SEWA has helped its members to form 70 co-operatives, of which 52 are legally registered, and 18 are in the process of registration. However often it is no possible or desirable for a group to register itself as a co-operative under the Co-operative Act, as the legal and procedural requirements under the act maybe too cumbersome for a small group of illiterate women. This is specially true in the rural areas. In these cases, SEWA encourages its members to register in some other way. For example, rural poor members register themselves as DWCRA groups, with the Ministry of Rural Development, the savings and credit groups have registered as Associations.
Since about 50% of SEWA members are homebased worders, the maximum number of members are in artisan co-operatives or groups. At present there are 10 artisan co-operatives and 54 DWCRA groups.
However, 1994 was a very difficult year for artisan co-operatives. Most of the co-operatives are in the textile groups-embroidery, hand-block printing, weaving, market, the artisan co-operatives could not make a profit.
The major constraint faced by the artisan co-operatives in 1994 was the high price of yarn and cloth on the one hand, and the depression of the market on the other. The price of yarn went up by 100% in the last theree years and cloth price rose by 125%, mainly due to the uncontrolled export of both cotton and yarn. Since all the co-operatives have limited amounts of capital their resources were severly strained. At the same time, liberalization and impact of Western media and advertising has begun to effect the market and consumers are no longer so responsive to traditional designs, produced by artisans. This year, all the textile-based co-operatives showed losses instead of their usual surpluses.
1994 was a year of growth for the 35 milk co-operatives. 6 new co-operatives were registered, giving emplooyment to 598 women in the rural areas. The existing co-operatives also increased the sale of milk, especially by including many new women under the poverty line. This was accomplished by helping 190 women get loans for cattle under IRDP. Also this year the milk co-operatives, tried to work towards more managerial self-reliance, including active member participation by organising 61 training programs covering 1025 members at different levels.
The vendors co-operatives on the other hand, suffered from changes in policy. The fish vendors co-operatives were not supplied any fish from the Gujarat Fisheries Corporation, causing a loss this year. And although the Hariyali vegetable and fruit vendorrs co-operatives did have a sale of Rs. 31 lakhs due to a change in policy of Government of Gujarat, the Government orders began shrinking.
The service co-operatives too registered growth, especially as the newly formed Trupti catering co-operatives was able to buy its own premises and 80 members obtained employment in 94. 128 women obtained part-time employment through the Cleaners co-operative.
While organising artisans into co-operatives, we learned that they are very skilled in their craft, talent and quick to learn new designs, if provided with appropriate training and support. However, currently, artisans have to face cut-throat competition in marketing their products. In marketing their products, given the competition, what is not only the quality but also the novelty and specialty of their products. Hence, products design is necessarily a part of all marketing efforts and strategies.
Based on the experiences, SEWA decided to establish its own design centre, the Design Library. Here with the artisans help and knowledge, samples of traditional crafts and designs are collected, skills are upgraded, new designs are created, proposals and reports on crafts development are prepared and artisans share different designs and skills. It has been an encouraging experience, although artisans and organisers took some time to fully accept and utilise this Library.
In 1994 a number of new products were developed, the most notable being in making toys from rags, screen printing, and puppet-making.
Gujarat State Women's Co-operative Federation was sponsored by SEWA in 1992. Today this Federation has 70 women's co-operatives as its members covering 22,313 women all over Gujarat.
The federation's main task is to ensure the active participation of poor, self-employed women in the co-ooperative movement and to enable them to obtain regular work.
In 1994 the federation performed the following tasks:
Women of Banaskantha district have been organised into DWCRA groups which in turn, formed their own district-level association last year. This association is the first of its kind in India.
The association in 94 continued its support of its DWCRA group members and took on a number of new groups. The association in 94 supported its members by
DWCRA groups take on many different activities. There are at present groups as members of the association, doing the following activities
A major new activity taken up by the association in 94 was water harvesting, an important requirement for basic human needs in the desert area of Banaskantha.
A plastic-lined pond of 21000 sq.ft was dug by the association in village Gokhanter with the active Participation of the village Panchayat, the village people and especially the women. The effort was supervised by the Foundation for Public Interest and technical help was given by the IPCL and the Department of Minor Irrigation. This pond will be managed by the pani panchayat with the women in the lead.
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