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

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

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

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

Synopsis

"We Are Poor but So Many is a firsthand account of the forming of a women's trade union, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), in India. The vision and the journey of this unique organization are recounted by its founder, Ela R. Bhatt, who leads us into the lives of poor, self-employed women and their world of work. The book explores basic concepts of labor - what constitutes work and who is a worker - by shining a spotlight on the informal sector and its pivotal role in the economy. It is also a celebration of women workers whose invisible hands support not only families but also a nation's economy."

Excerpt

In writing about the lives and struggles of poor, self-employed women, I have been presumptuous. I have written about women who are unlikely to read what I have written about them. Moreover, my perception is unavoidably limited by the economic and social environment to which I belong. So in all honesty, I cannot claim to speak for the women I am writing about; I can only speak for myself.

And yet I have written this book because I have shared a good part of my life with these women. I have written about what I have seen and what I have learned about their struggles against poverty and prejudice. I want to talk about our interwoven lives, about how and why we join hands and what we have done, and still do, together—our hopes, actions, struggles, successes, and failures. The women have changed my life; they have inhabited it, enriched it, and shown me why life is worth living. In every possible sense, I am in their debt.

The Gujarati custom of addressing all women as ben, meaning sister, is, of course, not without consequences. It seems to instill a latent sense of sisterhood in relationships. SEWA, the Self-Employed Women's Association, owes much to this common sense of sisterhood in bringing together women of all castes, classes, trades, tribes, and faiths.

I begin this book with an account of myself and of the process by which I began to see the world of poor, working women. I have then attempted to take the reader into the world of these women, to provide an up-close . . .

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