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UVA-SEWA Partnership: Understanding Occupational Health and Safety Challenges among Women Agricultural Workers in Gujarat, India

Presenters Name: 
Patrick Robinson
Co Presenters Name: 
Lina Hong
Primary Research Mentor: 
David Edmunds
Secondary Research Mentor: 
Rupa Valdez
2:00 - 3:15
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 2:00pm to 3:15pm
Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Social Science
Grant Program Recipient: 
Community Based Undergraduate Research Grant (CBURG)

The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a labor union and development agency that serves women who work in India’s informal economy. In June, July and August of 2018, SEWA engaged our team of UVA student-researchers to help identify the occupational health and safety challenges faced by women agricultural laborers in the Indian state of Gujarat. To this end, we facilitated multiple participatory action research activities, including body-mapping and daily activity timelines exercises, and conducted field-based observations, one-on-one interviews, and focus group discussions in four rural villages of Ahmedabad District. We spoke with more than one hundred women over the course of dozens of research activities undertaken during 4 to 5 daylong visits to each village. Our data describe in detail the work experiences and health outcomes of women agricultural workers, including the specific character of various kinds agricultural labor and the common health conditions associated with each. In addition, our analysis reveals the myriad ways in which these work experiences and health outcomes are conditioned by multiple socioeconomic variables, including gender, landownership, urbanization, practices of workplace discipline, and economic development. In this article, we develop these insights into concrete recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of SEWA’s existing model of service provision. Hence, this research seeks to contribute to the field of intersectional feminist political economy by exploring how the efforts of one prominent women’s NGO can better meet the needs of its diverse members.