The politics of the urban informal sector and dominant social institutions : a case study on the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA)
Author(s)Venkatesh, Harini, 1978-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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Since the 1970's the economics of the urban informal sector (UIS) has received tremendous attention in development literature. Recently, scholars have delved into the politics within which this sector is embedded. With respect to the politics of its external relationship, conventional wisdom argued that quintessential to achieving positive outcomes for the UIS poor was the practice of autonomy of groups representing-the latter from dominant social institutions such as unions of formal sector workers, political parties and the government since political processes operating through these institutions was unresponsive to the needs of the UIS poor. The objective of this research is to revisit the history of an organization that has delivered positive outcomes for the UIS poor with the ultimate objective of answering the following questions: What is the nature of relationship between the UIS poor and dominant social institutions, primarily, the government? What are the conditions, if any, under which there could be a more cooperative and complementary relationship between these actors, while ensuring positive outcomes for the UIS poor? Can these conditions be generalized or are they time, place and case specific? I analyze the case study of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) to answer these questions. SEWA is one of India's most successful voluntary organizations having its roots in the trade union movement in India and has since 1972 organized more than 300,000 UIS women workers. I analyze the above-mentioned relationships during SEWA's evolution from its birth to its growth.(cont.) The relationships during SEWA's growth are analyzed in the context of SEWA's campaigns for credit for self-employed women and secondarily by contrasting this campaign with SEWA's campaign for minimum wages. The research concludes describing how SEWA worked closely with all three institutions and particularly with the Indian government during its birth and growth. This positive relationship is seen even in the case of contemporary SEWA-government relationships. To be sure, the nature of these relationships varies during SEWA evolution depending on contextual specificities of time, place, person, policies, etc. Also, explanatory variables underlying these relationships differ in each of the stories told. Nevertheless, two common variables explain the positive relationship between SEWA and dominant institutions. These are progressive legislation coming from the central government in India and individual actors dedicated to social reform within the government, both at central and state levels.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2004.Includes bibliographical references (p. 109-113).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.