Happy Birthday Ela Bhatt! Activist, Lawyer, Pioneer, Founder, Woman, Icon

| Updated: September 7, 2022 4:19 pm

“Absence of war is not peace. Peace is what keeps war away, but it is more than that; peace disarms and renders war useless. Peace is a condition enjoyed by a fair and fertile society. Peace is about restoring balance in society; only then is it lasting peace.”

Ela Bhatt

Ela Bhatt, the Indian cooperative organiser from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, turns 89 today! Here are some insights about her life and legacy.

Born in 1993, Bhatt grew up to become a pioneer of women empowerment and founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association of Ahmedabad. Gandhian practitioners of nonviolence, gentle revolutionary, a living legend, and a messiah for many are just a few in a million attributes to describe the Indian lawyer.

In 1972, Ela Bhatt founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India and headed it till 1996. Later, she founded India’s first women’s bank, the Cooperative Bank of SEWA, in 1973. Bhatt was a Member of Parliament from 1986 to 1989. She also co-founded Women’s World Banking in 1979.

Cooperative Bank of SEWA, founded by Ela Bhatt, helps women achieve financial freedom. According to Ela, financially free women can raise their families and communities better. It puts women into the Gandhian principles of self-reliance and collective action.

Her other project, Women’s World Banking (WWB), is a global network of microfinance organisations that aid poor women. Ela Bhatt has created and inspired organisations like Sa-Dhan (the All India Association of Micro Finance Institutions in India), The Indian School of Microfinance for Women, The International Alliance of Home-based Workers (HomeNet), and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing, Organising (WIEGO).

In 1986, the then President of India, Zail Singh, appointed her to the Rajya Sabha. She has chaired the National Commission of Self-Employed Women, established to probe the conditions of poor women labourers. Bhatt, who currently lives in Ahmedabad with her family, has received multiple awards for her contribution to the field of women empowerment. She is the recipient of Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Indira Gandhi Prize For Peace, Disarmament and Development, Global Fairness Initiative Award, Ramon Magsaysay Award, and many more.

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