“Organising Helped Us Access Clean Drinking Water And Ensure A Cleaner Neighbourhood.”
How A Grassroot-Level Organiser, In Ahmedabad, India, Gave Up Her Daily Wages In Order To Organise Her Community And Link Them To Basic Services.
Ramilaben lives in a crowded settlement of over 300 houses in Ashapurinagar that’s part of the larger Amraivadi locality in Ahmedabad, India. She has lived here for over 20 years and for much of it has worked as a home-based worker. From her compact house, Ramilaben tailors blouses, kurtas and other women’s apparel for the customers in her community and beyond. However, in the recent past, Ramilaben’s reputation has gone beyond her work.
Last year, after a training in organising conducted by SEWA Academy in partnership with HomeNet South Asia, Ramilaben says she was able to enhance her skills in organising. While she has been working in the field as an organiser for SEWA for a few years, Ramilaben says the hands-on training improved her advocacy skills and she has been able to usher in change in her community.
In Ashapurinagar, an informal settlement, water is a precious resource and is often fetched by women after having stood in long queues at community taps. However, a few months ago, Ramilaben and the members of community stopped receiving adequate water and when water was supplied to the community it was often unclean and not consumable. This not just affected the livelihoods of the women, who had to spend time bringing in water from other faraway resources, but also cast a shadow on the health of those who lived in the community.
This led Ramilaben to swing into action. Lane by lane, she organised women and their families so that a group would visit the local municipal office every day and speak to their representative about the problem. For a week, this continued. Women and men would reach the office and urge the corporator to solve the problem. This happened for a week.
By the second week, the municipality relented and ensured clean drinking water to the community. This was a big win for Ramilaben and her community. But instead of dwelling over the win, she chose to do more. She, then, urged the local authorities to improve the waste management facilities in her area. And achieved success there too!
Ramilaben’s efforts have resulted a cleaner, better living for home-based workers and others in her settlement. It has also strengthened her organisation, SEWA, where she brought in more than 150 members in the past year.
Ramilaben often foregoes her tailoring work in order to dedicate herself to community organising efforts. To her, it has been worth it. “It’s ok if I don’t earn as much, I find satisfaction in helping others.”
The organising training Ramilaben received was part of the HomeNet South Asia’s Comic Relief-funded initiative – Empowering Women Home-Based Workers.