Lead Story

Sista Power

With empathetic policies and a familial environment, SEWA Rural is truly an ideal workplace for women

Photographs by Faisal Magray

Thirty years ago, Manju Vasava had haltingly read out names of medicines in English when she was being tested for a nursing-assistant’s training programme. It was her father, a farmer in Jhagadia, a tribal area about 20 km away from Bharuch in south Gujarat, who had heard about the course run by the Society for Education Welfare and Action Rural (SEWA Rural) centre and sent Manju for training. She cleared the exam, became a staff nurse at the centre after a year and a half of training, and today, the 59-year-old manages 71 nurses. 

Manju remembers her diffidence when she was being offered the senior managerial role. “I am only a tenth pass,” she had said. But Dr Anil Desai, the late founder of the voluntary service organisation, gave her confidence and made her realise that she was a perfect fit for the role. “It must have been because I was hardworking, loyal and willing to learn,” she says. These are values deeply cherished at this non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has been certified as one of India’s Best Workplaces for Women in 2019, by Great Place to Work Institute, India. This is SEWA’s second consecutive win.

Manju believes that she has evolved as a person here. “I used to be short-tempered, but managing all the nurses today has made me a calmer person. I have become better at managing people and solving their problems. I try to keep them all together as one happy family,” she says.

This four-decade-old organisation, guided by the ideals set by Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, believes in constant development of each karyakar (employee), both professionally and spiritually. 

SEWA Rural is not connected to the Self-Employed Women’s Association promoted by Ela Bhatt. 

Dr Gayatri Desai, gynaecologist and trustee at the organisation, adds that they are “very pro women”. “Our pro-women policies are a way to overcorrect a broken society and fix the


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