Yogyakarta, Indonesia - “The burden of poverty is the heaviest on women. Poverty and loss of freedom are not separate. Until poor remain powerless, poverty cannot be removed. The poor themselves need to be the planners, users, managers and owners of the poverty alleviation meant for them.”

Said Namrata Bali the Executive Director of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Gujarat, India. SEWA has been building the capacities of women for more than a decade. Today, it is the only trade union in India that unites more than a million poor women working in the informal sector.

For Bali, four factors must be addressed to reduce powerlessness: asset ownership, capacities, social security and organized strength. The poor needs capital formation at the household level through access to financial services such as savings, credit and insurance to create assets of their own such as land, house, work-shed, equipment and cattle.

Knowledge and skills are likewise needed to have access to market infrastructure and technology. Services such as health care, childcare, shelter and relief are also critical particularly in combating the chronic risks faced by women and their families.

As Bali explained, “For women the issue of poverty is even more severe as her life and its disruptions are intimately connected with her physical self: for example, the constant threat of the possibility of childbirth, the perennial interrupted sleep, the unending drudgery of work.”

Finally, collective action among women often results to greater impact especially in planning, implementing and monitoring programmes meant for women.

Bali stressed that all four components have to be imbibed simultaneously, in the combination that is viable and manageable for the poor themselves. One without the other does not yield result. One after the other also makes no sense.

“Without active participation of the poor, poverty cannot be removed. The poor are not mere beneficiaries, they are also the managers, and owners of the poverty alleviations programme. Women need to take the lead, develop new visions of leadership, develop new choices - political, economic, personal at a time when globalisation of the economy and the accumulation of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and nations is leading to war and violence, plunder of the earth, starvation, massive movements of refugees, and the destruction of human values,” she asserted.

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