Reema Nanavaty – India

Linked with Poor women and economy; also with Microcredits and poor women; and also with Self Employed Women’s Association’s response to crisis.

She says: “As long as microenterprise development is offered as a substitute for meaningful social development … it will only impede progress towards finding real answers to the very real problem of poverty in the South”.

Reema Nanavaty – India

She writes on global Poor people’s membership based producers organizations have been unable to take advantage of increasing trade openness and break into global markets. There are a growing number of organizations working in this area, yet the scale of their impact continues to be low. Fair trade observers, for example, estimate worldwide annual sales at about $500 million in 2000, and that number is growing rapidly. This total, however, amounted to the equivalent of less than 0.3% of WalMart Corporation’s annual sales in that same year. The gap between local producers organizations and global markets is large, making it difficult for poor people’s organizations to connect with buyers/retailers in the North.

Barriers to Poor Producers’ Participation: Global markets do not offer a level playing field. Poor producers face a number of entry barriers which make it difficult for them to compete in global markets:

- Size and Organization: Agricultural producers in West Africa or home-based workers in India do not have the influence or resources to have an impact on global markets and policies. This is overcome to some extent by belonging to collective organizations at the local level, which enable them to pool resources and know-how. Despite this, the market share of such organizations remains miniscule, and they are unable to influence buying practices or negotiate fair terms with middle-men.

- Lack of Information: Poor producers lack the market intelligence needed to produce goods of acceptable quality for which there is demand in export markets. In addition, they do not have appropriate information on where markets and potential buyers for their products exist. For their part, buyers and retailers have not considered the possibility of buying from poor producers while remaining profitable.

- Policy Barriers: Policy frameworks devised without the input of poor people establish rules which often serve as obstacles to their productive engagement in economic and social development. Adequate analysis and advocacy is needed to promote a conducive policy environment at both the national and global levels for making trade fair and advantageous for the poor.

- Technical Capacities: Poor producers need support to build their technical know-how, and develop production processes that lead to timely delivery of goods that are competitively priced, standardized and meet quality standards of export markets.

- Scaling Up for Poverty Reduction (Read more on SEWA).

She says also: “There are several sectors where foreign investment in India impacts industries where the very poor work in the informal economy, such as forestry and agriculture, textiles and garments, and health. Most of the impact is felt when multinationals set up plants and factories or when smaller farms or companies enter into partnerships with large corporations, sometimes leading to shutting down smaller businesses. We are actually seeing growth in the informal sector as multinationals diversify which can lead to the loss of jobs, forcing workers to drop out of the formal economy and into the casual workforce. Another example can be seen in the impact of multinational agribusiness on small farmers in India. Since most multinationals are now involved with sharecropping, small farmers have to rent land from large land owners which does not benefit marginal farmers. There is the additional problem of multinational agribusiness entering into monocultivation of crops for short-term benefit. Multicropping balances the environment and nature, particularly in areas where there are several agriclimates. In two or three years time, multinational agribusiness will diversify but, in the long-term, monocultivation will damage the land and has dire implications for small and marginal farmers in India”. (Read the rest of this interview on development

She is General Secretary of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). On leave from the Indian Administrative Services, Ms. Nanavaty developed the regional rural water supply scheme of the Government of Gujarat and Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) into an integrated water project and made women central to water decisions. She then expanded the project into an ongoing Women, Water, and Work campaign. Elected General Secretary of SEWA in 1999, Ms. Nanavaty expanded membership to 530,000 making SEWA the country’s single largest union of informal sector workers. She now manages US$6 million of SEWA activities through a federation of 100 cooperatives; nine district as-sociations; and direct outlet of 12,000 artisans. She initiated and negotiated the first NGO-Government of India-IFAD loan to rebuild lives of 60,000 earthquake-affected SEWA members and is designing a post-conflict reconstruction package for 40,000 SEWA members affected by recent riots. She is also expanding SEWA’s Trade Facilitation Centre into a global network of initiatives and individuals to make women’s voices and contributions central to world trade decisions. (Read this on this page of the

She says also: “”The idea for Asian University for Women cannot be more timely in the history of women and more suitable in the location of Bangladesh. May it open poor women’s minds to the coming world, may it attract leaders from far and near to intensely listen to the universal struggles of women in Asia, and may it nurture the worlds such as SEWA where women are leaders.” (In: Tributes to Asian University for Women AUW).


Improving Women’s Access to Credit;

about water;

Unlocking Human Potential;

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