Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) is an autonomous organization promoted by the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in 1994 with the vision to realize the right to shelter and dignity for all.

Founded with the mission of building sound housing and living environments for poor women in the informal sector, MHT's programs address basic civic and housing infrastructure needs, including water, sanitation, drainage, solid waste management, roads, electricity/energy, low-income housing and secured land tenure. MHT facilitates access to information and financial, legal and technical services in housing, water and sanitation, energy, housing finance, climate change, urban planning, construction related livelihood sectors with a focus on improving the quality of lives and livelihoods of poor women.

MHT believes that all citizens, irrespective of their residential status, have a right of equal access to basic services and that they have a right to be treated uniformly and justly by the service providers. Towards this, MHT focuses on enhancing civic engagement among citizens, particularly slum residents, women and rural poor, through promotion of Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and grassroot women's leadership.

Women Speak & News

Women Speak



Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) is implementing a 3-year (April 2016 to Jun 2019) Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, “Adolescent Girls to Make Ahmedabad Open-Defecation Free” in Ahmedabad (Gujarat state) and Delhi metropolitan regions in India. Adolescent Girls will lead this programme as Ambassadors of Sanitation Behavioural Change to reach 62500 individuals targeting 2500 Households and 50 Open-defecation spots in poor peri-urban slum areas and 10500 children in 30 schools. The interventions include –

  •   Formation of 57 Community Based Organizations (CBO)
  •    Construction of 2500 individual toilets
  •   Outreach to eliminate 50 open-defecation areas reaching 50000 individuals for sanitation behavior change
  •   Capacity built trainings targeting 10500 school children with emphasis on Menstrual hygiene
  •   Construction of model toilets in four schools with gender – specific designs


MHT will partner with Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Dasra and Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the implementation of this programme.



MHT will form 57 Community-Based Organizations (CBO’s) to implement the new sanitation facilities together with training in behavior change. The progrmme will facilitate partnerships between communities and municipal corporations for policy intervention and advocacy to influence the government’s ‘Clean Ahmedabad Campaign’. Prior to replicating its model in Delhi, MHT will demonstrate strategies for effective and sustainable sanitation: using technology for wider communication like mobile survey applications, information dissemination and tracking systems.



 About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)

Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement solutions to the world\\\'s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together 190 sitting and former heads of state, more than 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date, members of the CGI community have made more than 3,500 Commitments to Action, which have improved the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at


We are ecstatic to announce that we have been selected as a winning team of the Global Resilience Challenge! Out of nearly 500 applications submitted, the Mahila Housing SEWA Trust team (with 17 partners) was selected as one of eight winning teams. The Global Resilience Challenge is a multi-stage design competition designed to surface transformative resilience solutions to problems that threaten the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and South and Southeast Asia.

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) Team with 17 partners across South Asia will now receive up to $1 million in funding to implement our proposed solution in a way that can be scaled and adopted by others in the future. The solution we proposed focuses on the most pressing climate-related risks faced by the communities: heat waves, flooding, water scarcity, and water and vector borne diseases. The proposed solution model would be community-based, women led, integrated and partnership based, evidence-based and will focus on the innovative communication strategies to promote community-level resilience actions.

For more information on this exciting announcement, visit

Earlier this year our Director Bijal Brahmbhatt was featured in 'Women of Pure Strength' -second edition of a coffee table book by the Vodafone Foundation. The Book chronicles efforts of 50 dynamic women in their contribution to our diverse socio-economic milieu. The book was launched by boxing champion MC Mary Kom at an event in Delhi.

MHT is pleased to announce its new partnership with the Homenet South Asia Trust in Nepal and Bhubaneswar for a training plus pilot project entitled, Assessing the housing and infrastructure needs of home-based workers in Nepal & Odisha, India. HNSA and their members organizations work for the welfare of Home-Based Workers.We also held a 4-day workshop at our Ahmedabad office for member NGOs SAATHI in Nepal and Road in Bhubaneswar on how to build relations with the government to access basic services for their members


The Mahila Housing SEWA Trust is dedicated to serving poor women in the informal economy. Official estimates state that 90% of housing gap in the country is in the lower income groups, and it is in those strata that MHT's work has been focussed. To play its role effectively MHT has developed into a hybrid organization combining technical and social skills.

Housing for the poor includes the eco-environment of house structure, local infrastructure and good governance and is an area both of great need and substantial growth. Mahila housing SEWA Trust, as a part of the SEWA movement, serves this need by combining the expertise of engineers and social mobilizers. Starting with Gujarat, MHT is now working in many parts of India. The states are Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Bubhneshwar, Bihar, and across South Asia in Nepal and Bangladesh.

MHT creates knowledge on housing from the view-point of the poor and shows that housing is integral to all aspects of a poor woman's life. Her employment is closely tied up with her house and the availability of water, toilets, electricity and safety. In urban areas, the home is the workplace for over 30% of women workers, while in rural areas the home extends to the living space for people as well as cattle. It is also a place where farm produce is stored and processed.

The Mahila Housing SEWA Trust is a social organization, helping women organize themselves into local groups to impact their environment; the growth of Resident Welfare Associations, Community Based Organizations and their Federation (the Vikasini) through MHT support has proved to be a remarkable development. MHT organizes poor women around habitat issues and it builds their confidence to deal with service providers, such as electricity companies, water boards, and housing boards as well as administrative and governance structures like municipalities and district panchayats.

The Mahila Housing SEWA Trust is a technical agency. It has built toilets, laid drain pipes, built water tanks; it has constructed houses for the poor according to their need, affordability and specifications; it has supported in community surveys required for implementing housing programmes; and most importantly it has done all this, in areas where no private or even public agency was ready to enter, and has shown how housing for the poor can be successfully implemented.

MHT, over the years, has become a bridge between poor women and mainstream institutions, thanks to its social-technical approach. It has linked thousands of women with financial institutions like banks and co-operatives, with Government schemes and with private builders, on terms that are favorable to the poor. Through, the journey, MHT like many other SEWA organizations, has become a ‘mother institution' creating new organizations like AWAS SEWA Grih Rin, Credit Cooperatives, Vikasini and many others.

Moving forward the potential is unlimited. MHT has created success stories in many states with many different types of poor women. The poor are still the majority in the country and inclusion of their needs and aspirations into the growth process is important for the country. Mahila Housing SEWA Trust can continue to show the way. (To be linked with home page – more about MHT)


  • Improve housing, infrastructure and overall living environment.
  • Improve access to services such as shelter finance, legal advice and technical assistance for housing.
  • Provide habitat related income generating opportunities.
  • Advocate better habitat policies.


MHT's expertise is in its ability to implement and upscale sustainable habitat development solutions for women in urban and rural areas.

MHT believes that the most effective way of bringing services at the grassroots is through community mobilization and empowerment and is thus committed to build local capacities. The critical force for achieving sustainable change in governance can come only from within the communities. Through sustained training, organisation building, technical assistance and financial collaboration, MHT enables local communities to promote, protect and realise their right to basic public services and thereby the right to dignity.

The unique expertise that MHT brings in is its approach to fostering equitable partnerships between the Municipal Corporations, Service Providers and the poor women.


  • Dignified home, dignified work, dignified life for women working in the informal economy.


  • To organise and empower women working in the informal economy to exercise their rights as equal citizens to secure better habitat, environment and basic services.


  Water Sanitation & hygiene

Privacy, security and dignity are not the only things lost when there are no toilets at home. In India, more than 1,600 children under five years of age die each day only due to diarrhea caused by lack of sanitation and hygiene. An estimated 443 million school days are lost each year because of water-related ailments. Still only 37 percent of Indians, have access to toilets (Census 2011). India stands second only to China with regards to number of people lacking access to sanitation. The situation is as bad in urban areas as in rural; worsening as cities expand and so do the slums within them. Census data shows that slum population has tripled in the last three decades. Most of these slum populations are forced to reside in unsanitary and hazardous conditions, lacking access to even basic facilities and services.

The Government, at all levels, has been trying to address the issue through various schemes and provision of subsidies. The major obstacle, thus, is not availability of resources but reaching these services to the urban poor particularly those residing in slums and informal settlements.

MHT believes that the most effective way of bringing these services at the grassroots is community mobilization and empowerment and engaging civil society to enable significant improvements in delivery of WATSAN services and similar public utilities. MHT thus plays the crucial role of mobilizing and empowering the slum residents to procure better services for themselves, including improved water, sanitation, and housing infrastructure under existing government schemes.

After SNP, MHT moved to other states. The following year depicts the entry of MHT to other states with its Water Sanitation & hygiene interventions:

Year of Entry State City
1995 Gujarat Ahmedabad
2001 Surat,
2010 Bihar Katihar
2011 Madhya Pradesh Bhopal,
2011 Delhi New Delhi

In addition to the SNP, MHT has also collaborated with AMC, on the 500 NOC and Nirmal Gujarat Abhiyan Schemes, thereby enabling slum residents to avail at least the basic facilities of household level water connections, toilets and drainage facilities. In 2001, MHT embarked upon slum upgradation activities in Surat and Vadodara through the National Slum Development Program.

In 2007, MHT moved out of Gujarat to undertake urban slum upgradation activities in 3 cities of Rajasthan, namely, Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaipur, under the Rajasthan Urban Infrastructure Development Project, an Asian Development Bank initiative. MHT has also been involved in Integrated Slum and Housing Development Program (IHSDP) in Jodhpur. In collaboration with the Vidisha and Hoshangabad Nagarpalikas, MHT is also working in Madhya Pradesh on the Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Scheme (ILCS).

Over 20 years, MHT has successfully enabled over 79584 households from slums across 14 cities from 7 States of India: Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan to demand and access basic services especially water and sanitation. Towards this, MHT has been able to channelize over 19.44 crores (INR) of public money for provision of basic civic amenities to the slum families. MHT has also been able to mobilize a community contribution of over 41.78 crores (INR) towards infrastructure development.

   Energy & Climate Change

Energy usage deeply influences poor people's lives. For the poor women their house is their workplace, storehouse and godown. In 2004, MHT with SEWA bank jointly undertook a study to understand the effects of inadequate access to energy on the poor women members. Some of the key findings were:

  • Women who had access to grid electrification had no awareness of safety and conservation of energy. Their usage was extremely inefficient, consuming and spending almost double than necessary.
  • The rural areas of Gujarat and small towns especially in states like Rajasthan, Bihar and Jharkhand the electric supply was inconsistent or did not exist at all.
  • Most women used a combination of biomass based fuels and inefficient cook stoves. Nonexistent/improper ventilation caused huge health problems like nausea, lung disease; some of the symptoms included headache, fatigue, nausea, eye nose irritation, shortness of breath etc. Children were the worst affected.

They also spent a lot of time collecting biomass for fuels. This along with limited electricity access compounded their woes and their income generating time was reduced by three to four hours. Especially the Home Based Workers were the worst affected. Thus there was a need to devise a strategy for increased access to energy that was Sustainable: The key elements to sustainability being Equitable, Affordable and Non polluting.

The three pivots to energy services of MHT are:

  1. Project Urja: The renewable energy programme
    • Generating Green employment:
      • Green Hawking was promoted by mobilising vendors to use solar lanterns for vending in the night. Solar Caps with fans were introduced to masons, labourers and waste pickers, to enable them to combat the stress generated due to the tropical climate of India. The midwives now use the solar headlamps for safe and secure mobility to attend night time calls.
      • Women who are flower pluckers earlier worked from 12 am to 3 am with one hand only. The other hand would hold a kerosene lamp which provided light. They are now using the solar caps and reporting more amount of flower plucked in the same time.
    • Renewable Energy at Door step:
      • Our rural members mostly practice agriculture and prefer to have a house in their fields. Agrarian areas are far away from grid infrastructure even in more developed states like Gujarat. Electric supply for our members in very low electrified states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh is a dream even in the urban areas and small towns. MHT and SEWA Bharat have helped light-up their lives in these states. The poor women members have adopted Solar lighting Systems and Solar lanterns.
      • Approximately 7314+ systems have been financed through the Bank, self help groups and thrift and credit cooperatives.
    • The Energy Efficiency Programme (EEP)
    • In the year 2000 MHT had initiated a campaign with the Ahmedabad Electricity Company (AEC - A private sector firm) to legally electrify the slum households of Ahmedabad. Though the city of Ahmedabad was fully covered by grid infrastructure, the slum dwellers did not have a right to get connected. The programme was so successful that now it has been institutionalised at the AEC and all slums have been electrified. The programme has been quoted as a ‘global showcase” by the USAID. One of the major learning's of the programme was that women needed to switch to low carbon efficient energy systems. MHT trained and developed energy auditors from amongst the poor women. Energy audits of more than 12,000 houses have already been conducted by these women as entrepreneurs. They suggest the switch to the efficient systems by drawing line plans and offering products on sale.

    • Tackling Indoor Air Pollution
    • Most of our urban members stay in industrial areas either working in these industries or doing home based work staying in small, chaotic houses with poor or no ventilation considering that they have 3 adjacent walls in the house without any scope of windows. Additionally, they use traditional fuel for cooking and lighting that increases the indoor air pollution and the poor indoor air quality leads to severe health problems. Mahila housing SEWA Trust has been promoting a range of energy efficient cook stoves and roof ventilations after conducting extensive tests and developing the innovative "air lite ventilation". It was also found that different cook stoves had different efficiencies in different work. For example: A stove that was more efficient in cooking was not that efficient in boiling water.

Product The saving The Cost The Product Range Monetary savings (in INR) per month Payback period
Wood Cooking Stove Consumption of wood is reduced by 50%. Rs. 1,450 Prakti Cook Stove by SELCO 50% reduction in cost of fuel 6 months
Kerosene Cooking Stove Consumption of kerosene is reduced by 30%. Rs. 550 Serval Cook Stove by SERVAL 30 - 35% reduction in cost of fuel 6 months
Smokeless Stove Consumption of firewood reduced by 50% & kerosene by 30%. Rs. 1,450 Annapoorna Cook Stove by SELCO
Green roofing technologies- Roof Ventilation Monthly KW savings of approximately 40 Rs. 2,650 Air Lite Ventilation by Footprint 50% reduction in electricity consumption 18 months

Climate Change

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT) first invited “MS. Dharmistha Chauhan” an expert on climate change issues, to talk to some women leaders from slums in Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India) on the issue of Climate Change. We realized talking to women who had no idea of Global Warming, Scenario Projections, not even Greenhouse Effect. And yet they were the ones I knew are to be the most affected by the impact of the changing climate. We asked the women what they were experiencing about the changing weather conditions. And voilà, the women not only knew what was happening, but were in their own ways developing mechanisms to cope with it. It was very individual specific, often based on traditional knowledge, but it was working for them. MHT felt that if these women were equipped with requisite scientific knowledge, capacities and technologies, they could develop actionable adaptation plans.

Subsequently under the “Global resilience Challenge” supported by Rockefeller, Sida and USAID, MHT was selected as one of the top fifteen organizations from over 500 organizations and was invited to develop a proposal to build the capacities of poor women and their network on issues of climate change.

Under this programme MHT is supporting networks of poor women called Vikasini to develop multidisciplinary partnerships with experts to look at vulnerability assessments and solutions to climate stress.

The programme will map and study the behavior change pattern of the poor and induce innovative communication strategies like mobile messaging, vulnerability calculator, micro data gathering to turn the abstract concept of climate change into a reality for the poor.

Often the communities have indigenous knowledge that is low cost and site specific as well as effective, but needs scientific authentication. MHT will authenticate document and disseminate such results.

   Affordable Housing & Land Rights

Inadequate or substandard housing is a highly visible dimension of vulnerability. This is especially true for low income self employed families for whom a home is not only the locus of domestic and parental responsibilities, but also of economic activities, playing the role of workshops, warehouses and stores. With increasing urbanization in India and subsequent rise in costs of urban housing, the number of people living in deteriorated housing conditions is rising. The government is aware of the situation and has taken serious steps to provide housing under JNNURM through schemes like IHSDP, BSUP and RAY.

However, lack of community awareness and transparency in the schemes clubbed with weak urban land tenure systems restricts the reach of such programs to the target communities. It is also an accepted fact, given the gravity of the situation, that government resources alone are not sufficient to the task.

MHT thus has a multi pronged approach to affordable housing:

Creating an Enabling Policy Environment

  • MHT has been working towards lobbying with several government departments influencing the policies like BSUP, Ray and others. It has been working on State Slum rehabilitation policies, negotiating urban town planning and tenural systems and conducting social audits. Streamlining the procedure for better transparency and accountability for entitlement of housing subsidy to the poor.
  • Facilitating Public Private Partnerships for Housing.
  • It has been working with the Government and private builders to create an environment of better accountability and build a legal stake of the slum dwellers in the entire process of slum housing development. Provision of household level family photo-identity cards by Ahmedabad municipal corporation, individual MOUs of poor women with the builders, entitlement of temporary stay during the redevelopment period are some of the measures that MHT has taken to ensure that the rights of the slum dwellers are not marginalized.
  • Creating People centric Design.

MHT has brought poor women, architects and engineers on one platform to create people centric detailed project reports for housing schemes. In Gujarat it has also influenced the existing development construction laws to make them pro-poor and derived a tenure assessment system, to enable the access to housing finance for slum dwellers to meet their individual housing needs.

Construction of housing services to the last mile: Awaas SEWA Private Limited.

The Twelfth Five Year Plan Document quotes that the number of dwelling units sanctioned under JNNURM in MHT has set up Awaas SEWA Private Limited, a social enterprise for construction activities with women from informal sector on the board of the company. Presently, Awaas SEWA, in cooperation with the Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad, is evaluating slum redevelopment projects. It is also engaged in discussion with private developers for construction of low income housing for the poor.

Over the years, 12,591 women have been enabled joint property titles. The estimated market value of these assets – land and house, created in the name of women is worth over INR 6,294 million

Committee membership and influencing policy

MHT has also been lobbying with several government departments for enabling Pro-Poor Housing Policies and Programs. The main focus is on streamlining the procedures and ensuring better transparency and accountability for entitlement of housing subsidy to the poor under the existing schemes. Some important achievements in this regard have been:

  • Being appointed as a consulting expert by the Gujarat Urban Development Authority for Urban Poor Programs
  • Member on the expert committee for the Rajiv Awas Yojana of the Government of Gujarat.
  • On the guiding committee of Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for implementing JNNURM
  • MHT was a member of the National Taskforce, 2000 on "Housing Finance for the Informal Sector", and was able to influence pro-poor housing finance activities in the government and the private sector
  • In 2000, MHT also initiated a National Level Campaign on microfinance for infrastructure.
  • MHT has formulated the water and sanitation policy for the poor in 2008 for the Ministry of Housing and urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA)
  • MHT is a member of the affordable housing task force set-up by the Prime Minister of India in 2008 (A report on Affordable Housing in India was produced)
  • MHT is a member of the National Level Committee set up by the MoHUPA for "Housing Micro Finance Companies for the Poor" in 2009.
  • MHT is also a member on the Expert Committee formulated by MoHUPA for the Rajiv Awas Yojana (2006 to 2010). It has strongly influenced the flagship policy of the Government of India: The National Urban Renewal Mission. MHT has started an advocacy campaign with IRIA and SPARC.
  • Forged partnerships with electricity companies inducing them to change their policies to provide electric connections to the poor (We implemented electrification program and based on its learnings, the policies of Ahmedabad Electricity Corporation (AEC) were changed to include all poor households in Ahmedabad for legal electricity connections).
  • Influenced mainstream agencies like National Housing Bank (NHB), Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) and Housing Development Finance Corporation (HFDC) to increase housing and finance for the poor (2012 till date – Given presentations, as a part of the Committee called by the World Bank for sharing experiences).
  • Provided inputs in the 12th five-year plan of India (2011 – A member on the steering committee for Affordable Housing & Urban Poverty).

Land Rights for the Poor

Given the rapid nature of urbanization in India and the fact that legal regulations have not adapted the same pace, means that any system of absolute land rights for slum dwellers will take a long time. MHT believes that given the highly complex land tenure systems and difficulties in resolutions of multiple claims to property, full tenure regularization for the poor, particularly urban slum dwellers, is a far-fetched dream. Too much insistence on this absolute legal approach and emphasis for obtaining clear titles would lead to a situation wherein very few services would be actually provided to the poor excluding them by default. Depriving the poor of their entitlements to basic services like water, sanitation and shelter for attaining a higher goal of full tenure regularization is actually an infringement of their basic human right to dignity.

Thus, while clear legal titles should be the ultimate goal, one could look at a "gradualist" approach of progressive tenure security, which can provide many benefits of tenure regularization with much less time and administrative effort. There are a range of such progressive tenure documents already experimented in various Indian States and cities like occupancy permits, non-eviction assurance, regularisation of construction, government lease/license documents, etc.

From Informal Possession to Formal Land Titles

These progressive tenure documents should be used to reach various basic services to the poor. Those higher up the tenure value chain can in fact also be used as a de-facto tenure security document for enabling access to credit for the poor. Once the poor are granted some security of tenure and can have access to finance, they will themselves invest in their homes. MHT is also working towards developing a system of "progressive tenure assessment" which can be used by financial institutions and urban planners to provide affordable housing to the poor.

Over the years MHT has supported 35,620 families across Gujarat and Rajasthan to get such progressive tenures.

   Housing & Infrastructure Finance

Currently in India there are two sources of formal housing finance available;

(a) Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) and

(b) Banks and Housing Finance Institutions (HFIs).

Many established Micro Finance Institutions offer affordable housing and basic infrastructure finance. However, these are generally considered as unproductive loans and hence loans for such purposes are generally offered only in the 3rd or 4th stage of micro finance. Further these are too small (less than One Lakh Rupees), not tailored to housing improvements and do not offer the technical assistance, product attributes or underwriting that should be in place for successful housing loans.

Banks and Housing Finance Institutions do have well defined housing loan products. However, they are mostly mortgageable products and involve a loan size generally on more than Ten Lakh rupees – the statement means that banks and housing institutions generally provide loans for amount 10 lakh rupees or more. People in the informal sector with no proof of regular income, little collateral or mortgageable title, and a required loan size of around Two to Five Lakh Rupees, are too small and uncertain to target for mainstream housing finance institutions.

MHT's approach to housing and infrastructure finance thus includes, identification of community needs and the crucial gap areas; piloting and demonstration of viable housing loan products and assessment methodologies to reach out to the poor; and advocacy activities to create an enabling regulatory environment and incentives for improving the access of the poor to formal housing finance. MHT's work focuses on the following mutually reinforcing objectives:

  • Remove the income documentation and tenure trade-offs for expanding financial access to the poor.
  • Innovate and incubate new housing loan products targeting the poor especially in the loan bracket of One to Five Lakhs – the Missing Middle.
  • Provide technical support and guidance to the poor to help them utilize the housing finance services for bettering their livelihoods.
  • Create people's own institutions (Two Credit Cooperatives at Surat and Baroda) along with SEWA GRIH RIN, a national level housing finance company to enable access to financial services to the poor.
  • Facilitate and support MFIs and pro-poor financial institutions like SEWA Bank and SEWA Grih Rin to understand land tenure systems for creating innovative housing loan products.
  • Undertake State and National level policy advocacy to create an enabling environment for pro-poor housing finance.
  • Through its customised infrastructure finance program, MHT has touched the lives of more than 5,680 people, reaching out to 1,136 families.
  • Over the years, loans worth INR 118.96 lakhs have been accessed by 244 groups, mainly for water connections, toilet constructions, electricity and sewer connections in four states.
  • MHT has also supported more than 2,561 families through its housing finance program to improve their homes and have a better standard of living.
  • An amount of INR 25,40,000 has been given for housing finance which includes 8 families having a loan size of more than One lakh Rupees.

Since 2000, MHT has been focusing on policy advocacy towards creating conducive environment and regulatory framework which will encourage and enable access to housing finance to the poor. Some of MHT's key policy persuasions on housing finance include:

According to the National Housing Bank, more than 75% of the loans disbursed by Housing Finance Companies (HFCs) are in the loan bracket above INR 10 Lakhs reaching out only to Middle and High Income Groups.

While MFIs focus on small loans – Rupees One lakh or less; Banks and HFIs focus on large loans – Rupees Ten Lakh or more. There is thus a very crucial MISSING MIDDLE in the loan bracket of Rs. One to Five Lakhs; which MHT plans to benefit through its housing finance program.

  • Recognition of infrastructure and housing finance as part of productive loans for asset creation and not as non-productive loans.
  • Introduction of water and sanitation as part of priority sector lending.
  • Focus on capacity building of all stakeholders to raise awareness on housing finance for the poor.
  • Create financial incentives for mainstream institutions to develop new housing finance instruments.
  • Encouraging community driven and owned housing infrastructure projects through targeted financing.
  • Educate local bodies and financial institutions on the importance and potential of community co-financed infrastructure development.
  • Mitigation of risks to financial institutions for community infrastructure projects.
  • Review existing policies on land tenure, collateral and security.
  • Change foreclosure laws to make them favourable to the loaners.
  • Explore community's role in land procurement and community contracting.

   Skill Development & Livelihood

The construction industry is the second largest industry after agriculture in India, accounting for 11 percent of our GDP. According to various estimates, the industry employs around 35 to 43 million people and is further expected to grow with an anticipated investment of US$ half trillion in the sector. This should ideally result in more jobs and better employment opportunities in the sector particularly for those already involved in construction.

Unfortunately, the reality is very different. Construction activities in India are largely fragmented with only about 250 firms employing more than 500 people. Thus, over 95% of the construction workers in India work as casual workers, employed through the labour sub-contracting system. This contractual/casual nature of the employment often results in low wages, lack of social security and a high level of job insecurity among the workers. Women primarily employed in manual work – mostly head-load workers are the worst hit in respect to wages and other facilities.

Gujarat Ahemedabad
Rajsthan Kamlighat 123
Delhi Anadvihar
Madhya Pradesh Bhopal
Bihar Katihar 467

MHT thus focuses on providing high levels of specialised work training and skill upgradation to women construction workers to enable better employment opportunities for them. To realise this, MHT has promoted the "Karmika School of Construction Workers" for skill upgradation, certification and placement of construction women workers in March 2004.

By January 2015, Karmika had trained a total of over 9,591 people in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.


  • More working days: Following completion of training, 40% of women reported receiving 21 to 30 days of work while only 26% indicated receiving the same amount of work before training

  • Increase in income: 80% of trained women reported higher incomes after training especially a substantial increase in daily wages. The incomes of trained women rose by between `10 and `50 per day. Nearly 42% reported that their daily wages grew by between 21 to 50 while 13% reported wage gains of more than 50 per day. While only 20% of the women had received `70 to `100 before training, 70% of the women surveyed did so after training
  • More women employed as masons [karigars] and helpers: All the women surveyed had previously worked as unskilled labourers. After training 30% worked as helpers to masons, another 20% worked as masons. Four of the women surveyed had become independent contractors. The Karmika School currently employs 5 trained women as trainers in masonry, tiling, carpentry and electric wiring.
  • Ability to do skilled work: After training, 45% reported being able to do any type of work, 18% were able to produce better finishing effects, 25% were able to do plastering and masonry.
  • Increase in confidence levels: 68% women reported higher confidence levels in doing skilled construction work. Many reported higher status within the family and better bargaining skills
  • Decline in sexual harassment at workplace: Many women reported being subject to sexual harassment and rude behavior by contractors and other male superiors, prior to being trained at Karmika. Then women would usually go in groups to look for work to avoid sexual harassment. Most women mentioned staying at home or looking for some other work if no one could accompany them to the kadiyanaka . After the training 4% of the women developed enough confidence and could go alone for work. Further 85% of the trained women reported that contractors were quite respectful towards them. Only 7% of the trained women reported sexual and verbal abuse after being trained as compared to 24% before training.

Challenges & Way Forward

The training offered by the Karmika school has had mixed results. While it has been fairly successful in highly urbanized state like Gujarat, it is difficult to get a very high impact in more agrarian economies like Bihar. Also the training has to compare to five to ten years of apprenticeship usually practiced by the males in the sector to become a skilled mason. This means a minimum duration of six to eight months of training with hands on practical is required and rendering such level of training is very costly.

   Urban Land Planning & Governance

All citizens, irrespective of their income or residential status, have a right of equal access to basic civic services and that they have a right to be treated uniformly and justly by the government and service providers.

MHT believes that if capacities of the poor, especially women, are enhanced so that they can organize themselves to exercise their civic rights and government systems are made more democratic and accountable, then it is possible to improve their living conditions (habitats). To achieve this, MHT focuses on enhancing civic engagement among citizens particularly slum residents, women and the rural poor by:

  • Promoting Community Based Organizations (CBOs): MHT enables grassroots women's leadership, so they can interface with Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and other stakeholders to procure better services for them, including improved water, sanitation, and housing infrastructure under existing government schemes. The CBO led approach has worked well in the slum upgrading projects. In most cases of successful slum upgrading projects, they have been anchored by strong CBOs. Besides planning and supervision of the construction initiatives, these CBOs also play an important role in monitoring the fund flow particularly subsidy provision to the communities. Later on these CBOs also undertake smaller maintenance works of their upgraded slums and in many instances have also been granted basic waste management contracts from the Municipal Corporations. Since inception, MHT has been focusing on promotion and capacity building of over 413 CBOs which includes 1, 03, 250 families in 6 states.
  • Women's Leadership Development – The activities of local government affect women more as they are usually responsible for looking after basic needs of the family. However, women often do not have any access or influence over the policy decisions governing these basic services. It is very important that women's voices are amplified in the local governance process. To enable this, MHT focuses on development of women led CBOs to ensure inclusion of gender concerns in habitat planning and management. Closely connected with a women led CBO approach, is the need to focus on women's capacity building and leadership development. MHT provides training for women leaders of CBOs to help build their capacities, especially on civic education, communication and negotiation skills and on leadership development. Till date, around 9,800 women leaders from 12 cities have undergone this training module.
  • City Level Federations (Vikasini) – Realizing that individual CBOs are limited in the amount of leverage they can bring to bear towards influencing the city, MHT encouraged the organizations to coalesce under a umbrella body called Vikasini which is a city level federation of CBOs. Vikasinis have been promoted in all 12 cities where MHT has its presence.

Vikasini works on three levels:

  • Citizen level – working for individual identity proofs and documentation (election card, ration card, UID, etc). Support for getting benefits of welfare schemes related to pensions, scholarships, etc.
  • Area level – representing two to three CBOs, they primarily work on liaisoning with local ULBs for operations, repair and maintenance of the civic services in their area; for enabling provision of additional facilities (like plantation, railway crossing); for area planning and enumerations. Make representations on behalf of the area.
  • City level – represent the voices of poor and women in multi stakeholder dialogues and workshops. Provide inputs in city plans and policies.

Local Partnership Development by Vikasini in Ahmedabad

Vikasini, Ahmedabad is made up of 180 CBOs and led by 21 voluntary women representatives. It is directly involved in taking forward people's agenda in city level governance. Beginning with involvement in planning and research of pro-poor programmes, Vikasini is now being officially invited by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and other organizations for sharing their insights. Over the years, Vikasini has been involved in;

  • Providing inputs in Ahmedabad City Development Plan 2020, City Sanitation Plan and Zero Waste Management Plan.
  • Updating of the Voter list in ward number-13 of AMC on request of the local municipal councillor.
  • Conducting biometric surveys under Rajiv AwasYojana (RAY) and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for AMC.
  • Assessment of public toilets and public convenience for Urban Management Centre (UMC).
  • Assessment of water and sanitation services in Mehsana using mobile technology.
  • Support in research of bicycling and transportation choices of the poor for Green Cities.
  • Mapping of service availability and household status in 1262 slums and chawls (low income localities) of Ahmedabad for Environmental Planning Collaborative for a World Bank funded research project.
  • Conducting survey under Individual Low Cost Sanitation (ILCS) programme for Government of Madhya Pradesh in 2012.

The highlights of Vikasini's activities include:

  • Facilitating and monitoring the performance of member CBOs.
  • Liaising with local government bodies and municipal councillors on issues of governance affecting the poor in general and their own wards (areas) in particular.
  • Monitoring, lobbying and advocacy for implementation of City Development Plans.
  • Linking the poor with the welfare schemes being implemented by the government and other NGOs.
  • Over the years, MHT and Vikasini has enabled access to water and sanitation to more than 82,860 families; electricity to more than 1.35 lakh families.
  • MHT and Vikasini has been able to channelize over INR 154 million of public money for provision of basic civic amenities to the slum families.
  • MHT and Vikasini has also been able to mobilize a community contribution of over INR 193 million for infrastructure development.

Rural Housing, Water & Sanitation

MHT works on a “Community-led Access to Habitat” approach in rural areas with an aim to improve the quality of life of the poor. The key strategies deployed by MHT in improving rural habitations include:

  • Working with communities to design their own affordable housing and infrastructure models.
  • Dovetailing housing initiatives to include in-house water, individual toilets, legal electrification, efficient energy technologies and disaster risk reduction.
  • Enabling access to finance through government subsidy, loans and/or private grants.
  • Raising awareness on quality construction, especially disaster resistant technologies and those requiring less maintenance.
  • Training of communities, masons and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) on quality construction and maintenance.
  • Enabling access to land for housing.
  • Focus on behaviour change especially on hygiene issues and to improve access to health services.
  • Construction of green, disaster resistant housing.

Post 2001 earthquake, MHT with other SEWA organisation was involved in rehabilitation efforts in 30 villages in the most severely affected districts in Gujarat, namely, Kutch, Patan and Surendranagar. Under Naya Ghar Rural Housing Programme, MHT's qualified team of engineers were instrumental in designing suitable new homes in consultation with the communities through gram sabhas.

MHT's Direct Role in Rehabilitation

  • construction of earthquake-resistant housing;
  • retrofitting of affected houses;
  • capacity building of village gram sabhas for enhanced community participation in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts; and
  • livelihood diversification and security activities, notably in the form of training of local populations in masonry, disaster-resistant construction skills and the development of building materials such as roof tiles and concrete blocks.

Role of Gram Sabhas facilitated by MHT

  • conducting surveys to assess the level of housing damage in individual villages;
  • identifying and prioritizing local housing needs;
  • identifying suppliers and purchasing suitable building materials;
  • distributing building materials;
  • managing registries of supplies; and
  • mobilizing local populations to participate in reconstruction activities.

MHT constructed a total of 5,017 permanent homes in Surendranagar, Patan and Kutch. In addition to permanent dwellings, MHT also constructed 511 semi-permanent homes and 3,122 toilets in the three districts. The diversity in ethnic and caste affiliations and associated preferences in lifestyle made finding a standard design suitable for all households a near impossible task. MHT thus, developed its unique approach of having a standard design template while also working with each household to accommodate individual preferences.

Policy Implications for Rehabilitation Projects

  • Governments typically provide cash compensation to individuals who have lost homes and livelihoods to enable them to rebuild. Because low-income rural and urban populations are not accustomed to handling large volumes of cash, they typically end up using the cash for other purposes and are unable to contribute much towards housing reconstruction. MHT's experience in implementing rural and urban housing schemes suggest that while families should be provided with some cash compensation for other needs, it may be more efficient to channel housing reconstruction and repair funds through NGOs experienced in executing low-income housing and infrastructure schemes.
  • Further post-disaster compensation is often based on extent of damage. Thus families which already had pucca houses ended up getting more compensation than the poor whose house value was less. This needs to be kept in mind while declaring compensation and the poor families also need to be compensated adequately.
  • Private sector partnership for integrated rural habitat development.
  • In 2005, MHT consolidated its rural activities to develop an integrated habitat development model. The model was first implemented in Sarona village in Navsari district of Gujarat as part of the CSR initiative of a US based motel chain owned by a Non-Resident Indian from the same village. Through this model the entire hamlet housing 136 haplati families were enabled access to a new and improved habitat.

Outreach and Impact

  • Over the decade, MHT has enabled more than 13,220 rural families to have access to basic shelter facilities. This includes 1,032 families who have been facilitated for availing access to government rural housing schemes and 5,528 families who were supported in post-earthquake rehabilitation and construction of disaster resistant housing.
  • MHT has also successfully enabled over 6,660 households from 56 villages to demand and access basic sanitation services.
  • Towards this, MHT has been able to channelize over 5.63 crores of public money for provision of basic infrastructure facilities to the rural families.
  • MHT has also been able to mobilize a community contribution of over 4.57 crores towards infrastructure development.


Consultancy Title Name of client Duration/year Description about assignment
Developing slum upgradation plan Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation 1998-2003 Developing slum upgradation plan
Developing slum upgradation plan Surat Municipal Corporation 2001-2003 Developing slum upgradation plan
Developing slum upgradation plan Baroda Municipal Corporation 2002-2004 Developing slum upgradation plan
Developing slum upgradation plan Nagpur Municipal Corporation 2005 Developing slum upgradation plan
Consultancy for Best practices in Slum Upgradation UNDP 2005 Developing the best practices which can be for upgradation of slum
Consultancy for drawing up Urban Poverty Strategy for Ahmedabad UNDP Consultancy for developing slum profiles and strategy
Survey for Integrated Slum and Housing Development Programme Godhra and Nadiad Municipality 2005 Consultancy for developing slum profiles and strategy
Consultant for supporting different ULBs for Gujarat Urban Development Mission (GUDM) 2006 To support GUDM for project preparation including CDPs, DPRs, project for Urban Poor, Poverty Alleviation Programmes, to support GUDM for appraising the projects from different ULBs.
JNNURM Survey for Slum Upgradation Jaipur Municipal Corporation 2008 Consultancy for conducting household survey
Detailed Project Report (DPR) preparation for RAY in Ahmedabad Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation 2012-2013 Community Organization, micro planning
Winter Course on "Inclusive Communities" CEPT University 2013 & 2014 Consultancy for conducting a Winter Course
Consultancy services sharing experiences for the detailed project report (DPR) for RAY for select slums of Raipur, Tirupati & Ahmedabad. GIZ (German Development Corporation) 20/11/2013-20/6/2014 Review of DPR prepared by TMC & RMC, Documenting learnings from DPRs prepared by CEPT/ MHT.

Research & Publications

  • Upgrading Women In The Construction Industry, 2000, Bijal Brahmbhatt & Renana Jhabvala
  • Parivartan and Its Impact: A Partnership Programme of Infrastructure Development in Slums of Ahmedabad City, Gujarat, INDIA (2002), SEWA Academy
  • Property Rights For Women , May 22, 1999 Jeemol Unni
  • Accommodating Poor in Elite's Urban Space, 2009, Surashree Shome
  • Urban Slums in Gujarat and Rajasthan: Study of Basic Infrastructure in Seven Cities, 2009, Benjamin Stanwix
  • Emulating Mortgages for the Benefit of the Poor: Financial Innovations by Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, 2014, Bijal Brahmbhatt & Matthias Nohn
  • Evaluating the Impact of SY2SP, 2009, Donna Doane
  • Good Governance Through Partnership: Ahmedabad – Parivartan-Programme in "Shelter" a HUDCO publication, Vol. IV, No.2, December, 2001,Bijal Brahmbhatt
  • Urban Poverty Reduction Strategy for the City of Ahmedabad (NIUA Report), January 29, 2008Bijal Brahmbhatt & Matthias Nohn
  • Improving Urban Slums, Improving Health in Health Exchange, summer 2009,Bijal Brahmbhatt
  • Mobilising Women for Change – Case study of Sanjaynagar, Ahmedabad, Working Paper 7, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, April, 2010.Bijal Brahmbhatt & Pooja Shah
  • Ahmedabad – More but Different Government for Slum Free and Liveable Cities, Policy Research Working Paper 6267, World Bank, November, 2012,Bijal Brahmbhatt, Patricia Clarke Annez, Alain Bertaud, Marie-Agnes Bertaud, Chirayu Bhatt, Bimal Patel & Vidyadhar Phatak
  • Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) in BSUP Sites of Ahmedabad: Experiences of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT), Working paper 25, CEPT University, September, 2014Bijal Brahmbhatt, Darshini Mahadevia and Neha Bhatia
  • Slum Rehabilitation Schemes (SRS) across Ahmedabad: Role of an External Agency, Working paper no. 27, CEPT University, November 2014Darshini Mahadevia, Neha Bhatia and Bharti Bhonsale
  • Proceedings of National Workshop on Microfinance for Infrastructure: Recent Experiences, August 31, 2000
  • Building capacity of CBOs to bring about transparency and accountability in Government
  • Summary Proceedings of State Level Workshop on Sharing lessons learnt on preparation of detailed project reports: Issues and challenges, 7th March, 2014
  • What Getting Land Title Really Means: An “Anti- Commons” In Ahmedabad, India?, Working Paper # 9, World Bank, May 12th. 2014, Bijal Brahmbhatt, Patricia Clarke Annez & Bimal Patel




  • Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation
  • Baroda Municipal Corporation
  • Surat Municipal Corporation
  • Bhopal Municipal Corporation
  • District Urban Development Authority – Nirmal Gujarat
  • Government of Gujarat
  • Ranchi Municipal Corporation
  • Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority
  • Government of India
  • Ministry of Hpuing and Urban Povert Alleviation
  • District Urban Development Authority
  • Gujarat Housing Board
  • Slum Clearnace Board
  • Jaipur Municipal Corporation
  • Katihar Municipal Corporation
  • Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam

  • ABT Association funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Building Material Technology Promotion Council – BMTPC (GOI)
  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
  • CARE India
  • Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO)
  • Humanistic Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS)
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
  • Project Development Company Of Rajasthan (PDCOR)
  • Secours populaire français
  • Sir Ratan Tata Trust
  • Strategic Alliance
  • The Lemelson Foundation
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Riso Centre (URC)
  • Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
  • Milaap
  • Oak Foundation
  • Misereor Foundation
  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • The Rockefeller Foundation
Academic Institutions

  • CEPT University
  • Environmental Planning Collaborative
  • Harvard University
  • Templeton University
  • Indian Institute of Human Settlements
  • Public Health Foundation of India
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Freie Universität Berlin
Technology / Private

  • SELCO Solar Private Limited
  • Positron Private Limited
  • Nimbus Consulting
  • B Safal Construction Private Limited
  • HN Safal Safal Realty Pvt. Ltd.
  • Tata Consultancy Services
  • JHM Hotels Private Limited
  • Forbes Marshall Private Limited
  • Amul India Private Limited
  • Awaaz.De
Sister organizations

  • Self Employed Women Association (SEWA)
  • Lok Swasthya SEWA Trust
  • Gujarat State Women's Sewa Co-Operative Federation Limited
  • SEWA Academy
  • SEWA Bharat
  • VimoSEWA
Contracting Partners

  • Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation
  • All India Institute for local Government
  • Baroda Municipal Corporation
  • CEPT University
  • CHF International
  • District Urban Development Authority – Nirmal Gujarat
  • Government of Gujarat
  • JFPR Jodhpur
  • Bhopal Municipal Corporation
  • National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA)
  • Surat Municipal Corporation
  • World Bank
  • SEWA



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Head Office
Chanda Niwas, 4th floor, Opposite Karnavati Hospital, Ellisbridge,
Ahmedabad-380006, Gujarat, India.
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For queries and information, please write to us at

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CALL US ON: +91-79-26587725, 91-79-26587726, +91-79-65446208
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Branch Offices


202, Sai Kruti, Harinagar Cross roads, Gotri Road, Vadodara

18/141, Khatodara colony, Bethi Colony, Udhana Darwaja, Surat. Gujarat
Phone: 91-261-2320045

c/o Sanklit SEWA, 10, Prassunpark,Near Mission Jakat, Dhulia Road, Taluka-Vyara,District-Tapi- 394650


Mahila Housing SEWA Trust,
D-27, Ground Floor, Ashok Vihar,
Opposite Ashok Nagar Gate No.- 1,
Ranchi-834002, Jharkhand


Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, Shakha Karyalay, Opp Indira Gandhi Pustakalay, Sahayak Thana,Manihari Road, Mirchaibari, Katihar, Bihar: 854105
Phone: 06452 - 245566

New Delhi

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, 1691 Janta Flats,GTB Enclave, Near Rupa Dairy, Opp. Nand Nagari
Phone: 011-22126825

Madhya Pradesh

Mahila Housing Sewa Trust,
C/O Mr U.S.Shrivastva , LIG -44 , First floor ,
Near Allhabad bank , Harshvardhan nagar , Mata mandir


c/o Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, B-51 Nandpuri Colony, Hawa Sadak 22, Godam, Jaipur-19
Phone: +91 99284 91877

C/o Harikrishan Purohit, 11/841, Chopasni Housing, Board, B/h, Shree Hospital, Nr. Subhas Park, Sec-11, Jodhpur-342304