SEWA Academy's activities are divided into four major categories, namely, training, literacy, research and communication.
The main objective of SEWA’s Training is to build a cadre of workers and leaders to take the SEWA movement further. Training is widely acknowledged within SEWA as an important tool in the process of capacity building, empowerment and collective struggle.
SEWA's trainings are driven by the core belief that everyone has potential and ability but due to adverse circumstances, women in the informal sector are sometimes not able to achieve their goals. Our training programmes are a collective approach to the overall development of women. Training opportunities increase their employability and prevent their crowding into low-paid, unskilled employment in limited occupations. Instead, training promotes their upward mobility and improves their status as women workers.
IASEW’s training also increases women's confidence levels and encourages a collective approach to organizing through capacity building. By identifying problems and taking action to address them, SEWA members developed new skills and come to see their own capacity to be leaders in the home, community and larger society. They also learned the power of organization and the importance of acting collectively as workers, women and as members of SEWA in order to achieve their goals.
Further, SEWA Academy Programmes provide women with opportunities for introspection and sharing; they provide a platform for women to come together and share each other’s problems, issues and achievements. Through this sharing, they learnt to improve their own situations.
The women participating in trainings provided by SEWA Academy were both literate and illiterate, from different areas of city and villages. The illiterate women articulated the words that "We would like to study"! With this SEWA members expressed their aspiration to educate themselves. SEWA member’s enthusiasm led to initiation of Literacy Class in 1992. The members sought education, which was easy to understand and which would help them in life.
Literacy, in the Academy’s view, can mean different things for different groups. For example, in the context of SEWA’s work with informal women workers, literacy would be different for home-based workers as opposed to street vendors. Literacy in IASEW can also include becoming literate in regards to social issues, to government resources, and so on. Most recently, the Academy has added digital literacy to its programming.
Research has played a vital role for SEWA since inception. The main objectives of SEWA's research are to understand the socio-economic conditions and issues of women in the informal economy, to document the history of women's struggles for economic and social security, to evaluate SEWA's interventions and campaigns, and to have SEWA research on these issues brought into the mainstream.
One of SEWA’s most fundamental values is its commitment to building the capacity of its members through training. In this tradition, members have been trained to be an integral part of the research team and to establish a decentralized research structure. The Research Division of SEWA Academy builds the capacity of its members by grassroots researcher training, thus building a cadre of grassroots researchers. This was started by SEWA Academy in 1998.
The benefits this has had on SEWA Academy’s research has been manifold: not only does the training of members to do this work build their capacity, give them self-confidence and marketable skills, they are also ideally placed to reach out to informal women workers. They do not need to worry about building rapport with the subjects of SEWA’s research studies as they are from the same community and are thus able to efficiently gain more reliable results. As of 2015, 33 for grass root researcher training sessions have been conducted with 555 women.
There is a continuous need to develop and strengthen communication between members within the SEWA movement, and also between poor women and the outside world. SEWA women use several different media platforms in order to be both seen and heard. Some of these include Anasooya Magazine, Akashganga Magazine, e-newsletters, Video SEWA, and Rudi no Radio.
IASEW communications aims to connect self-employed women to each other, to the public, to policy makers and to other government officials. It is SEWA’s platform for sharing the organization’s work and research, to educate members and expand membership. Through SEWA’s various platforms, workers are able to obtain information on various issues: legal, health, nutrition and government policies and Programmes for the self-employed, including national development plans and Programmes.