Credible, scientific based
research has been a critical tool in SEWAs advocacy efforts. Through research, SEWA
strives to bring its members, the self employed women, into the mainstream of the world of
knowledge. Action oriented research is the corner stone of this intervention
and SEWA Academy is the organizational wing responsible for this task.
The Research Programme of
the Academy has the following distinctive features which sets it apart from the mainstream
research bodies and think tanks and gives it the distinctive characteristic and a unique
position of its own.
SEWA Academy has a unique perspective a grassroots perspective through which to
view development issues. What sets research done by SEWA apart is its driving force and
guiding principle research must be used to understand the lives of its members and
guide action. Research projects are directly linked to action and immediate usefulness
supporting SEWAs organizing, program development and advocacy campaigns.
Micro and Macro
SEWAs research is uniquely positioned, connecting the Micro and Macro level, between
grassroots women and the local development context at the micro level, and the government
policies and the economic development process at the macro level. Through its research,
SEWA has been able to understand the effect of macro policies on the welfare of poor women
at the grassroots level; and lobby to mitigate its worst effects. Research has also
documented alternative solutions at the grassroots and then lobby for these solutions to
be included in macro level program.
Research helps SEWA capture the condition and contribution of self employed
women and speak credibly on their behalf for changes in local, national and international
policy. Although they are significant contributors to the economy, few researches have
been conducted regarding the status and needs of self-employed women. Because research is
the "common language" within policy and international forums, this knowledge gap
renders women "invisible" for all practical purposes and sustains their
exploitation. By filling this gap through research and encouraging others to research the
informal sector, SEWA has begun to translate its members experience into objective
scientific data. These data have been used as the basis to influence policymakers and call
for widespread policy change.
Today, SEWA has emerged as
an organization with a strong field base which is also well knit into the both national
and international networks and policy dialogues concerning the informal sector, workers
and women. Through research, SEWA has been able to share its experience and lessons with
colleagues across the country and the world. It has helped lay the groundwork for the
larger national and international movement of self-employment women by educating external
audiences including international leaders and funding agencies.
Grassroots Presence: Building strength from within
In SEWA Academy, research is
informed by those deeply familiar with the issues and their context. Research is carried
out by a team that includes grassroots researchers. One of SEWAs most fundamental
values is its commitment to training up its members. In this tradition ,
members have been trained to become the core their new internal research team. Today SEWA
Academy has developed a grassroots research team by training members as researchers and
established a decentralized research structure. Developing a team of grassroots
researchers has been a milestone in the organizations evolution. Once dependent on
others to capture and convey their experiences, women have learnt to tell their story
we started training the grass roots researchers we found that the process had a profound
impact on the thinking and outlook of the women themselves. They were able to observe the
world more objectively and for the first time in their lives had an exposure critical
analysis. Some of the women were able to transmit some of these learnings to other members
Renana Jhabvala, National & International Co-ordinator, SEWA
of the 75 researchers (including grass roots) are from the working class background. The
Academy has had great success retaining both working class and middle class team members.
Besides, SEWA today employs a variety of research methods on a large number of topics,
produced and have disseminated their finding using both the print and the video medium.
Almost all grassroots
researchers interviewed stopped education to take care of family members or earn money for
the family, they recalled liking school and surprisingly most of them said maths to be
their favorite subject. Some of the observations of the trainees are:
Kantibhai, a tobacco plant worker and member of the Kheda research team,
remarked: "My family objected to my going to the training even though I had been
involved in SEWA for many years. I had never been away that long. When I came back, I told
them all that I had learned and they were very impressed. But my husband said, 'Just don't
do you research on me!' Now, they are supportive. My husband even helps me in coding my
questionnaires when I work at night."
Others report similar
experiences of anxiety. Zohraben Sheikh of Ahmedabad City said, "The first day was
horrible. I vowed I wasn't going back. But I forced myself. The facilitators gave me lots
of help and I slowly became more comfortable. The trainers were excellent. I felt I could
ask them questions easily. Even though I was still confused much of the time, on the last
day everything began to make sense, to come together." Although she remains positive
about experience, Zohraben has not become a researcher due to seasonal work demands and
of Grassroot Research Training
Grassroot Research Training
|- Understanding of profile
- Group work
research in SEWA?
- Aim of
grass root research
- Points to
be noted before /
during / after survey.
- Steps of
- Methods of