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By Ela R. Bhatt

Ela Bhatt is well known as one of many world's such a lot striking pioneers and entrepreneurial forces in grassroots improvement. referred to as the ''gentle revolutionary,'' she has committed her lifestyles to bettering the lives of India's poorest and so much oppressed voters. In India, the place ninety three percentage of the exertions strength are self-employed, ninety four percentage of this zone are ladies. but self-employed ladies have traditionally loved few criminal protections or people rights. in reality, such a lot are illiterate and topic to exploitation and harassment through moneylenders, employers, and officers. Witnessing the bad stipulations confronted by way of girls operating as weavers, stitchers, cigarette rollers, and waste creditors, Ela Bhatt all started aiding those ladies to prepare themselves. In 1972, Ela Bhatt based the Self-Employed Women's organization (SEWA) to deliver negative ladies jointly and provides them how one can struggle for his or her rights and earn higher livings. 3 years after SEWA was once based, it had 7,000 contributors. this day it has a complete club of 700,000 girls, making it the most important unmarried fundamental exchange union in India. Bhatt lead SEWA to shape a cooperative financial institution in 1974 - with a proportion capital of $30,000 - that provided microcredit loans to aid girls retailer and develop into financially self sufficient. this day the SEWA Cooperative financial institution has $1.5 million in operating capital and greater than 30,000 depositors with a personal loan go back price of ninety four percentage. via years of association and strategic motion, Ela Bhatt built SEWA from a small, frequently missed team right into a robust exchange union and financial institution with allies worldwide. over the past 3 many years, SEWA's efforts to extend the bargaining strength, monetary possibilities, future health safeguard, criminal illustration, and organizational talents of Indian girls have introduced dramatic advancements to thousands of lives and inspired related tasks all over the world. we're negative yet such a lot of is a first-hand account of the imaginative and prescient, upward thrust, and luck of SEWA, in India in addition to across the world. The ebook starts with a historical past of the early days of SEWA and an exploration of the Ghandian philosophy that contributed to shaping SEWA's formation and imaginative and prescient. It follows with an account of the struggles and demanding situations that SEWA confronted in its trip and describes how those have been addressed and triumph over. It then explores the liberty that SEWA has facilitated for ladies operating within the casual financial system by way of offering a number of inspirational tales of person SEWA participants. the ultimate bankruptcy describes the overseas extension of SEWA's paintings, the demanding situations that girls face within the casual economic system around the world, and the way SEWA might be successfully replicated in different components of the realm. This quantity is exclusive in that it'll complex the explicit event and information of Ela Bhatt in her and SEWA's trip and supply insights and data that no outdoors researcher may ever be able to mirror.

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Extra resources for We Are Poor but So Many: The Story of Self-Employed Women in India

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Invariably, the poor are usually the losers. The village may resume normalcy afterward, but the bitter memory and need for vengeance lives on for generations. To assume that poverty is a leveling force is to underestimate the power of deep-seated hierarchical tendencies, even within the castes. Among the dalits, the vankar, the chamar, the koli, and the bhangi live in separate communities, conscious of their own status relative to others. Tribals rate even lower in this hierarchy. Even relatively egalitarian Islam is not impervious to some degree of hierarchical subdivisions in India.

In such times, the family’s first and foremost need is to recover its means of production so that work and income can resume. But government relief efforts seldom consider replacement of their means of production as part of relief work. And borrowing from banks or the government is impossible. Being penniless and homeless, with no collateral of any sort, none but the usurious village moneylender will loan them money to rebuild. And the downward spiral begins. In Gujarat, a great number of the very poor live in dry areas where there are intermittent or consecutive years of drought.

Their fragile homes are the first ones to be damaged by floods, fire, or cyclone. Their rain-fed crops grown on low lands are the first to be flooded. Whatever relief they get is to a large measure due to the goodwill of neighboring villagers. But such help is limited. State relief invariably arrives late. Relief, when it does arrive, is never adequate and is a fraction of the actual losses to the poor. Again, in caste-ridden villages, the lower-caste poor are the last to receive relief packs. Since they have very few resources or savings to fall back on, the poor take much longer to move beyond the relief stage.

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