We’re excited to introduce Ramila Solanki, a dedicated home-based worker and a member of SEWA from Ahmedabad, India. For over 15 years, she’s been actively involved with the Indian Academy for Self Employed Women (IASCW), where she’s undergone various trainings, including organizing, leadership, communication, and video shooting, among others. She is also a proud member of the Video SEWA Cooperative and a leader in her community.

Ramila’s journey as an own-account worker into the world of tailoring began modestly, sourcing raw materials from local markets and transforming them into creations like cushion covers and children’s clothing. However, she soon realized the limitations of manual stitching and saw the potential for greater productivity through the use of machinery. Despite all the initial challenges, she embarked on a journey to master machine stitching, broadening her portfolio and enhancing her earning potential.

"The lady at the classes told me that I was too old, and that she couldn't teach me. So I said: don't think about my age. I just want to learn something. And so I did."

But Ramila’s journey didn’t stop there. She has not only improved her own livelihood but also of other women in her community.

"We have more than 50 ladies in our group as a local workforce. Some of them are working as teachers, and some are working with home-based work. If I talk about me, I am working from home."

She’s a tireless advocate for their rights, organizing them to speak up for themselves and empowering them to take control of their economic lives, by building the capacity of women in her community about financial literacy and encouraging them to open savings bank accounts and explore avenues for additional income generation. Through her leadership, women have learned to repurpose old clothes and saris into new products, maximizing resources and minimizing waste.

Together, they formed a local group and accessed educational institutes, learning practical skills like using smartphones and online platforms. They tackled community issues, such as drainage problems, and engaged with local authorities for solutions.

"Because of my smartphone, I'm able to use so many applications. If there is some problem in my house, with my family, I know how to get help from the police or the local authorities. We learned how to control the misuse of water, and how to control the damage of drainage. We started covering the drainage system with RCC (Reinforced Cement Concrete) boxes, and now we don't have the drainage clotting problems anymore."

Despite facing initial scepticism and doubt, Ramila has emerged as a confident and capable leader, navigating complex systems and advocating for change at the highest levels. Her journey serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of capacity-building, empowerment, and community solidarity.

This story was captured during Ramila’s speech at HomeNet South Asia’s parallel event “From Awareness to Action: Investing in Home-Based Workers to Amplify Their Voices” at the NGO CSW68 Forum on March 12th, 2024.