Harvard honours SEWA founder Ela Bhatt
Boston: Ela Bhatt, the founder of NGO
Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), was on Saturday awarded
the Radcliffe Institute Medal by Harvard University's
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study here in recognition of
her "life and work that have benefited society".
Bhatt was presented the medal, awarded annually to
individuals who have substantially and positively influenced
society, on Radcliffe Day, a traditional event that follows
Harvard's Commencement ceremonies.
"When women have an income of their own, they are able
to fight their own battles in their own way. For that,
economic freedom is the key," Bhatt said.
"In my experience women are the key to building
holistic communities," she added.
Although her workers still occupy the "margins" of
society, "it is from the margins that real transformation
comes to the centre," Bhatt said.
Bhatt founded SEWA in 1972.
Conceived as a women's trade union, SEWA has grown
into an NGO that offers micro-lending, health and life
insurance, and child care - all overseen by more than a
hundred women-run cooperatives.
SEWA membership has grown to about 1.3 million.
"The Radcliffe Institute is proud to honour her this
year, in which gender in the developing world is one of its
dominant themes," the Institute said.
Bhatt has been recognised for her long battle for