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FOCUS March 2024 Volume Volume 115


SEWA Delhi and WIEGO

Ruksana was a young girl when she learned stitching and embroidery from members of her family as this was the family trade. However, she had also completed a beautician's course and had worked in a salon for a few years, which she had enjoyed. First interviewed in 2020, Ruksana was working for both Ruaab SEWA[1] and a contractor in her neighborhood, as this allowed her to pick up the work from their centers and work on it at home.

Ruksana's family had been facing significant economic challenges even before the spread of COVID-19. Her husband lost his job in a garment factory nearby as a result of the communal violence that devastated parts of Delhi in early 2020. Her work with Ruaab and the contractor meant she could make some money through the pandemic, but the rates for her work had been decreasing even with Ruaab. However, this was still an improvement from the contractor, who paid her even less per mask than Ruaab's decreased rate.

Ruksana had a ration card, but the public distribution system shop only provided rice and wheat. All the other supplies had to be bought, and the liquid petroleum gas cylinder proved to be a significant expense. She had to take a loan from a moneylender to tide her family over and buy supplies, such as gas, oil and salt, and the interest owed had begun to build up.

When she was interviewed again in 2021, she barely received any work, and her earnings reduced to Rs 400 per month. The contractor in her locality had not been receiving sufficient work orders either and hence was not able to employ home-based workers except old contacts.

Ruksana's husband's income had also suffered a devastating blow. In 2021, he worked for only ten days every month at a woodworking factory because the factory did not have sufficient work to engage its workers. As the family income shrank, it became difficult for Ruksana and her family to repay their loan, and lenders began to pester her. Thus, she was compelled to take a loan against her Life Insurance Company[2] policy to clear off the loan. During the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, it became hard for her children to access education because she had limited access to wifi data plans and electronic devices.

So far, as an aagewaan (local union leader), she has actively engaged in educating other women employed as home-based workers about the various legislations and government schemes meant to empower them.

*This is an excerpt from Home-Based Workers of Delhi, SEWA Delhi and WIEGO, September 2022, page 41.

SEWA Delhi works with over 50,000 women in facilitating leadership building, finance training, and other social security programs that enable women to make positive changes in their communities.

WIEGO focuses on the working poor in the informal economy, especially women, who are not understood, valued, or supported in policy circles or by the international development community.

For further information, please contact: Shalini Sinha, Work Sector Specialist, WIEGO, e-mail:;


[1] Ruaab SEWA is a unique model of garment production and sourcing that is owned and managed by women producers, which ensures ethical and transparent supply chain. The company has nine board members, six are the producers itself, and two are representative of SEWA and one is independent. See SEWA Delhi,

[2] LIC refers to Life Insurance Company that was established in 1956 as required by the Life Insurance Corporation Act, 19 June 1956. The law has the "objective of spreading life insurance much more widely and in particular to the rural areas with a view to reach all insurable persons in the country, providing them adequate financial cover at a reasonable cost." See Life Insurance Company,