stands to gain or lose from her own work. Workers' co-operatives can counter the exploitation of middlemen, contractors, merchants and employers. Co-operatives are important source and means of alternative employment for workers.

SEWA has helped its members to form 70 co-operatives, of which 52 are legally registered, and 18 are in the process of registration. However often it is no possible or desirable for a group to register itself as a co-operative under the Co-operative Act, as the legal and procedural requirements under the act maybe too cumbersome for a small group of illiterate women. This is specially true in the rural areas. In these cases, SEWA encourages its members to register in some other way. For example, rural poor members register themselves as DWCRA groups, with the Ministry of Rural Development, the savings and credit groups have registered as Associations.