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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Importance Of Being Ela Bhatt

SEWA is a trade union based in Ahmedabad India, that promotes the rights of low-income, independently employed female workers and is one of the largest organization of informal workers in the world. One of the main goals of the organisation was to provide employment and self-reliance to its members–women–by providing them with avenues to work and curb poverty. She grew up with the ideals of Gandhi. Ela was all of 14 when India attained her freedom; and growing up in an environment that was so politically charged, Ela perhaps always had it in her to work for the betterment of people, especially women.

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By: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

Recently a renowned women’s rights activist, Gandhian and founder of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Ela Bhatt a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award passed away in Ahmedabad. SEWA is a trade union based in Ahmedabad India, that promotes the rights of low-income, independently employed female workers and is one of the largest organization of informal workers in the world. One of the main goals of the organisation was to provide employment and self-reliance to its members–women–by providing them with avenues to work and curb poverty. She grew up with the ideals of Gandhi. Ela was all of 14 when India attained her freedom; and growing up in an environment that was so politically charged, Ela perhaps always had it in her to work for the betterment of people, especially women.

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She was born on September 7, 1933, in Ahmedabad, in a family that engaged in social causes. Her father, Sumant Bhatt, was a lawyer who served as a district judge and was later appointed the Charity Commissioner for Bombay and then Gujarat, where he supervised the work of all charitable organisations, trusts and NGOs. She had been a part of other such organisations and had also assisted the World Bank on microfinancing. She was a co-founding member of The Elders, which comprises of 12 world leaders. She was known as the “Gentle Revolutionary” who changed the lives of lakhs of women through her organisation, providing them with microloans for five decades.

Bhatt was the chairperson of the Sabarmati Ashram Trust and until recently, the chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapith, a university that was established by Mahatma Gandhi. She devoted her life in empowering them through grassroots entrepreneurship. In her pursuit of women’s economic welfare, she founded India’s first women’s bank, the Cooperative Bank of SEWA in 1973. She also co-founded Women’s World Banking in 1979. The recipient of national and international awards, including the Padma Bhushan, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize and many other accolades, she was globally recognised as a woman leader . In 2012, she was praised by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was a prodigious writer who penned in Anasuya, our Gujarati newslettera play on street vendors. One of her famous book was We are Poor But We are Many. It was during the acceptance speech for the Ramon Magsaysay award in 1979 that Ela had said we must ask ourselves three questions, when at the crossroads of thought and action. “What impact will my action have on me? What impact will my action have on our planet and the people who live in it? And what impact will my action—or inaction—have on future generations and the human spirit?”

Ela Bhatt is also known for her work with The Elders — a global non-governmental organisation of senior statesmen, peace activists and human rights advocates brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007. It wouldn’t be amiss to say that Ela Bhatt was the epitome of what a gentle but effective leader should be. She took the cause of women which was at a micro-level and created awareness about it at a macro-level, to help a silent community. Her dedication to the cause of empowering women has led to millions of women becoming self-employed and independent. This had not only helped the female population, but also the economy of the country. Her balanced take on human ecosystem had made her one of the strongest voices of peace and non-violence in the world. She is a sheer inspiration to the world, at a stage where imbalance prevails and we all strive for equilibrium. (The author is a freelance writer, journalist & a cartoonist. He can be reached at dixitpatrakar@yahoo.in)

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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