Long before IASEW came into existence, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) had been holding training sessions to build the capacity of members within the organisation as well as other groups. The effort to bring all the training courses under one umbrella culminated in the formation of SEWA Academy (now known as the Indian Academy for Self-Employed Women, or IASEW) in the year 1991. The main goal of IASEW’s training programmes are to develop the leadership skills of its membership. Additional activities included capacity building, research, communication, documentation and literacy.
Plans were set to develop the areas of vocational training, capacity building, research and communications through the SEWA University. However, formal education system bias created hurdles in making the Academy a reality. Despite these roadblocks, SEWA Academy overcame the challenges and officially came into being in 1992. Since then, the Academy has become an integral part to the functioning of SEWA as a whole and is the focal point for all of SEWA’s training, capacity building, research, and communication efforts.
Two other SEWA programmes that preceded the creation of the Academy have also found a home under the IASEW umbrella: Video SEWA and Rudi no Radio.
Video SEWA has been functioning since 1984 as a tool for development communication, to bring video technology into the hands of ordinary women.
Rudi no Radio came about as a result of SEWA’s observation that, for the remotest of villages in India, radio was an untapped medium for education and communication. The women of these villages would listen to the radio while rolling bidis, making incense sticks, or while stitching or weaving. In April 2005, SEWA began its first community radio programme, entitled Rudi no Radio, a weekly 15-minute programme produced and broadcast by members of SEWA for its rural audience.