Made In India: SEWA in Action

A film by Patricia Plattner

Switzerland/India | 1998 | 52 minutes | Color | DVD | Subtitled | Order No. 00667


This powerful documentary is a portrait of SEWA, the now-famous women's organization in India that holds to the simple yet radical belief that poor women need organizing, not welfare. SEWA, or the Self-Employed Women's Association, corresponds to the Indian word sewa, meaning service. Based in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, a dusty old textile town on the edge of the Gujarati desert, SEWA is at its core a trade union for the self-employed. It offers union membership to the illiterate women who sell vegetables for 50 cents a day in the city markets, or who pick up paper scraps for recycling from the streets--jobs that most Indian men don't consider real work.

Inspired by the political, economic and moral model advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, SEWA has grown since its founding to a membership of more than 217,000 and its bank now has 61,000 members, assets of $4 million and customers who walk in each day to deposit a dollar or take out 60 cents. Following the lives of six women involved in the organization, including Ela R. Bhat, its visionary founder, Plattner's documentary is an important look at the power of grassroots global feminism.


"...a powerful documentary...[SEWA's pioneering project, defying India's male-dominated and economically rigid society, has grown into an internationally acclaimed model for rural development and women's empowerment."

Foreign Policy in Focus


  • Margaret Mead Film Festival
  • Recontres Media Nord-Sud, Geneva, First Prize
  • Munich Documentary Film Festival
  • Locarno Film Festival


Patricia Plattner

Patricia Plattner, born in Geneva (Switzerland) in 1953, studied art history at the University of Geneva before obtaining a degree in mixed media at Geneva’s Fine Arts College (ESAV) in 1975. Working in the visual arts from 1975 to 1983, she put on exhibitions and performances in Switzerland and abroad. In 1979, after travelling around the world for a year thanks to a fine-arts grant from the federal government, she spent several months in Vancouver as an artist-in-residence at the "Western Front" artists’ centre. The same year, she and a couple of artist friends founded "Les Studios Lolos" in Carouge (Geneva), focusing on the graphic arts and photography. In 1982, she published an artist’s book entitled "L’âme du cochon" (The Pig’s Soul - Publ. Benteli). Since founding "Light Night Production S.A." in 1985, Patricia Plattner has devoted herself to filmmaking, and to producing and co-producing numerous films. From 1989 to 1993, she sat on the Suissimage Cultural Commission. In 1993, she conceived the book "Le hibou et la baleine" (The Owl and the Whale - Publ. Zoé) in collaboration with Nicolas Bouvier, as a follow-up to the film of the same name.

That year she also received the UBS Jubilee Foundation Award. From 1994 to 2000, she sat on Pro Helvetia’s Board of Trustees and the Advisory Committee of the Federal Office of Culture in Berne. Winner of the UBS Award (Solothurn Film Festival) in 2000, her latest films include LES PETITES COULUERS, LES DIEUX NE MEURENT JAMAIS, CARNET DE VALSE, and BAZAR. (7/12)


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