Ela Bhatt, a lawyer and Gandhian activist who founded the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) in 1972, died at the age of 89 in the Ahmedabad Hospital on November 2.

She worked as SEWA’s general secretary from 1972 to 1996. Prior to her resignation on October 19 of this year, she served as the chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidyapith. Additionally, she had been the Sabarmati Ashram’s chairperson since 2016. Ela Bhatt, known as a “gentle revolutionary,” was an early leader of the microfinance movement. Her primary focus was on empowering and educating women about money. She was also a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation for over ten years. 

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For her efforts to help Gujarat’s underprivileged women, Bhatt had won numerous awards. Let’s take a look at all the honours she has received.

1. Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1977)

2. India’s fourth-highest civilian honour Padma Shri (1985)

3. India’s third-highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan (1986)

4. Gandhi Peace Prize for her efforts to empower women through entrepreneurship (2011)

She had worked as a World Bank advisor

The social activist had also worked as a World Bank advisor and Rajya Sabha member. In a piece for The Indian Express published last year, Bhatt stated, “Non-violence, to me, has never been a lack of action or timid acceptance, it has been a force of its own that is connected with wider day-to-day political, social, and economic struggles for the freedom of the poor and women workers.”

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She is also known for her work with The Elders, a global non-governmental organization founded in 2007 by Nelson Mandela that brings together senior statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates. Ela Bhatt was one of The Elders’ original members. Ela Bhatt worked with the organization from 2007 to 2016 on issues such as gender equality and the abolition of social evils such as child marriage.