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SEWA founder & women’s activist Elaben Bhatt passes away

SEWA founder & women's activist Elaben Bhatt passes away_4.1

Elaben Bhatt, a noted Gandhian, leading women’s empowerment activist, and renowned founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) passed away at the age of 89. Elaben was the Chairperson of Sabarmati Ashram and recently resigned as the Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidhyapith. In 2007, she became the part of a group of world leaders called the Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela to promote human rights and peace across the world.

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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 who founded many institutions and carried out pioneering work in organising the informal sector for self-employment and empowerment of women not only in India but across South Asia.

Elaben Bhatt: Life and career

  • Elaben Bhatt was a Member of the Rajya Sabha and of the Planning Commission of India in the 1980s. She served in many international organisations, including Women’s World Banking, a global network of microfinance organisations, of which she was co-founder and had served as Chairperson. She also served as an advisor to the World Bank, and addressed the United Nations General Assembly.
  • Founded by her in 1972, SEWA is one of the largest cooperatives working for women, with a base of over two million members from around 18 States in the country and in neighbouring nations.
  • In 2012, she was praised by then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “I have a lot of heroes and heroines around the world and one of them is Ela Bhatt, who started an organisation called the SEWA in India many years ago,”.
  • Elaben 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.
  • Her mother, Vanalila Vyas, served as secretary of the Gujarat branch of the All India Women’s Conference for some time. The organisation, founded by Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay in 1927, worked for educational and social reforms.

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