Lifelong activism and women’s entrepreneurship: how a social movement organization improves conditions for self-employed women in India

Ana Colovic (Department of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, NEOMA Business School, Mont-Saint-Aignan, France)
Sonia Mehrotra (Department of Centre of Excellence for Case Development, S.P. Mandali’s Prin. L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (WeSchool), Bengaluru, India)

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Publication date: 13 June 2020



The purpose of this paper is to investigate how a local trade union improves living conditions for women entrepreneurs in India and how its activities have evolved over time.


The authors conducted a longitudinal case study of the self-employed women’s association (SEWA) in India. Founded in 1972, this organization fosters and supports women’s entrepreneurship. The approach of this study combines qualitative face-to-face interviews and secondary data analysis.


The findings highlight the fact that SEWA, which combines the features of a trade union and a social movement, improves women’s conditions in several different ways. The study shows that the organization’s main role has evolved from creating a community to expanding it and finally to becoming an agent of societal change.


The study contributes to the literature by analyzing how locally grown organizations fight social exclusion and improve the conditions of deprived groups in emerging economies.



The authors are very grateful to Dr Ela R. Bhatt for granting them the interviews and for her valuable insights and suggestions regarding this article. They also thank Ms Jayashree Vyas, Ms Mirai Chatterjee, Ms Savithaben for their time and for sharing with them their thoughts. They would also like to express their gratitude to Professor Justin Paul, the Guest Editor of the special issue, and to four anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.


Colovic, A. and Mehrotra, S. (2020), "Lifelong activism and women’s entrepreneurship: how a social movement organization improves conditions for self-employed women in India", European Business Review, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 937-958.



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