Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA works with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), India’s largest women’s trade union. As an organisation with 2.1 million women members, its strength lies in the twin pillars of ‘work’ and ‘women’.
The main goal of the organisation is full employment and self-reliance. Full employment means work security, income security, food security and social security which includes health care, childcare, insurance, pension, and housing at the household level. Self-reliance means the ability of women to work individually and collectively, to achieve economic freedom and retain decision-making power over matters that concern theirs and their family lives and livelihoods.
New jobs in renewable energy
SEWA members are spending up to 40% of their time and up to 25% of their income accessing energy. SEWA found that clean energy use led to improved health of women and decreased domestic burden for its members by removing carbon fumes from diesel pumps and kerosene for light.
In India, Union Aid Abroad APHEDA works in partnership with Mondiaal FNV to support SEWA for renewable energy projects. This includes creating education and awareness about energy and climate change among the members. They are also providing training for the salt farmers to establish, repair and maintain solar power plants which are used for pumping water for agriculture, pumping brine for salt production and lighting in houses. More than 800 women in Anand and Surendra Nagar districts in Gujarat state were provided with skills to continue to use solar energy to replace diesel pumps.
SEWA carried out training and awareness-raising meetings to ensure members have a good understanding and access to different renewable energy sources. This activity also generated employment for the community in new areas like the repair of solar pumps.
Recently, SEWA has successfully advocated for the government to expand solar projects to other districts. One of the major challenges of solar energy is the availability of land to establish panels. SEWA has lobbied hard for the government to provide unsuitable agricultural land to use for solar panels.
Union Aid Abroad APHEDA will continue to work with SEWA in the coming years to scale up this technology to reduce greenhouse emissions and empower rural women to participate in the renewable energy revolution.