In Gandhi’s birthplace, in 1972, a labor lawyer named Ela Bhatt [pronounced Eela But] gave birth to a union comprised of home-based workers, market vendors, cart-pullers and head-load carriers, agricultural and construction laborers, and other unrecognized forms of low-paid work done by women. Ela Bhatt died November 2, 2022, but her legacy lives on. The horizontally-organized Self-Employed Women’s Association is reported to have more than 2 million members today, helping each other negotiate for wages and benefits, taking cases to court, offering training, making loans, and more.  

Two producers from Bangalore travelled to Ahmedabad in Gujarat state to cover this movement for WINGS. Smita Ramanathan and Manju Venkat interviewed 14 women for this 2-part series.  

Interviewees in Part 1: Manali Shah, Vice President of SEWA; Pratibha Pandya, Administrative Officer; Kapila ben*, President; Jyoti Macwan, general secretary; Rajiben, Trade representative for the ragpickers; Anisa Sheikh, Representative for the Incense stick rollers; Jayashree Vyas, Managing Director of SEWA’s Cooperative Bank*The term “ben” is an honorific – it means “sister.”