The zero-sum concept is based in the power from one set of actors means that others must give up some power. One’s gain sounds like another’s loss. Since rarely do the powerful give up their power easily, this often involves conflict and ‘power struggles’, and finally can be recognize as an integral success (Gaventa,2006:24). The mindset and orientation are that those with power have to be induced to lose, implying a zero sum situation (Chambers, 2006:103)
The Self-Employment Women´s Association (SEWA) in India is an example of how power can be transformed. SEWA is an organization of poor self-employed women workers, who earn a living through their own labour or small business without obtaining the welfare benefits of the formal labor sector. Of the female labour force in India, more than 94% are in the unorganized sector.
SEWA grew out of the Textile Labour Association, TLA, Indian’s oldest and largest union of textile workers founded in1920, and in 1954 the TLA of the Women’s wings was created in order to assist women belonging to household of mill workers. The purpose of the work was focused on training and welfare activities, and in the early 1970 the scope of the activities expanded. It began to focus in the problem of the women jobs as head-loaders, where the job and the low and erratic wages where discussed until it became a public debate, where the merchants denied the allegations and testify to their fair treatment of the head-loaders. As a response Women’s wing exposed the merchants’ claims, distributing it as a use of advantage over them. The positive results started spreading, and women started to be aware about their positions organizing meetings in public spaces and in December 1971 the Self-Employed Women’s Association was born as a confrontation to the oppressive and abusive power of the contractors (SEWA,2009). Through this example is possible to identify how the power of one side means the powerless of another. Although it can changed through empower a vulnerable group, as in this case women. Nowadays, SEWA is helping women to take a number of initiatives in organizing supportive services like savings and credit, health and child care for themselves.
- Transforming Power: From Zero-Sum to Win-Win by Robert Chambers
- From Poverty to Power by Duncan Green